Windows Phone 8 gets Xbox Music and Video, but do users love the new apps?

In a new attempt to level the playing field between Windows Phone 8 and its main rivals, iOS and Android, Microsoft has launched the Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps for its tiled smartphone operating system. The two offerings complement the existing functionality and add more options to purchase and consume content.

Until now, Microsoft provided no option for Windows Phone 8 users to purchase or rent movies from their smartphones. Xbox Video adds these features, alongside content streaming and download. Users have access to both popular movies and TV shows, like Fast & Furious 6 and Family Guy. For the latter category, the app allows them to get a Season Pass, that will automatically add new episodes to the user's collection.

To provide users with more details and feedback on the available purchase options, Xbox Video offers Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic ratings and scores, respectively. Playback can be resumed on other devices, like Windows 8.1 PCs and tablets, Xbox One or Xbox 360 consoles.

Xbox Music is currently undergoing testing and, as a result, it is not labeled as ready for prime time (not yet, anyway). The app is designed exclusively for Xbox Music Pass users, which renders it useless for those who have yet to shell out for this subscription. Features include streaming, creating and managing playlists, radio, and content downloads, as the main highlights. Users can also play content that is already available on the device.

Both Xbox Music and Xbox Video are available in 22 markets (the same ones where Xbox Video is currently available, according to Microsoft). The former offering will reach "full release" status early next year.

As I mentioned earlier, Windows Phone 8 already offers similar functionality through the Music + Videos hub, albeit more limited in some regards and more cluttered. The latest apps signal that Microsoft is looking to separate the two types of content, and relegate (or drop) its current approach, which does not allow users to purchase or rent movies and TV shows (only features video playback) or provide more focused ways to enjoy music and videos.

Users are, however, not enamored with the way Microsoft handles Xbox Music. While Xbox Video has a decent 4.5 star rating, its new sibling receives a less than encouraging rating of three stars in Store. Apparently, being in beta does not do anything to help lower expectations.

The most telling feedback has been provided in the blog post accompanying the Xbox Music and Xbox Video app launches. Users complain that the former is not available in a larger number of markets, does not work as well as it should, misses key functionality and is limited solely to Xbox Music Pass users. Perhaps the most telling comment is from abm who says: "Pleas do not remove any feature from the platform and your apps (not even from beta!!). Just 'add' more features. Don't 'remove' anything. The goal is to 'evolve'. Not to 'experiment' !! Party time is over guys! Other platforms are light years ahead in game.. and you guys are still playing hide-and-seek features game. WAKE UP! [sic]".

Hit the following links to download Xbox Music and Xbox Video from Windows Phone Store.

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