Six Streaming Music Apps for the iPhone: Free Choice, But at What Price?

by Reads (110,711)

Slacker RadioSlacker Radio

Billing itself primarily as an Internet radio service, Slacker Radio is available for PCs as well as for mobile platforms such as iOS and Android OS devices, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones, and BlackBerry PlayBook tablets.

Slacker is another service that comes in both free and paid flavors. Generally speaking, subscription costs are $3.99 for Slacker Radio Plus and $9.99 for Slacker Premium Radio. On its Web site, though, Slacker is currently offering free one-year subscriptions to Radio Plus, a service providing extra services such as song lyrics, ABC news content, and unlimited song skips.

On any supported platform, you can also play songs on demand, build playlists, and create single artist stations, but only if you subscribe to the more expensive Premium Radio.

With either Premium Radio or Radio Plus, you can cache your favorite stations on your device and listen even when you’re not connected.

Meanwhile, the free ad-supported version does let you listen to radio online, at least — and regardless of whether you’re using a PC or mobile device.

In the App Store, some users have complained about issues such as blank screens and songs stopping in midstream, although I haven’t experienced these problems. In any case, Slacker issued an update in April aimed at fixing some bugs.

The iOS app is designed to work with both iPhone and iPad.

Last.fmLast.fm

Like Spotify, Last.fm now requires you to pay if you want to listen to music on a mobile device. Although many users have voiced unhappiness over this move, at $3 per month, Last.fm’s service is much less costly than Spotify.

In addition to providing a streaming music radio,” Last.fm also furnishes some interesting and rather unique features. You can view music charts which show Top Tracks, Hyped Tracks, Top Artists, and Hyped Artists.

There’s also an Events tab that lets you know what concerts and performances are coming up for different artists.

Another thing that?s a bit different is that when you put an artist?s name in the search field, the search will yield not only tracks from that artist, but also bands that are associated with the artist.

So our search for Warren Haynes brought up not only tracks from Gov’t Mule, but also The Allman Brothers Band, Dave Mathews Band, and even B.B. King.

As with most of these services, Last.fm will create a custom station for you based on the tracks you like and dislike.

RhapsodyRhapsody

In contrast to most of the other services listed here, Rhapsody is entirely a paid service. For fees starting at $9.99 per month, you get access to its database of about 14 million tracks, a number almost as high as Spotify claims.

At the $9.99 price level, you can listen to Rhapsody on unlimited PCs plus one “authorized” device. If you upgrade to the $14.99 subscription, you can listen on unlimited PCs and up to three authorized devices.

Mobile apps for Rhapsody are available for iPhone/iPod Touch, Android OS, BlackBerry OS, and Windows Phone 7. Other devices which you can “authorize” include Rhapsody-compatible MP3 players as well as other compatible devices such as Tivo, Vizio and Sonos.

Rhapsody was very popular on its initial rollout, as it let you listen to a smorgasbord of artists and tracks without requiring you to buy the tracks.

These days, however, Rhapsody’s pricing is heftier than that of its rivals.

Freedom of Choice, But Not (Always) for Free

These and other streaming music services give you unprecedented freedom of choice over what kinds of music you can listen to while on the go. Be careful, though, to look at the fine print before signing up for a service on the Web or downloading an app.

As we’ve seen, while the apps might be free, you might need to pay something to get the types of streaming music services you really want.

(With additional reporting by Jacqueline Emigh, software editor for the TechnologyGuide sites.)

 



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