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The Windows Phone mobile platform is growing in popularity, thanks in part to Nokia’s success with the Lumia 800 device in Europe and a strong early-days footing provided by HTC, LG and Samsung. While there is a long way to go before the platform can challenge Android and iPhone, things are certainly looking up for Microsoft in this market, helped in no small part by various unique selling points.
One of these is the rarely-trumpeted provision of free music, provided to Windows Phone users either via third party apps or services intended for specific models. Along with countless Internet radio apps on Windows Phone, users have the advantage of using Last.fm for free (Android and iPhone users must pay a subscription for this service) while Nokia Lumia owners can access the Nokia Music service.
Radio Apps For Windows Phone
As you might expect, there are many free Internet radio apps for Windows Phone, each offering free music or talking, depending on your preference. Free apps like TuneIn radio provide access to a huge selection of Internet radio webcasts from around the world, covering all tastes.
You’ll also find single-station or dedicated network apps, designed for you to enjoy a favoured radio station wherever you might be. If radio is your thing, however, you might prefer to use the built-in FM band radio that comes with most Windows Phones.
One of the main reasons to enjoy free music on a Windows Phone is the provision of Last.fm, the popular service which allows users to stream tunes that have been selected based on previously listened to and appreciated (signified via the “Like” button) tracks direct to their phones.
The desktop/browser version has always been free but in 2011 Last.fm announced that the mobile apps for BlackBerry, iOS and Android devices would become paid services. Only Windows Phone (and the version for Xbox 360) would remain free, thanks to a long-standing agreement between Last.fm and Microsoft.
Windows Phone owners can install Last.fm via the Marketplace on their phones, online or through the Zune desktop client. If you don’t already have an account with the service you can create one when the app is launched.
When you sign in, use the music search box to find one of your favourite artists and browse through the various entries in the results; these will detail the number of other users with the same taste and by selecting the relevant entry you can check which artists are similar (and which might as a result be played), read a bio of the artist or commence playing the dedicated channel for that artist.
As you listen to the tracks that are streamed to your phone you can decide whether you Like a song or wish to stop it or skip. This information is then used to select the next track, creating a personalised radio station playing only the music you like and informing you of any local gigs featuring the currently playing artist.
If you are in a territory where the Nokia Lumia 710 and Lumia 800 handsets are available, the Nokia Music app will allow you to stream random-but-relevant tracks (think Spotify) to your phone and download as many as 50 to listen offline.
Like all of the best things featured on MakeUseOf.com, this is a free service, the only cost being the price of the handset.
Using the app is a simple case of launching from the Apps List, selecting Mix radio, choosing a genre (classical, rock, reggae, soul, etc.) and tapping to play one of the pre-selected mixes (offline play is available via the tap-and-hold gesture). If this isn’t your cup of tea, meanwhile, you can use the Create option to select one or more favourite artists; Nokia Music will use these choices to play recommended tracks. You can also use the Personalise option to play personalised mixes, using data stored on your computer to determine the right choices..
Sadly Last.fm is currently only available in the UK and Europe. Windows Phone owners in the USA have access to the similar MetroRadio which is a Pandora app for the platform. Meanwhile the Nokia Music service is available in the USA but Nokia’s Windows Phone devices (the Lumia 710 and 800) aren’t due to be launched in North America until 2012.
For some readers, you’ll be able to summon free and legal music to your WP7 device in seconds – you might have done so before reaching this conclusion – but for others it might be a while before you can get the quality of service you expect.
Before you get carried away, however, spare a thought for the data usage plan as specified by the contract with your carrier or network. Overuse can lead to high charges!
Image Credit: Microsoft