Moodsnap: Picture Imperfect

Spotify have been allowing developers to build upon their platform for some time now, giving developers the ability to build their own music discovery apps and services that go beyond anything Spotify alone could do.

One such service that has been made available recently is Moodsnap, a music discovery app for iOS users with a Spotify Premium subscription. Moodsnap finds music based upon your mood by choosing from a number of pre-selected pictures to best represent how you feel. While it’s an interesting idea, the app is far too buggy and its lack of variety and often confusing images makes it hard to understand why it’s a better alternative to any other music discovery app, including Spotify Radio.

Setting The Mood

I have a rather broad and eclectic music taste, ranging from alternative and electronic to video game soundtracks and tibetan chanting monks. To be honest, there really isn’t much music I don’t like so anything that can help me discover new music is something I’m always looking out for.

Spotify Radio, although a great feature, can only go so far as it only finds similar music based upon a song or playlist. This is great if you’re wanting to find more music that sounds like Arcade Fire, but if you’re in the party mood and just want some music that make you get up and dance, it’s not going to help.

Rather than look through playlists or cluttered artwork, Moodsnap simply asks you to pick a photo that fits your mood.

Rather than look through playlists or cluttered artwork, Moodsnap simply asks you to pick a photo that fits your mood.

Moodsnap doesn’t ask you to base your music preferences upon similar songs or a list of playlists, instead you actually select one of the photos (dubbed Moodsnaps) within the app that best fits your mood. Once you pick a photo, the app attempts to find music that might best fit it.

Music Playback

Like many music radio services, you can’t scrub through the track, nor can you rewind it. The only playback options are to play/pause or skip. This isn’t too different from most music discovery apps and even iTunes Radio. As the player view is rather sparse due to the lack of controls, Moodsnap fills in the empty space with larger artwork and a great-looking playback info pane. The artist and title text are displayed in a decent size typeface which is a far cry from any other music app where this seems to be secondary to the artwork.

Music playback is through a limited though good-looking interface.

Music playback is through a limited though good-looking interface.

If a song doesn’t fit your musical tastes or even the Moodsnap, you can downvote it and select accordingly. Should a song be a particular favourite, you can star it which saves it within Moodsnap for future playback.

Unfortunately the app is littered with bugs, most of which are within the player view. Almost every attempt at adding a track to favourites or skipping tracks would result in an error. This didn’t disrupt music playback but did make using Moodsnap, at times, infuriating.

Moodsnap is littered with bugs. So many that I was able to replicate and screenshot them quite easily.

Moodsnap is littered with bugs. So many that I was able to replicate and screenshot them quite easily.

Worse still, adding a track to your favourites doesn’t link back to your main Spotify account in any way whatsoever. If you found a great track, be prepared to screenshot it and manually type it into Spotify later. This seems like such a glaring omission that it’s frankly baffling why this feature was never implemented in the first place.

Socially Awkward

Rather than solely relying on the developers to create these never-ending playlists, users can contribute songs that they feel suit the mood. Crowdsourcing the music selection allows for almost unlimited suggestions and will mean a wide array of songs, hopefully many that you haven’t heard before.

There's a social aspect of a leaderboard of users that, well, doesn't do anything.

There’s a social aspect of a leaderboard of users that, well, doesn’t do anything.

There’s the beginnings of a social network within Moodsnap, with a leaderboard for users to be ranked on that’s based upon the number of contributions and favourite tracks that have been saved. Unfortunately, you can’t view other users’ information, nor can you search for a specific user. The leaderboard seems to serve no purpose other than to rank who contributes the most to Moodsnap. This seems like a huge oversight as being able to see other users’ favourite tracks or contributions would add a whole new level to the music discovery.

Mood Killer

Using photos that represent mood is the standout feature of the app. Images evoke a more emotional response and it’s easier to identify with an image of someone in a similar mood than just find it on a list of text. Unfortunately, this is where Moodsnap falters as there were just 13 photos to choose from. Some of these weren’t even moods (exercise isn’t a mood, last time I checked) and others were, well, I had no idea what mood they were trying to convey.

I have absolutely no idea what mood either of these is meant to convey.

I have absolutely no idea what mood either of these is meant to convey.

The problem with these images is that everyone will have their own interpretation for what their meaning is. If I chose a Moodsnap of the man who looks on the verge of a complete and catastrophic nervous breakdown, I’d probably want to listen to some calming and relaxing music. Others, however, might interpret this as wanting to listen to some angry music. There’s no right or wrong answer but it means the music selection goes from one extreme to another and I was listening to polarising bands like Megadeth and Mogwai. If you weren’t on the verge of an emotional collapse, you will be after that.

Moreover, the songs don’t seem to shuffle and appears to be organised by date added. Repeatedly switching between playlists meant after only a few repetitions I could predict which song was coming up next (it was usually Diesel Power by The Prodigy). Frequent users will find that they’re having to endure the same songs just to delve deeper into the playlist.

Wrapping Up

I wanted to like Moodsnap, I really did. Music discovery apps are a firm favourite of mine and I was looking for something to rival Tunigo, another Spotify-based service.

Despite the fact that Moodsnap is based upon an interesting concept, it just doesn’t work. The photos are too vague and lacking in numbers, the app is horrendously buggy and the lack of any form of saving to Spotify all adds up to an app that is impossible to recommend.

If you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber, Moodsnap is free so I still encourage you to download it and try it for yourself, though there are much better music discovery apps out there.


Summary

A novel concept that fails in execution. Confusing images, a buggy app and lack of any useable features fails to make it stand out in a fast-becoming crowded music discovery space.

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