Thumbplay Music joins an ever-expanding lineup of music services aimed to make listening on your computer or handheld device simple and effortless. It largely succeeds at this mission thanks to an uncluttered interface and an ample catalog of more than 8 million songs. The fee of $9.99 per month for unlimited music is directly in line with the median for subscription services, but a relative unknown like Thumbplay is going to have its work cut out for it convincing potential users that it's more compelling than free offerings such as Pandora.
The service is off to a good start with its clean, visually appealing interface (check out the gallery for a better view). The jukebox is easy to navigate and divided into logical sections for discovering new music. The main page features a promotional area for new music at the top and offers a tabbed lower window with featured songs and albums. You can also browse genres, new releases, and most popular. A playback bar with controls, mini album art, and track info lines the bottom of the window.
Thumbplay is different from similar services such as Rhapsody in that it's not meant to be used as a general jukebox for the albums and tracks you have in your personal library; in fact, there's no option to import this media, which could be a downside for those who want a seamless solution for music organization and discovery. On the other hand, it lets the service focus on one thing quite well: playlists. Upon first starting up the software, you'll be prompted to enter a favorite artist, and Thumbplay will create an autoplaylist based on this artist. Once you're tooling around the interface, right-click any track or artist and select Playlist Genie to create more automixes. You can also hand pick your own playlists as well as import any of your iTunes playlists.
The other notable feature is Thumbplay's compatibility with a variety of handheld devices. At press time, BlackBerry smartphones and Android OS 1.6 and higher were supported, with an app pending for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Clicking on the little phone icon at the top of the window will let you send a link to your device that allows you to download the necessary app.
Performance within the Thumbplay interface was a bit touch-and-go during testing. Actions seemed sluggish at times, and we often had to click options several times to get a response. The Playlist Genie feature works well, though how well all depends on how your taste lines up with the generator. Each list seems to contain right around 15 tracks.