Smartphones and tablets have become the ultimate tools for taking your music wherever you go. Whether it’s storing your favourite albums, tuning into your favourite radio stations, or streaming new music over the internet, if it has been recorded, you can probably listen to it on your mobile device.
Here we are looking at the best ways to take your music with you when you are mobile.
What’s the difference between downloading and streaming?
When you download music, you copy an audio file to your device and it’s yours to keep and transfer to your other devices as you wish. You can also listen to it offline without an internet connection. This is a good solution if you are going to a festival or somewhere without an internet connection.
Streaming music is done within a mobile application like Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music for example. Tracks are played over the wi-fi or mobile data rather than being stored on your device, although many apps offer offline access you can pay for. If you stream music, generally, it doesn’t belong to you, but you have access to much larger libraries of over 30 million tracks.
Take a look at our feature on downloading vs streaming music for more information.
How much do I have to pay?
Downloading music from portals like iTunes, Amazon or Google Play generally costs around the same, per album, as a CD - around £10 a time. If you only want to download one song, individual tracks typically cost between 79p and 99p.
Streaming services generally charge around £10 a month, but give you unlimited access to massive libraries. Some apps also have a free streaming option that allows you to listen on the go without handing over any cash. However, these often limit your listening time, include adverts and only allow you to play tracks in a random order.
Can I listen to the radio?
Yes you can. A lot of phones also have an FM radio built in, but apps like TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio and BBC iPlayer allow you to tune into all of your favourite stations on your mobile device by streaming over wi-fi or mobile data.
BBC iPlayer allows you to download your favourite shows to listen to when there’s no internet connection available.
Top music services
Whether it’s your favourite artists, or your top radio stations, there’s a wealth of music services you can download to your mobile device and enjoy while you’re on the go. Here are some essential services.
Spotify has a massive library of mobile music with both free and paid options. A Premium sub is £10 a month with unlimited access to more than 30 million tracks and the ability to store 3,000 tracks as offline playlists.
There’s also great music discovery tools with playlist suggestions based around mood and artists you regularly listen to.
With the free option, you can listen to curated radio stations based around tracks or artists, but you need an internet connection. The latest updates allow users to listen to albums, but only in random order rather than selecting individual tracks.
Amazon Music Unlimited is one of the youngest offerings in the music streaming realm, but by no means lacking with 40 million tracks and counting.
Existing Amazon Prime subscribers get access to a curated streaming catalogue of more than 2 million tracks at no extra cost. There are several plans on offer, starting at just £3.99 for those who just want to listen on an Amazon Echo speaker device - find out more about Amazon Echo here.
At the moment, Amazon is also offering 3 months for 99p too.
You may have heard about this as it’s owned by Jay-Z and a host of music’s biggest names.
Its chief proposition is the so-called “lossless” CD quality music. Generally speaking, digital music files are very compressed and the quality suffers as a result. However, with premium quality comes premium cost.
The higher-quality subscription costs £20 a month, but there is a standard plan that starts at £8.49. Users can listen offline and also get access to 75,000 hi-def music videos, a host of exclusive interviews, features and articles. Just make sure you’ve got good headphones so you can hear the difference!
This neat music discovery tool has seemingly been around forever (well, 2002 is a long time ago in digital terms!), search for an artist, album or track and it will give you recommendations.
These days it’s main feature is ‘Scrobbling’ which means it takes note of the tracks you listen to and gives you recommendations, while the ‘dynamic playlisting’ feature enables you to ‘uncover connections between tracks.’ You can also use the app to start a playlist based on any song you’re listening to.
Not everything is going to be available on every service, but with 35 million tracks, Deezer has the largest library available. The mobile option costs £10 a month, but there’s a free radio-style service that offers 6 skips per hour of listening.
Deezer Elite, which became available in the UK in February for users of Sonos speaker systems, offers CD-quality music for £15 a month (or £10 a month if you pay upfront). There’s no word yet on when it’ll become available to non-Sonos users.
BBC iPlayer Radio
The BBC iPlayer Radio app is an essential download. It allows you to tune into live stations and access hundreds of shows and podcasts, which you can also download for offline listening.
The newest version of the app offers a Playlister feature, which enables you to add a song you hear on the radio to a list, which you can then access on other streaming services like Spotify and Deezer. It’ll also enable you to remember the songs if you want to buy them at a later date.
If your radio habits stretch beyond the Beeb, you can download apps like TuneIn radio to get access to a host of commercial stations and others from all over the world.
While it’s not a streaming app per se, Shazam is one of the most valuable music tools you can get for your smartphone. Next time you hear a song on the radio you can’t identify, fire up Shazam, hit Tag and within a few seconds you’ll have the name of the song, the artist, the album it’s from, the lyrics as well as the ability to listen now on services like Spotify or Radio.
It’s also a brilliant tool for those tip-of-the-tongue, ‘who sang this?’ moments that can otherwise drive you mad.
If you use a streaming service without an offline option, you will need a data connection, so make sure you have a big enough data allowance. BT broadband customers can also get free wi-fi at 14 million hotspots worldwide, via the BT Wi-Fi app which is available for Android, iOS and Windows smartphones.