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Xbox Music and Video apps for Windows Phone 8 hands on

This morning, Microsoft continued to surprise us with two new releases for Windows Phone 8. Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps were released in tandem, augmenting current baked-in functions of their mobile OS.

The Xbox Music app is currently in ‘Preview’, meaning a final version won’t be due until 2014. Likewise, Xbox Video currently doesn’t support HD video playback or downloading, but a Microsoft spokesperson has confirmed that feature is coming next year.

How are the apps? Watch our video tour below to see them in action.

So why separate the apps in the first place? Well for one, Microsoft did not have any method by which Xbox Video users could purchase, rent or download content from their Windows 8 PC, Xbox 360 or Xbox One. With this Xbox Video app, Windows Phone 8 users finally have a way to complete the “three screens and a cloud” vision that Microsoft laid out years ago.

Downloading and offline availability

In regards to Xbox Music, it’s been reported that Microsoft is planning on removing the native clients from the Windows Phone 8.1 update, due in late spring 2014, and instead they will be using Store apps. The reason for that is it will allow Microsoft to frequently update the app directly to reflect changes or improvements in the service. That’s opposed to having to wait months for an OS update.

Both apps work quite well, although we are having a few license errors with our Video app. Xbox Music, interestingly, allows users to dynamically swap out managed Xbox Music devices. Currently, Xbox Music only allows streaming and downloading of content to 4 devices, with the ability to drop two every 30 days. With the Xbox Music app, one device will be rotated out and a new one rotated in when in use, giving more freedom to use Xbox Music on PCs, Xbox or Windows Phone.

Probably the biggest addition to Xbox Music is the ability to create playlists and then have them sync to your account to other devices. Likewise for Radio. Currently, there is no Podcast support and it is not clear if it is coming back.

Presently, both Xbox Music and Xbox Video are available in the following regions: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

Don’t have Xbox Music or Xbox Video just yet? Grab Xbox Music here and Xbox Video here in the Store. Note: Xbox Music Pass needed to for Xbox Music app to function.

What do you think of both apps so far? Sound off in comments and let us know your experience!

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

247 Comments
  • Love it
  • No Podcasts? Fail. HD on Zune was 720p. Is this now 1080p?
  • Agree! There's no audio book support and now remove podcast support (which doesnt work in europe). Very very very bad. Hope this is not true.
  • I agree.  Podcasts have been an afterthought with Windows Phone since the beginning.  I'd like to think their omission from this app is because Microsoft is preparing a separate Xbox Podcasts app, but I'm doubtful.  I think they probably are happy to leave podcast support to third-party developers.  Is there no one on the Windows Phone team who is passionate about audiobooks and podcasts?
  • There is podcast section in the Windows Phone Music+Videos app...
  • biggest fail is requiring an xbox music pass subscription.
  • Biggest fail, having to sign in even though im using a windows phone which im already signed in on...oh and buy a subscription you cheapskate
  • oh, so i should be forced to buy a music subscription when i already have all the music i want to listen to stored? what would i be spending my money for?
  • Exactly. I bought a Surface and was blown away when all my music appeared and I could play it anywhere. I went out and got a 920 so I could do the same in my car, and lo and behold, nothing. I am quite disappointed to say the least. You can't provide a service for free on some devices and charge on others, it makes no sense.
  • You can use the built in Xbox Music+Videos app on the device, that's what it is there for. These a preview versions, they aren't meant to fully replace the old app yet.
  • Several folks would not mind buying a subscription only if MS was generous enough to extend its reach to those countries. Else there is no point in making an app half-heartedly where only a bunch of people can use it while others can't.
  • What if I want to listen to my local collection?
  • I think that they may be doing it this way so that families can share one XBOX music pass. You can have up to four devices, I believe.
  • It doesn't make sense that this app requires a paid subscription, I only want to listen to my mp3s, which are copied into the device! Do I have to pay to access my own files??? I hope this gets fixed, or it will be a big fail and we'll be forced to use third party clients to listen to our music.
  • Have to agree. I have no interest in the music pass. I do have an interest on a music player that allows me to manage my music stored on the phone. This clearly doesn't and the native one still doesn't either. Huge disappointment.
  • Agreed. Didn't need it for the Windows 8.1 app. WTF MS? How is this tying the two together if required for 1 but not the other? MS is like being a Dallas Cowboys fan; I wanna root for 'em but always left disappointed. *sigh*
  • Biggest fail is not supporting artwork for music on the device.
  • Hopefully Podcast support is coming. 
     
  • I miss Zune.
  • Daniel, I hope you paid your taxes. :-)
  • Its very buggy for me
  • yep, crashes every 5 minutes for me using on a 1520
  • Yes! Finally downloads from the Music Store to your phone through this app syncs to your other devices too! No more double downloads.
  • Love it? I called off selling my iPod Touch because of how confusing/limited this damn thing was. 
  • You know what I miss? Being able to watch music videos. (Unless they are still there and I am just missing them). I don't necessarily mean on the phone. I can do it on the 360 but I don't see the option on the Xbox One.   I do like the idea of them being separate apps for update purposes.
  • Yea, what ever happened with music videos?
  • Have you tried VEVO?
  • Is there any way to share your music pass with your spouse or something like that?
  • Let them login in under your account and make sure it's one of the 4 devices managed/licensed by Xbox Music?
  • That's not really a solution, my wife doesn't want to listen to the music in my collection. MS needs to allow either profiles or a family plan.
  • Hey I remember u saying u have the 1520. I have the 1520 as well. I can download video content to my phone from the app I can also watch HD content as well. Are u able to replicate this experience on your phone as well. I have screen shots as proof if u would like
  • With the original, baked-in Xbox Music, you could not log into the app with a separate MS ID than you use for the phone. It was different in WP7. So, maybe with it being as app now, you can let that other device be a Windows Phone for a different MS ID user. Haven't tried yet but will let you know.
  • Yep, verified this with my wife's phone earlier. Didn't get to finish playing with it because she got a call, but it was updating the library after I logged in.
  • Neato. Not sure if that will carry into WP8.1 though. Hopefully it will.
  • It really should, as ios and android users have the ability to do this since the music app was released.
  • Only one device can stream at a time though
  • Really? Ohhh that's a bummer.
  • Surely its 4 devices?
  • Nope, only one stream at a time.
  • That would be fantastic if you can use a different WP for a different user under a different Music pass subscriber login. Now if only I could use my Music credits through the app :/
  • you can already this with this existing app.
  • This is terrific! Hopefully it stays when the 8.1 upgrade happens. I see no good reason why my wife's 1020 shouldn't be allowed to use one of my Music Pass devices.
  • Personally, I loved the hub. Being able to have all of my playlists, new media, and history in one spot was one of the major differentiators for me between Windows Phone and the other platforms.  Hopefully they will have some method of aggregating that data so I don't have to "App Hop" the way the other platforms do.
  • Cheers to that mate. I get the 'seperate from OS' to get updates mentality and it makes sense. But one reason I chose Windows Phone back in 2010 was because the Hub idea seemed really cool. People Hub, Pictures Hub, Music+Videos Hub were/are awesome ideas and are much better than app hopping IMO. I'm certainly glad to learn that they're gonna flesh out the People Hub cause that's in dire need of an update but this new information regarding this media hub is kind of upsetting. At least as upsetting as I'll let some tech news allow.
  • Why can't they just re-release Music+Video as an app? If they simply wanted to separate it from the OS.
  • That's what I thought they would do. I too like the "hub" idea for media. Seems like they shouldn't have to abandon that just to separate it from the OS IMO.
  • That is how Microsoft operates, release a service that people get used to then abandon it later for a similar but lesser service instead of improving on the previous one. Zune > Xbox music springs to mind....
  • I agree that is how Microsoft does things, but I sincerely believe that it's because of people's bitching.
    -_-
  • Agree. Ther should be MORE hub not less. I donät want to have whatsapp, skype, voxer and viber on my start screen. If you can chat with an app it should be in the messenger hub and so on. More hubs!
  • Ala Blackberry 10???
  • Exactly like that, and BB10 beat them to the punch, and many other punches.
  • I want more "hubs" and integrated services. But (I think) the problem is the mobile culture now-a-days is simply broken. People have fallen into the ios app trap so deep they don't know how to pull their minds out of it.
    IT SEEMS LIKE they aren't content with simply being able to DO stuff. If they don't have to scroll, scroll, scroll, tap, *wait for the load/splash screen* then do, they dont feel like they are accomplishing anything.
  • Chances are they changed it because of all the mindless crybaby BS that people insist on spewing. Can't just accept that something different might be better... it has to be JUST LIKE the other's or it's not "good".  
  • If they trully abandon it, I'm willing to bet it will be to cater to all the "file manager" crap.
  • Honestly, due to space really, I don't put videos on my 920 (maybe if I had an SD card, it'd be different), but I do have music. So seperating them may not be *too* terrible, at least for people in my shoes, and we still have the hubs; People Hug, Pictures Hub, Music Hub and Video Hub - but I do agree that Zune's still the best thing around haha. :P
  • Agreed - althought a podcast an audiobook app isn't present. I can easily go into the music hub history and resume my audiobook or playlist because everything is integrated. I hope we don't lose out on this either!
  • +1, the hub is better.
  • I agree. Personally I think both Xbox Music and Video apps look HORRIBLE. I don't know why they have to remember me that I'm on Xbox music or xbox video with those BIG APP NAMES on top, getting HALF the screen with letters instead of GRAPHICS....... I really hope that with NOKIA's aquisition they use MIXRADIO (the late Nokia Music) instead of MSFT's own. Nokia's is much NICER, beautiful app in my opinion.
  • I let my Xbox Music pass lapse so I need to get on that before I can start using it. Hopefully the need for the pass will be removed for those who want to try the app but don't have the pass.
  • I don't have a music pass anymore but I can still use it for local playback.
  • Really? It tells me I need a new pass and won't let me play my local files.
  • After signing in, when the message pops up saying "get music pass" & "cancel" don't press cancel press back. Then it lets you play local files or at least for me anyway.
  • True words! It signs in every time I open the app so as long as I press back I can use it. Still, since I don't have the pass it doesn't have my playlists so it's of little use right now until they open up the app to non-pass subscribers. Hopefully by wp8.1 xbox music on w8 will offline sync my playlists to xbox music on wp8.
  • I think you found a bug ;)
  • Xbox Music is present in more countries than that you list, I think those are about Xbox Video.
  • On a somewhat side note; I have free pilot episodes that a downloaded on my Xbox to try a show out before getting into it. After watching, decided the shows weren't for me. Problem is, these damn pilots show up on all my devices and I cant find a way to permently remove them. Anyone know how to do this?
  • In the app you can select the show tap on three dots for settings and delete from collection, this will remove said program completely across the platform, you can also do this on the xbox360 as well
  • I was having the same problem and tried that. Got rid of it on my 360 but then showed up when I got the one and now showing in wp8 app. Trying your suggestion from the phone. Hope it works
  • I don't see the three dots on the WP8 app.
  • Select the show/movie and at the bottom of the page ( right hand side) you 'll see the three dots to open the settings pane with the option to delete the show, when you select yes it will tell you that this will delete selection across all platforms, confirm delete
  • I don't have the XboxOne ( YET LOL ) so I'm not sure what to tell you, if you still have Zune on your computer you can delete it from their as well, if you don't have Zune try logging in on the Xbox Video Web page and delete from their
  • Yeah, I don't get dots when I tap on a show series/episode. I only get an option to purchase in SD. The only place I get three dots is the mains creen of the collection. I did delete from Zune but the episode still shows up. I dont want to have scroll through every episode....they ahve to come up with a better way to manage your collection....or even one way, right now there really is not.
  • Ok, I tried to replicate what you described, the only way I could replicate this was to click on a series that I don't already own, are you sure that 1- you HAVE signed into your Xbox live account? 2- you are looking at YOUR tv/movies that you own already, also when you try to delete using Zune you have to make sure you select "delete from collection" rather than delete from Zune. Other than that, I'm not sure what else to tell you, I currently own 132 movies and 5 tv series on my Xbox account, and like I said, the only way I can replicate your description is to click on something I don't own
  • OK, thanks for your help - better than I would get through most technical support. I found that in a couple series, I had to go through every season and deleted each episode purchasesd For some, it is odd - no seasons or epsiodes showing purchased, so I cannot delete. For others, that were short only a pilot or a few episodes, ntohgint to delete either. I might have to re-downlaod them to Zune and choose delete from Collection. Obviously - there is a lot of room for improvement for Xbox video but at least glad to see it on the phone. thanks, again for your help.
  • The no podcast functionality kinda sucks, as I was just getting into listening to Windows Weekly on my phone.
  • Yea, this is disappointing. Hopefully they will add it in at a later date. Taking out built-in podcast support is a step in the wrong direction.
  • Completely wrong direction. For me it might be the final straw. I love WP and have been it's proponent for a long time now but don't you dare take away my podcasts Microsoft. I listen to a massive amount of them and I love the fact that I can set the subscriptions and never have to worry about them again. It is probably what I use the phone most for. If it is taken away from me I would be very upset and honestly I might have to consider my alternatives for my next upgrade. I know this sounds dramatic. But yes, it's that important to me.
  • You can download in Xbox Video. At least the option is there, haven't personally tried to see if it works.
  • Not sure where it was said otherwise? There's just no HD streaming or downloading.
  • There was a button that said HD in mine, not all of them have though.
  • Right. You can buy and rent in HD. But playback is not there for Windows Phone. It  just means you can buy an HD movie and then play it back on your Xbox One or PC in HD.
  • I really hope lack of podcast support is temporary.
  • I agree with making podcasts its own app, they are just too different from music to be shoe horned together, but this worries me that they are dropping 1st party support altogether. Not ideal, things like background downloading, cloud sync across devices and media controls tend to require deep integration.
  • Agreed
  • I'm bummed that neither app appears to let me play music or video I own outside of the Xbox Store. I like the idea of separate apps with faster updates, and the Music app is a preview that may do more in the future, but the Video app isn't labeled a "preview." I love ripping my DVDs/Blu-rays and loading them on my Lumia for long trips, but only the Hub seems able to play them still. The Windows 8/8.1 Xbox apps can play local content, so I really hope this is temporary.
  • They are nothing to write home about. The biggest feature between the two is that you can now make playlists on your phone. However, I'm still disappointed that it took them this long to get that out. I'm still not sure why the apps need to be separated from the OS. I mean, if MSFT is going to be pushing out OS updates more frequently, anyway, why not just push out big updates for the apps then? It'd sure make these small updates seem more substantial. Edit: Oh, and I actually laughed when I read that podcasts have been taken out (again). It is like MSFT has a grudge against them, haha.
  • The point being is that they are separate now meaning they are not directly attached to the os. So if there is a delay for windows phone it wouldn't necessarily hold up development for these apps which can be updated independently of the os. At least that is how i view it.
  • That, and OS updates are at the mercy of carriers to push out, whereas app updates are not (which may be what you meant, in which case I'm clarifying).
  • Except that MS just showed us with GDR3 that they can bypass carriers. I'd have preferred they maintain the hub, or break it into a Music hub and a Video hub, and expand both of them to support more apps. Just as the people hub incorporates FB and Twitter, give me a Video hub with Xbox, Netflix and Hulu.
  • Is there gapless audio support yet?
  • Lotta people would have said since the move from Zune, to Xbox Music, the whole thing has been hapless :P
  • Definitely hapless!
  • Good to see. It also seems to go nicely with them having an overall, OS-agnostic platform. Next question is, "will there be iOS and Android versions?" I love my WP, but for the health of the overall platforms/services? They need to spread out. People having their media/music tied to cross platform services will make it easier to leave one for another, I think (hopefully to WP's benefit).
  • I thought there was a story on here a while back that iOS and Android would get them, but that Windows Phone would see them first.
  • Awesome! Fine by me!
  • At least for iOS, there is already an Xbox Music client. I assume android has it too.
  • Android has one as well. However, you can't download songs for offline play on iOS or Android. I hope they fix that soon.
  • Xbox Music for iOS came out in October; the Android version came out 1 month later. WP is actually the last of trio to get the fully-functioning app (meaning: playlilst editing/cloud sync/etc.)
  • The only thing we've been missing is playlist editting.  We've had cloud sync and it's worked fine. 
  • Xbox Music not having podcast support is a big problem. Also, it's buggy as hell, at least on my Lumia 521. The new Facebook sharing of songs is great though. I hope they work out the bugs before it comes out for real.
  • So you're telling me I have to pay for this shit? I have to PAY to listen to my own music on my own phone? If so...HELL no!
  • Yep and your surprised how?
  • @blasher4 Not really. You DO still have your Music Hub on the phone for your music. This app, for now, needs to login. Later, when WP8.1 comes out, my guess is you will *optionally* sign in for Music Pass and the app will work as the Music Hub does now. This is a preview release and nothing has been lost (when combined with the current Hub).
  • Its likely temperor