Every Phone a Music Phone
These days it’s hard to find a smartphone that can’t play music. But after you spend the big bucks for the phone and service plan, you might not have much money left over to buy music. Luckily, a big bunch of services have mobile users in mind, helping you to stream music on the go--and at no charge.
We picked a couple of the best music apps for each major smartphone platform--Apple iPhone, Google Android, Palm WebOS, Nokia Symbian S60, BlackBerry (RIM), and Microsoft Windows 7. So if you like the idea of streaming music to your phone, you’ll need a fairly generous data service plan, and one of the following apps...
Now part of MySpace, imeem is the ultimate streaming music client for your Android phone. Just like Pandora or Last.FM, imeem transforms your smartphone into a personal jukebox, where you can listen to and save favorite artist-stations and make custom playlists.
The music recommendations engine is accurate, and the sound quality is good with 3G or Wi-Fi connections. Even better, you can download some tracks to your phone. It’s easy to skip over songs in the stream that you don’t like, though you can skip no more than six tracks in an hour in the featured streams.
TuneWiki is a worthwhile alternative to the music player that comes with Android phones. Like other apps, TuneWiki streams music and video to your mobile device, and plays the music you’ve stored on your memory card; it can also stream songs (and YouTube videos).
However, its social networking features are what make TuneWiki special. The app shows you the lyrics of the song playing. It allows you to get social with mapped charts of music played around the globe. And, if you're vocal about your music, the Shoutwall lets you post and read comments on the songs you are currently playing.
Pandora Radio (iPhone)
Pandora’s mobile app shines on the iPhone with a full-featured experience to match the Web service. Accompanied by full album art, artist bios, and a horizontal view of recently played songs (CoverFlow), Pandora also features a huge catalog of music for you to discover.
Pandora uses an extensive online database of expert music analysis, and helps you discover music based on your favorite songs and artists via hundreds of musical attributes. If you already have a Pandora account, you can jump right in and listen to stations you’ve already created at home or work, or start building new playlists on your phone.
Dedicated to fans of new music, OurStage doesn't feature the plentiful back catalogs of Pandora or Last.FM, but it does a good job of showcasing new music from independent and major labels, and from unsigned bands as well.
The app offers you several genres to pick and mix from, and feeds new music, which you rate with a thumbs-up/thumbs-down mechanism. The app then records your preferences and starts recommending music. Your favorites are also saved in a playlist. OurStage is free of charge and free of advertising, and it gives away up to $5000 a month to the indie artists with the highest user ratings.
Mobbler (Symbian S60)
Mobbler is a great Last.FM client for your Symbian S60 mobile device and works with most newer Nokia phones, including the 5800 and the N97 (Mini), and also with nontouchscreen smartphones like the E52 and E72. Mobbler streams music based on your Last.fm preferences, and also on the music you’ve listened to on the native Nokia music app on your phone. Mobbler also fetches high-quality album artwork during playback.
Nokia Internet Radio (Symbian S60)
In the radio station directory, you can browse by genre, language, or country, or go with the most popular stations chosen by users. If you can't find your favorite station by browsing, there’s a search feature available as well. Nokia Internet Radio is tied in with the Nokia Music Store, so you can search the song currently playing and purchase it on your mobile.
AccuRadio runs a little faster than Pandora on WebOS-powered Palm smartphones. The app offers dozens of radio channels to browse through, wrapped in an easy-to-use interface. The home screen is a simple list of available genres, which in turn display lists of active channels you can listen to. If you don’t like a particular band in the radio station you are listening to, AccuRadio lets you block it, and the “Now Playing” mode offers detailed information on the artist and the album the song is from. No offline storage on this one, but speedy playback compensates.
Since your WebOS smartphone has no FM tuner, consider adding RadioTime, which can pick up thousands of terrestrial radio stations. You can choose stations based on your location, so that when you are in an unknown area you can use geolocation (rather than scanning frequencies) to find local stations around you.
The app shines with easy navigation, and I wasn't bothered by the occasional graphics ads, although some people find them annoying.
If you want to listen to your favorite FM radio broadcasts on your BlackBerry, then iheartradio could be for you. The free app gives you access over 3G or Wi-Fi (recommended) networks to over 350 U.S. radio stations. You can bookmark preferred radio stations and tag songs (by mood or tempo, say).
Audiophiles will be happy to hear that all radio stations streamed through iheartradio come in high-quality AAC format. Road warriors will appreciate the availability of on-demand traffic reports from most major cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Dallas.
Slacker Radio (BlackBerry)
Slacker’s mobile version for BlackBerry is every bit as functional as its desktop-based big brother. You can listen to any of your personalized Slacker stations, as well as more than 100 stations preprogrammed by music experts, even when using the app in the background. If you prefer your own mix, you can create a custom station right from your BlackBerry and kill some time reading up on artists' biographies and album reviews. However, Slacker's killer feature is temporary offline song storage, so you can listen even when you are out of network range.
Pandora (Windows Mobile)
Pandora is also your best answer on the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform, where it can add a wireless music-streaming complement to the native Windows Media Player that plays local files.