Way back when you might have carried around quite a few gadgets. Most commonly, people would carry around at least their cell phones and an MP3 player. But modern smartphones make MP3 players unnecessary. Not only do they have enough storage to hold plenty of music, but they also have streaming music apps. Thee apps play music over a wireless connection, so you don’t need to put any actual music on the device.
Looking for the perfect streaming music service? Check out five of our favorites, comprising free and premium options.
1. Google Play Music (free, Android)
When it comes to streaming music, nothing beats your own library. When Google announced its music project in 2011, it changed the game. Instead of offering a subscription-based service, it offered an enormous storage locker: 20GB for each user. Best of all, users can upload and sync directly from iTunes, so there’s no need to go hunting for files. Just add to your library and Google Music will upload it for you.
Of course, the service isn’t available for the iPhone, though you can get a makeshift version by visiting music.google.com from your Safari browser. The navigation isn’t any good, but it streams well enough over WiFi, and presumably it will work well over LTE as well with the iPhone 5. But Android users can take advantage of this excellent service. With the ability to download tracks for local play, it means never having to load music onto your device via USB cable.
2. Spotify ($9.99/month, Android and iPhone)
For years Spotify was the talk of the UK. The unlimited music service was loved by many, and people in the States pined for it. In late 2011 they got their wish, with a full Spotify release in the US. This included not only the popular desktop version, but also mobile apps for iPhone and Android (and eventually BlackBerry). The results have been mostly stellar so far. Having that many tracks perpetually at your disposal is a huge advantage in finding the perfect tune for the moment.
As with Google Music, you can download tracks for offline play as well, which is great for areas with spotty reception. The biggest downside, though, is the unavailability of certain tracks, albums, and artists. Some record labels have pulled their catalogs from Spotify, so if you’re looking for material from them you won’t find it here. It’s best to take a look around to see what labels have pulled from Spotify before you sign up.
3. Rhapsody ($9.99/month, Android and iPhone)
While Spotify took the country by storm, Rhapsody might have been confused. They have for years offered a similar subscription music service. In fact, they carry many tracks that Spotify does not, so many people will find greater appeal with Rhapsody. It works in largely the same manner as Spotify, with the ability to create playlists and download songs for offline play.
A few carriers have already hooked up with Rhapsody, so if you’re with them you might be nearly ready to go. But everyone can get Rhapsody for $9.99 per month — and they’re even running a deal where the first three months cost just $5 each. If you’re thinking about Spotify you might want to compare its library to Rhapsody before you spend the $10 for the first month.
4. TuneIn Radio (Free, Android and iPhone)
Believe it or not there is plenty of demand for terrestrial radio. With the internet we can expand our traditional definition of radio — local broadcasts — and bring it to a national level. That’s just what TuneIn has done with its app. You can search for radio stations all across the country and listen for free. Moreover, you can search for specific artists or songs, and the app will take you to a station currently playing it. You can even pause and rewind stations.
The Pro version brings even more features to the table, like the ability to listen to CBS, ESPN, and TEDTalks radio stations. You can set timed recordings, so you can catch that talk show you always miss. In addition to pausing and rewinding stations, you can also record them live for future playback. It’s just like the old days when you’d hit record to put a song from the radio on a cassette — only now you can rewind and get it right from the beginning. Best part: Pro is just 99 cents.
5. Pandora (Free, Android and iPhone)
Finally we get to old faithful. Pandora has been around seemingly forever, offering users the opportunity to create unique streaming radio stations. Just pick and artist and start a station based on their catalog. Add more artists to the station to create more variety and make your station really stand out. You can create tons of them, so you can flip stations as the mood permits. Don’t like the song that came up? You can skip to the next track six times per hour per station.
Pandora also features a premium option, which costs $30 per year. It offers higher quality streams and removes ads from the service. That’s not a ton, but for $30 per year it’s far less than most of the other options.