If you were hoping for Apple to announce a subscription-based music service for the iPhone and the iPod Touch on Wednesday like I was, suppress your disappointment: early this morning, Apple approved Rhapsody for iPhone, and it's available in the iTunes Store.
It's the second such service Apple has approved, but the first, Spotify, is not available in the United States. (The Rhapsody application is not showing up in search results quite yet, but it is showing up within iTunes.)
Rhapsody was a pioneer in subscription-based music, and I'm a big fan of the service; in 2005, it was the first one to turn me on to the thrill of chasing your whims and surfing randomly among genres, which you can't do with per-download services like iTunes.
In my most recent trial late last year (in conjunction with the Sonos multiroom audio system), I wasn't able to find any significant gaps--if anything, there was too much music, including more versions of the novelty song "Kung Fu Fighting" than I ever imagined--and there is some excellent curation and editorial work, particularly for indie rock artists.
The iPhone app is pretty straightforward: you can search for songs, surf genres and chart-toppers, and create queues and playlists. If you're a fan of Pandora, you'll also appreciate the Rhapsody Radio feature, which creates tailor-made stations built around particular artists or genres. As long as you have an active Wi-Fi or 3G connection, the music should keep playing without interruption.
It's a free download, but to use it, you'll need a Rhapsody to Go subscription, which costs $14.99 a month. That's not quite as good a deal as Microsoft's Zune Pass, which costs the same and gives you 10 permanent MP3 downloads a month, but of course that service requires a Zune, which means that it applies only to about 1.1 percent of the MP3 player market (according to a statistic that Apple snarkily included in its presentation Wednesday) and exactly zero mobile phones.
Apple appears to have seen the light, as it is now allowing subscription-based music to come to the iPhone. It makes my phone's 8GB storage size seem a lot less limiting.
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