Samsung has announced that it is bringing its new Music Hub the US, but for now only on AT&T and US Cellular. It's powered by mSpot, which the company acquired just this past May. Samsung and mSpot didn't waste any time converting the service for use on the Galaxy S III, on which Music Hub is launching exclusively. Samsung tells us that it intends to bring the app to other phones and other platforms — and in fact it's not ruling out the possibility of bringing the app to non-Samsung devices at some point in the future. For now, it's offering a free 30-day trial to Galaxy S III owners, after which access to most of the features will run $9.99 per month.
The core parts of mSpot are still here in the Music Hub, although Samsung has done some work to make the UI a little more elegant. It's close to a "Holo-themed" app in some respects, especially the pervasive use of left and right swipes to navigate, but the fonts and UI aren't an exact match. Music Hub essentially takes three disparate types of music service and combines them into one app, which means you'll have a music matching and locker service, a music subscription service, and finally a Pandora-style radio service.
Music Hub's homescreen has been laid out in a series of square tiles, which point to different sections of the app. The first is My Music, which takes you to your catalog of music that you've purchased and / or loaded into Samsung's cloud service. The Mac or PC app is very similar to what Google and Amazon offer, but the key difference is that Samsung's app combines both music matching and music uploading for songs not in the catalog. That saves uploading time and space in the cloud — though you should have up to 100GB of storage for your uploaded music. The service isn't fully integrated into iTunes, but the separate app does scan your library and copy over your playlists, keeping them synced with Samsung's service.
Playing music is a straightforward affair, although Music Hub does try to strike a balance between automation and control when it comes to queuing up your music. It puts the songs and albums you selected into a section appropriate called "Q." When you add music to an empty song queue, it adds an entry called "Autofill" that fills in music from the same artist. However, you can manually manage what songs get added at any time, which jumps you out of autofill mode.
Although all your music is stored in the cloud (the service is hosted by 7digital), Music Hub will download it as you listen to it and then pre-cache the next songs in your queue as you listen — though you can manually select albums and songs to download. You can also manually change how much storage is devoted to music, it's location, and also its streaming quality.
When playing music, you have the typical controls, along with a button to share music (though it only works on music that's in 7digital's cloud). There's also a lightbulb button, which essentially acts like a Genius button. It suggests other music you might be interested in as well as related radio stations. You can stream any music in 7digital's catalog and also purchase songs if you prefer the ownership model.
Finally, Music Hub crams in a Pandora-style radio option, which lets you play music either from a few pre-programmed genre stations or play music specifically built off of a single artist or song.
AT&T and US Cellular customers can update to the new Music Hub in Google Play, but there isn't any word yet on when it will come to other carriers. Although access to the music store and local playback features will always be free, the radio and music streaming services will cost $9.99 per month. Samsung hopes consumers will find the whole package to be cheaper than subscribing to separate services like Pandora and Spotify. That may well be the case, but the fact that it's limited to a web player on the desktop and the Galaxy S III means you're buying into an ecosystem that may not come to the rest of your devices.