Back in 2006, Verizon was the second major wireless carrier to launch a music store; Sprint was the first, while now-defunct Amp'd Mobile was one of the lesser-known carriers to offer a similar service. Verizon customers with compatible phones can sign up for the V Cast Music plan for $14.99 a month, which allows them to purchase and download songs over the air for $1.99 directly to the phone. That same $1.99 price also comes with a higher-quality version that you can then download to your PC. If you prefer, you could purchase and download a 99-cent song to the PC, and then sideload it to your phone via a USB cable or a memory card. Downloads are in the WMA file format.
Fast-forward two years later, and even though the basic purchase and download plan remains the same, Verizon has decided to rebrand V Cast Music by entering into a partnership with Rhapsody, the country's No. 1 music subscription service. This means that anyone who signs up for the new V Cast Music with Rhapsody plan automatically has a Rhapsody account associated with their phone.
However, the only real change to the V Cast Music experience takes place in the desktop PC side of things; the phone interface remains largely the same. As a refresher, the music store interface on the phone is basic yet intuitive. Browsing and downloading songs is easy, and you can purchase a song in a matter of clicks. The interface has a red-and-black theme and features a colorful sliver of featured artists at the very top. The top navigation row includes Home, Search, and Help, while the bottom half of the screen lists What's New, What's Hot, Features, Browse, Download, and Alerts. Once you select an album, you get a full-screen display, including album art and information with track names.
As far as the music player interface goes, it differs from phone to phone. At the time of this review, the V Cast Music with Rhapsody service works on as many as 88 phones in Verizon's stable.
As we mentioned, the real impact of the Rhapsody partnership shows up with the desktop PC software. For two years, the V Cast Music software for the PC was a Windows Media Player-based application that was really more like a blown-out version of the cell phone's music store interface. Now, that software is completely taken over by the Rhapsody application. You can find out about the Rhapsody service and get a more in-depth look at the software in our full review of Rhapsody 4. The V Cast Music with Rhapsody edition is identical to it, aside from the logo and the branding.
The clear upside of this arrangement is that for $14.99 a month, you get the V Cast Music plan as well as the Rhapsody To Go plan, which lets you transfer subscription tracks directly to your compatible music phone. (Do note that the Rhapsody To Go plan only lets you authorize up to three devices.) So, not only can you stream unlimited music for a flat monthly fee, you also get to carry those tunes around with you. Plus, you have the advantage of purchasing songs over the air. The one downside is that you can't stream the Rhapsody music directly to your phone, even if the phone has a good EV-DO connection. Aside from that, the V Cast Music with Rhapsody service is certainly ahead of the curve when compared with the other mobile music stores out there.