MOG is an on-demand music subscription service that provides subscribers access to over 11 million songs. Former Gracenote CEO and MTV Interactive SVP of Marketing David Hyman founded MOG in June 2005. Focussed solely on music since its inception MOG has evolved from a music / social networking site to a leader among many subscription music services. MOG offers the highest quality music of any streaming service from all the major labels. At the time of this writing MOG is only available within the United States and to U.S. military personnel around the world.
In layman's terms MOG enables users to easily select music from a vast library in the sky and play it on a computer, mobile device, a host of other devices and vehicles. What makes MOG an industry leader is simplicity, selection, and sound quality.
MOG's desktop/laptop Graphical User Interface (GUI) is incredibly intuitive. The newly redesigned HTML5 desktop GUI is a music lover's dream. This new interface does not require software installation or a special application. It enables users to dig into a giant music collection, create playlists, mark favorites, and most importantly listen to music without any setup or instructions. Using a modern web browser like Chrome, Safari, or Firefox a user can stream music to any computer anywhere in the world. Users who hop from computer to computer or work in a locked-down computing environment needn't worry about installing unapproved software. Simply open a browser and start listening. The lack of advanced options in the new MOG GUI will be a welcomed improvement for many users. With its Apple-esque approach, increasing usability by limiting options, MOG has created a simple yet sophisticated portal to more music than anyone could ever purchase in a lifetime.
The four main features I used frequently within the web based GUI are Playlists, Favorites, Radio, and what MOG calls FastSearch. Creating Playlists is as simple as clicking "Create New Playlist", naming the playlist, and dragging a song or album over to the new list. It's very easy to re-order the tracks in a playlist by simply dragging and dropping to the new location. Potential users should note that playlists are a completely optional feature in MOG. I actually didn't start using them until a few weeks into my subscription. I was like a kid in a candy store with all the music available so I added album after album to the queue or simply played albums initially.
Creating Favorites within the GUI is as easy as clicking a heart next to a track, album, or artist. The Favorites feature eliminates re-searching for one's frequently accessed music. Searching is easy but clicking on "My Favorites" is a bit easier. Once viewing the favorites area it's possible to view and sort by track, album, or artist. The whole favorites experience using MOG is quite advanced compared to other players including Spotify.
MOG's Radio feature is far more user friendly and unrestricted than other services. MOG Radio uses what's called Mobius Technology with a ten step continuum that ranges from a single artist only to similar artists only. For example selecting Pearl Jam radio and leaving the "station" on the default first step enables Pearl Jam only radio. Below the ten step continuum is the list of ten tracks in the order they will be played on the station. Moving the continuum slider to the fifth step away from Pearl Jam only radio, one can see MOG replaced five tracks with tracks by similar artists. Astute CA readers have likely done the math already and discovered that each time the ten step slider is moved an original Pearl Jam track is replaced with a track from a similar artist. Ten steps, ten tracks in the list, it all makes sense. When the slider is placed all the way to the right on the Similar Artists tenth step all ten tracks are similar to Pearl Jam's music. If this example has only caused confusion rather than clarity I highly recommend trying the feature once. That's all it takes to master the ten step slider. My one complaint about the MOG Radio feature for desktop is the lack of Genre based radio stations. I would love to select Grunge Radio or 90's Radio. The ten step slider may function a bit weird in such a scenario. I can envision Grunge only radio but not Similar Artists to the whole Genre. I'm sure the people at MOG will figure out the best way to implement this Genre based feature as it has been high on the user suggestion list for awhile.
Over the years I've used Pandora radio extensively. Creating a radio station based on an artist and listening to music similar to the artist was really cool, a few years ago. Since I signed up for MOG and Spotify I haven't touched Pandora.
The last and most important main feature is MOG's FastSearch. Without a good search engine finding music in MOG's massive music library would be like searching the Internet with Bing. OK that was a cheap shot. MOG's FastSearch and the ensuing display of search results are excellent. Continuing with the Pearl Jam theme, entering the incorrectly spelled Perl Jam into the search box results in MOG FastSearch suggesting Pearl Jam even though I mangled the spelling. Clicking on the suggested and correct spelling of Pearl Jam results in a simple display of limited but pertinent options. Nice size album covers are presented on the Albums tab while smaller thumbnail size album covers are presented on the tracks tab. All the albums and tracks can be dragged to a playlist or marked as a favorite. Pearl Jam Radio is a readily visible option as is a list of similar artists. Browsing similar artist from this Pearl Jam search results page lead me to one annoyance I have with MOG FastSearch. I'm sure FastSearch is operating as designed, but I think this is a design flaw. When searching for Pearl Jam the nice results page lists 1 Artist, 40 Albums, and 40 Tracks on different tabs with the aforementioned extras. MOG users can see the live results by clicking here[Link]. Clicking around the similar artists list I eventual clicked on Pearl Jam thinking I would get back to the same page mention previously. However, I was brought to the Pearl Jam "home" page within MOG. MOG users can see the live Pearl Jam page by clicking here [Link]. This dedicated Pearl Jam page is less user friendly than the search results page and offers less music. There are only ten Top Tracks versus forty on the search results page and there is no easy access to albums with Pearl Jam in the title like Lullaby Renditions of Pearl Jam, Deja Vu's 20th Anniversary Tribute To Pearl Jam, or Walt Ribeiro's Orchestral Tribute to Pearl Jam. As long as Pearl Jam is listed in the search box it's possible to toggle between the Pearl Jam dedicated page and the search results page, but this is an unlikely scenario under normal use. Again, FastSearch is working as designed. Finally, one unique feature of FastSearch that is very similar to Google Instant is the ability to predict and provide results while a user is typing. For example as each subsequent letter of Pearl Jam's name is typed the results are narrowed down. The list starts large with bands that have Pea, then Pear, and Pearl etc. As soon as Pearl Jam appears on the list the name is easily selected and a search commenced.
There are a couple more features within the MOG HTML5 web app that enable easy browsing. One such feature is Editor's Picks. MOG has on-staff music editors who populate this list weekly. It's a great way to discover new music. The MOG desktop/laptop GUI isn't feature rich rather it has rich features. MOG took the quality over quantity approach that has also made Apple the most valuable company in the world. I'm not joking [Link].
Same But Different
Most of the aforementioned MOG desktop features that exist in the mobile version offer the same functionality. One feature offers what I call an enhanced mobile experience. FastSearch on MOG mobile is far faster than the desktop GUI. One would think a desktop version using a 105Mbps Internet connection and powerful computer should offer the fastest search type-ahead feedback and search results. Contrary to conventional wisdom and based solely on speed the mobile search experience is better.
MOG's mobile FastSearch letter by letter [ P E A R L J A M] and ensuing navigation of Artist, Song, Play Lists, Play Queue, and Favorites.
While using MOG's mobile Radio feature I thought I discovered the ability to listen to "stations" based on genre. I searched for Jazz and received a result that said Tap To Play Jazz Radio. Tapping that result played what appeared to be a Jazz radio station although I'd never heard of any of the tracks. I followed this up with a search for Grunge . I selected the Tap To Play Grunge Radio result and two tracks by the band named Grunge were at the top of the list. Aha I thought I was on to something. Then I scrolled down the playlist to see tracks I'd never heard of that were not Grunge at all and a single track by Puddle of Mudd. After the single PoM track was an endless list of tracks from the band Blood Red Shoes. I scrolled for twenty tracks or so and believed I'd stumbled on to Blood Red Shoes Radio. Subsequent attempts to play Grunge (the genre) Radio resulted in different lists of music except the first two tracks from the band Grunge. Very weird indeed.
MOG's additional mobile features such as Featured Playlists, Moggles, custom settings, and Downloads are what set the mobile app apart from the desktop user interface. Featured Playlists and Moggles are two features I don't use often, but they do have value. Featured Playlists are selected by MOG's editorial team from the thousands of user shared playlists. It's a good way to discover music. Moggles is a feature that I initially thought was superfluous. Fortunately I gave it a chance and ended up really liking it. Moggles enables the user to take a photo of an album from within the MOG application. The photo is processed by MOG instantly and the matching album is usually displayed. Using Moggles is a very quick way to navigate to a specific album (Moggles in one , two , three, four steps.). MOG's album cover fingerprint engine works very well. During my testing I took a photo of Ray Lamontagne's Gossip in the Grain album. I purposely did not include the album title and artist name in the photo as I wanted to see if the process recognized cover art or simply read text when available. Using only the photo on the cover MOG quickly brought me to Gossip in the Grain and gave me the same same options as if I navigated to the album manually.
MOG's custom Settings is a feature audiophiles can appreciate and one they've frequently wished for in mobile music apps. Settings allows the user to turn on High Quality Streaming and High Quality Downloads. According to MOG, "High Quality Streaming uses 320 kbps MP3s when connected via WiFi [as opposed to] Normal Quality 64 kbps AAC+." The High Quality Downloads are 320 kbps MP3s no matter what type of connection is present as long as the option is enabled. Currently MOG is the only mobile service I know of the offers 320 kbps MP3s of all its music. Granted these are not lossless or even CD quality downloads or streams but 320 kbps is a step in the right direction and higher quality than every track available from the World's largest music retailer The Apple Store.
Far and away my favorite and most used feature of MOG is the ability to Download music and store it on a mobile device. This feature is only available via the mobile application. There is no synchronizing with a computer to transfer music in either direction. The ability to download as many tracks as one's mobile device can hold is fabulous and couldn't be simpler. Browsing music by track, album, or artist users will see a gray box with white arrow to the left of a track or album. Simply tapping the white arrow initiates the download to the mobile device. There is no need to create a playlist and enable offline mode for the playlist or anything other than tapping the download icon next to the music. Once music is on the mobile device it can be browsed by Artist, Album, or Song just like everyone is used to while browsing music in iTunes, J River Media Center, and many other applications. I use this feature extensively every time I travel without a solid WiFi connection, most likely at 30,000 feet in the air. I was recently turned on to Lucinda Williams' music. I must have been living under a rock or perhaps a laptop because I wasn't familiar with her music. Prior to leaving the house for a recent trip to Denver I downloaded every Lucinda Williams album. Twelve albums in total including Deluxe versions of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and her newest release Blessed. I listened to these albums during the entire trip. Upon my return I purchased ten of them at a local retailer. Streaming services have enabled me to hear more music than at any other time in my life. This has lead me to purchase more music than I ever thought I could consume. Previously I was hesitant to take a chance purchasing an album I hadn't heard or from an unknown artist. Using MOG downloads with hours of time on an airplane one can get a taste of everything from the newest releases, available on Tuesdays in the U.S., to old classics from long gone generations.
I tested MOG mobile extensively using its built-in Apple AirPlay capability. I had no trouble streaming music from my iPhone to my main system with an Apple AirPort Express. One quirk with MOG's AirPlay implementation is remembering where the AirPlay icon is located within the app. The only way to view the AirPlay option is to hit the volume up/down button on the side of the iPhone. This presents the volume slider and AirPlay icon on the bottom of the MOG mobile screen. Users must be fairly quick as the slider and icon disappear about two seconds after the volume button is pressed.
The original non-HTML5 MOG desktop client allowed users to publish playlists and search for other users' published playlists. Soon this functionality will be introduced to the mobile app. The ability to create playlists on the mobile app is one feature I would enjoy. Whether I would share the lists is another story but I still want the choice. The lack of album release date is my single biggest gripe with MOG mobile. For example when browsing the artist Lucinda Williams' catalog of roughly twelve albums I had no idea when any of the albums were released. If I wouldn't have downloaded all the albums I might have wanted to sample some of her old and some of her new music to get a taste of her career. The only way to accomplish such a sampling of her music is to download it all. Once on the mobile device each album has the release date clearly visible next to the Artist name and Album name. This seems like a logical piece of information to list for user prior to downloading as they browse the catalog in the sky. Here's an example using Shelby Lynne as the artist before downloading, after downloading.
UPDATE: Less than six hours after publishing Part I of this article MOG announced support for release dates in its Android mobile app. Here is the text of the annoucement.
Get the new Android app update, now with album release dates!
You've been requesting album release dates, and we're busily working on integrating them into all our platforms. The new update for our Android app adds 'em to the mix, and now you can sort an artists' albums by date, title, or popularity. We also rewrote the download queue for much improved reliability with your downloads.
Music aficionados are never satisfied until music is available anywhere at any time. Thanks to MOG it's possible to enjoy this giant catalog of music on all new LG, Samsung, and Vizio TVs and Blu-ray players, as well as Roku and Sonos. Soon MOG will be in all BMWS and Mini's. Many of these options make for easy connections to one's HiFi or wireless music distribution system. Here is a video of what MOG will look like in the MINI Cooper.
Wrap Up / Next Up
MOG's desktop GUI and mobile app are a great way to listen to and discover more music. Both interfaces have enough features without the bloat associated with apps like iTunes. MOG has taken an Apple-like approach with simple sophistication. Eliminating options and features that might detract from the overall experience for most users. This lack of options may be seen as limiting for some advanced users more adept at application configuration and customization. MOG's desktop GUI is not as full featured as the mobile app, but mobile is where it's at right now for streaming music services. The better features of the mobile app, especially music downloads, really put the mobile app ahead of the HTML5 web based GUI. MOG's complete catalog is available at 320 kbps and streamable over a WiFi connection at this rate. When downloading the catalog the High Quality option ensures all music is at 320 kbps even over a 3G/4G wireless connection. The only time MOG's catalog is less than 320 kbps is streaming via 3G/4G connections. MOG's expansion into the TV, Blu-ray, Sonos, and automobile markets is good news for music lovers seeking the highest quality streaming service whether in the car, home theater, HiFi, or throughout the house.
Fortunately for consumers MOG doesn't exist in vacuum. MOG has serious competition from Sweden based Spotify with its 15 million song catalog and over 10 million strong user community.
Coming up in MOG v. Spotify Part II.
- Spotify Background
- Spotify Desktop
- Spotify Mobile
- Catalog Comparison
- Sound Quality Comparison
- Overall MOG v. Spotify Comparison
- Conclusion: What app is kept, what app is canceled?