The precursor to other services like SoundHound and Google Sound Search, Shazam is the original name-that-tune app. Once you have it installed, you can use it to identify, or "tag," a song that's playing within earshot. For a long time, Shazam was hampered by a downright ugly interface. But with its recent redesign, the simple and effective functionality of the app finally gets the attractive packaging it deserves.
Shazam comes in a free ad-supported version and a paid ad-free version called Shazam Encore.
When you first install Shazam on your device, the app asks you to sign up to receive your tags by e-mail. While it may not be clear, Shazam does not require a log-in to use, so if you're not interested in this feature, then be sure to hit the Skip button on the bottom.
Visually, Shazam is stunning, with its clean, white interface and high-resolution squared thumbnails. Also, it's easy to navigate the app, as its features are all broken down into four pages: Tagging, My Tags, Chart, and Friends. You can swipe laterally between them, or simply tap a shortcut on the navigation bar up top.
Shazam's Tagging screen, the default screen that opens upon launch, is where all the magic happens. To get started here, just hit the big Shazam button in the middle, and make sure your phone can "hear" the music that's playing for at least a few seconds. As expected, this part of the process is affected by the sensitivity of your mobile device's microphone, so you may have to turn the music up or get closer to the source if the app doesn't get a good sample. Typically, a few seconds is all it takes for Shazam to recognize the unique signature of the song in question and pull up a profile.
For the most part, Shazam's song recognition capabilities seem on par with or better than other apps in its category. When tested with the same songs, SoundHound and Shazam typically both did the deed in a few seconds, save for a few songs that were identifiable by only one of the services. Performance-wise, I'd say the two here are a wash.