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The Best Streaming Music Apps for iPhone

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Last Updated: April 2, 2014

Streaming music apps are the logical evolution of the promise delivered by the iPod, and later the iPhone: to make it easy to carry a music library of thousands of songs anywhere you go.

But why be limited to just a few thousand songs? Why not choose from virtually every song available digitally? You can, thanks to these apps that allow you to stream music over the Internet to your iPhone, iPod touch, and, through a web browser or desktop app, your computer. Most of them have a free version and paid version. Some are radio-style (you choose a "station," but don't control what songs play), while others are jukebox style (you choose the album or song, and create playlists).

If you're interested in expanding your digital music options, I've reviewed and ranked the leading contenders.

1. Beats Music

Beats Music app
Beats Music copyright Beats Electronics

The newest entrant into this already-crowed field, Beats Music, is also the best. Beats Music takes the best features from its competitors—customized playlists from Songza, music discovery from Pandora, offline listening from Spotify and Rdio—and adds a well-designed, easy-to-use, powerful platform. There's no free option, but with its many features and smooth interface, Beats Music will be tough to top.
4.5 out of 5 Stars 

2. Pandora

pandora

Pandora is the grandaddy of streaming music services and still one of the very best. It uses a radio-style approach, where you enter a song or artist and it creates a "station" of music you'll like based on that choice. Refine the stations by giving thumbs up or down to each song, or adding new musicians or songs to a station. With a gigantic database of music tastes and relationships powering it, Pandora is a terrific tool for discovering new music.
4.5 out of 5 Stars

3. Spotify

spotify for iphone

Spotify is one of the leaders in the jukebox-style streaming music space. Instead of listening to a radio station based on your tastes, just search for an artist you'll be able to listen to virtually all of their albums with a few clicks. Spotify offers a free, ad-supported version, as well as paid tiers that remove ads, add unlimited and offline listening, and, for US$9.99/month, let you listen on iOS devices.
4 out of 5 Stars

4. Rdio

rdio for iphone

Rdio uses the same jukebox approach as Spotify, in which you search for music and listen to nearly any song you want. Rdio starts users with a six-month free trial, after which you need a $4.99 or $9.99/month subscription (the more expensive version adds support for iOS devices). Rdio has some music that Spotify doesn't (and vice versa) and a clean, modern interface that many people enjoy.
4 out of 5 Stars

5. iTunes Radio

iTunes Radio

ITunes Radio brings radio-style streaming music right to your existing music library via integration with iTunes on Mac and PC and the Music app on iOS. Offering most of the features that Pandora does, but with a more generous skip limit (6 skips per hour per station) and no limits of free listening, it's a good start. However, right now it lacks a major feature to make it different from Pandora.
3 out of 5 Stars

6. Xbox Music

Xbox music
Xbox Musix copyright Microsoft

Microsoft has brought its Xbox Music service to the iPhone with this app. Unfortunately, it left a lot of the best features behind on the web and game console versions of the service. The app doesn't include any music discovery features, is plagued with too many playback errors, and buffers too often. The service may be good on other platforms, but on iPhone it's far behind the pack.
2 out of 5 Stars

7. MOG

mog for iphone

MOG was discontinued. It is now Beats Music

MOG is another jukebox-style offering along the lines of Spotify and Rdio. Consider this review incomplete for now: MOG was purchased by Beats Electronics (of Beats by Dre fame) in 2012 and will be relaunched as Beats Music in early 2014.
4 out of 5 Stars

8. Twitter #music

twitter #music

Twitter has discontinued #music

Social media titan Twitter attempts to leverage its communications success into a sharing-focused music app with #music. Unfortunately, it doesn't really allow you to stream music—you need a Spotify or Rdio subscription for that—and doesn't provide strong music discovery or playlist features. A swing and a miss from Twitter.
1 out of 5 Stars

More to Come

Despite there already being some major players, new streaming music apps debut all the time. As proved by new entries like Beats Music, these new options offer new features, interfaces, and wrinkles on the concept. Sometimes, they even become the best of the bunch. As new services come online, this list will be updated to show how they stack up and help you make a good choice.
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