If your iPod playlist is sounding a bit stale, a good music app can be just the boost you need. There are plenty of free options -- and we cover those in our list of the best free music apps -- but spending a bit more makes sense when you get nice-to-have features like pause/rewind and recording functionality.
1. TuneIn Radio
TuneIn Radio (US$0.99) provides access to a jaw-dropping 40,000 radio stations, including talk radio, news, music, and sports. While there are plenty of free radio apps available, TuneIn Radio has some pretty nifty features. You can pause and rewind each radio station, record music, and stream songs via Apple’s AirPlay. The interface is pretty plain, but TuneIn Radio has many features that set it apart from the competition.
Shazam Encore (US$5.99) is the paid counterpart to the free Shazam app, which identifies music after only hearing a few seconds. Just hold your iPhone up to the radio or stereo, and Shazam "tags" it by telling you the title and artist. Unlike the free app, Shazam Encore offers unlimited tagging and a variety of other features. Shazam Encore includes music recommendations, a driving mode, and -- one of my favorite features -- personalized Last.fm or Pandora stations using your tagged music.
3. I Am T-Pain
There are few iPhone music apps that have received as much buzz over the years as Smule’s I Am T-Pain (US$0.99). This app consistently resides atop iTune’s music category thanks to its unique spin on creating your own music. The app includes dozens of T-Pain’s beats, so you can create your own songs by singing into the iPhone’s microphone (you can even make videos with the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4). Once the song is auto-tuned, you can share your masterpiece via Facebook, Twitter or email. Some of the beats are available for free, but others cost an additional US$0.99 each.
Bloom (US$3.99) is a very "Zen" app that is part music creator and part meditation accompaniment -- at least for me. You can create your own ambient music that conforms to one of 12 moods, and when you get tired of creating, the Bloom app starts making its own compositions. It’s a good thing that Bloom has a sleep timer, because this is the perfect music app to put on when you want to relax. Not to mention that it was developed by Brian Eno, one of the pioneers of ambient music.
It’s not exactly cheap, but GuitarToolkit (US$9.99) is the music app to get if you play the guitar -- or want to learn how. The beautiful interface is complemented by a huge chord library, a metronome with several settings, and a chord finder tool. The app also adapts to left-handed users. Even better, GuitarToolkit supports a wide range of instruments including bass, mandolin, banjo, guitar, and even ukulele. GuitarToolkit is also a great tuner for your real guitar, as long as you’re using an OS device with a microphone.
Ministry of Sound is a famous dance venue and record label, so it is a wise choice when you’re in the mood for trance, house, or drum and bass. Hundreds of dance stations are included for every dance genre, in addition to sets by famous DJs. Twitter integration is another plus. I am kind of disappointed that the interface isn’t more streamlined, but the music makes up for that small downside.