Apple may dominate digital music sales through iTunes, but iTunes Match, the company's cloud-based service, has its competitors. Other services have popped up in the last couple of years to fill the void and provide millions of tracks buffet-style, including to those cruising on the road with their smartphones or tablets.
- 7-day free trial
- $9.99 per month for “Unlimited” plan
- Available at: Apple App Store, Google Play, BlackBerry App World, Windows Phone Marketplace
Rdio has made pretty significant strides in just the last 18 months, having increased its catalogue to 15 million songs and making it even easier to listen to tunes online or even cached offline. No matter which route you take, you need to set up all your playlists beforehand unless a passenger can navigate for you.
Under the Unlimited plan, you can add a track to your collection and it will sync over a cached version to the app on your mobile device, so you can listen offline. This works well, but don't expect CD quality (all music services suffer from this though). Streaming the music using your phone or tablet's data connection is fine, too.
While it's nice that Rdio tailors tracks to your tastes through the Heavy Rotation mode, it doesn't let you search for anything based on specific genres, which is odd for a music service. Digital licencing restrictions also means some artists either have albums missing or are absent, altogether.
Sony Music Unlimited
- 30-day trial
- $9.99 per month for “Premium” plan
- Available at: Google Play, Apple App Store
Like Rdio, Sony's Music Unlimited has a pretty clean interface that makes it easy to navigate what you need, but the experience is very different between Android and iOS. With Android, you get offline playback, whereas with iOS, you get a far more basic experience missing some features.
Music Unlimited beats out Rdio on how it handles genres in that you can just pick a "channel" that falls under what you're looking for and let it play a random playlist. It works well for cruising without having to touch your phone, but there are just 22 genres to choose from, a low number for a catalogue of 15 million tracks.
But it does redeem itself somewhat by also offering music by era (1950s and on), chart-based channels and SensMe, which plays music based on your chosen mood. Adding tracks to a playlist or library is fairly easy, but not to be attempted while driving because of all the steps.
- 15-day trial
- $9.99 per month for “Premium+” subscription
- Available at: Apple App Store, Google Play, BlackBerry App World
Like the other two, Deezer's catalogue is 15 million strong, and has the same ups and downs as they do when it comes to audio quality and missing songs, albums or artists. Like Rdio, you can't really do a search for a specific genre, but because Deezer is based in France, you will get more of an international flavour here.
Deezer does make it a little bit easier to transfer an entire library for offline listening, which is great for road trips through dead zones. It also allows you to create a radio station based on your chosen artist, so you can hear similar songs in a long rotation.
That said, the interface is lacking in imagination, and Deezer would've been ahead of the curve if it had taken its simplistic approach and made it more car-friendly. The catalogue may also be missing certain content that is easily found in the others, particularly for genres or artists that are more popular on this side of the pond.