It’s hard to believe it now, but when the first iPhone was released in 2008 there were no third party apps. There was no Angry Birds, no Facebook and no Twitter. In the days when there wasn’t an app for that choice was limited. You couldn’t browse the web using Chrome or take photos using Instagram, and if you wanted to listen to music, there was no option other than the pre-installed iPod app. But now that we have more choice than ever before, finding the best app for the job can be difficult – and with iTunes Radio on the way that job will get even more difficult. So which of these apps is right for you?
With a catalogue of over 20 million songs from some of the biggest music labels including Universal, Sony and EMI, Spotify is the app of choice for those of you that want to be able to listen to what you want when you want. Saying that, a handful of iconic artists such as Pink Floyd and The Beatles are noticeably absent, so don’t assume your favourite band will be present. Spotify’s vast music library excels because the app isn’t dependant on a network connection – you can download tracks to your device for offline use, which is great for those plane journeys or when you just can’t get signal. While the app is free, to listen to Spotify on a mobile device you will need to be a Spotify Premium member, and that will set you back to the sweet tune of £9.99 a month.
If your budget doesn’t quite stretch that far you might want to give the newly launched O2 Tracks a go. After an initial free trial available to everyone regardless of their network, the service only costs £1 per week. You’ll find that you get what you pay for, as instead of having access to tens of millions of songs, you’ll only be able to listen to the tunes making their way into the Top 40 and a selection of other hand-picked tracks. If your love for chart music is strong this service is ideal, but those after more variety will get bored before long.
Search for a track or artist, press play, and listen free of charge. Perfect. However, as a free service you’ll find that you might not be able to listen to that number 1 album from an established pop star. Instead SoundCloud is great for longer mixes from DJs and music producers as well as tracks from up and coming artists looking to promote themselves. Since everything is streamed, you’ll want to make sure you have a wifi connection or a generous data plan if you intend to take advantage of SoundCloud’s catalogue.
Another free streaming service is 8tracks (you can purchase a subscription that gets rid of adverts). 8tracks is great for when you know what type of music you’d like to hear, or the atmosphere you want to create but you don’t have a playlist ready for it. Click on the Explore tab and you’ll be given a choice of genres or moods to select from, which helps the app generate suitable playlists – perhaps it’ll be electronic synthpop or acoustic love? If you’re open for discovering new music, 8tracks is a great option.
There are countless radio apps on the App Store, but with 70,000 radio stations and 2 million podcasts, TuneIn Radio could be the best. You can even record radio shows to listen to later. Just a word of warning: if you were hoping to use this radio app for listening to sports commentary you might be out of luck – some programmes can’t be aired for legal reasons.
Launching in the UK in 2014, iTunes Radio offers ‘more than 250 DJ-curated and genre-focused stations’. Having struck deals with the major record labels including Universal Music Group you can bet that the biggest artists and bands are well-represented. The service is free, with advertisements being used to fund the service, while those with a subscription to Apple’s cloud storage service iTunes Match will be able to listen without interruptions. And as you might expect, you’ll be able to easily purchase any track from the iTunes store for offline repeated listening.