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Top Android Music Apps

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Do you have a Droid and want to listen to music? You can listen to music on your Android phone or tablet, and you can even take your iTunes collection along for the ride. Here are five great music apps. Some cost money, and some don't, but there's a solution here for all Android fans. 

1. Pandora

Pandora logo
Pandora Media, Inc.

Pandora is a streaming Internet-based radio service that creates radio stations around a song or group that you already like. While you can't pick the individual tunes, you can rate the music with a thumbs up or down to better train Pandora to find music you enjoy. You can also shuffle all of your playlists to create a radio station that caters to a wider variety of music you like. 

Pricing:

Pandora is free for an ad-supported account. Every once in a while your listening will be interrupted by an ad, and you're limited in how long you can stream and how many unwanted choices you can skip. 

Pandora One accounts run $36 a year. You get an ad-free listening experience, you can skip songs you don't like, and you're not limited in how long you can listen. (You will be prompted every five hours to indicate that you're still listening.) You also get higher quality audio streaming. Of the paid music accounts, Pandora's pricing is the most reasonable. 

Disadvantages:

Pandora is a streaming only service, so you can't listen when you're out of Internet or phone range, and sometimes it gets spotty if you're on the road. It may also cost a pretty penny if you don't have an unlimited data plan. You also can't pick and choose which song plays next, although you can purchase a song (to play on a separate player.) Pandora doesn't do anything with the songs you already own.

 Pandora works best for people who generally stay within Wi-Fi range and want to listen to a variety of music. 

2. Spotify

Spotify on a tablet.
Screen capture.

Spotify is an all-you-can eat buffet of music. It's been available in Europe for quite some time and has only recently made its way to the US. Spotify has a vast catalog of music available, and you can share your playlists with other users to get ideas about new music. Rather than mainly a discovery app, Pandora is an app for people who know what they want to hear and don't want to wait to download it. You must use your Facebook account to create a new Spotify account in the US. 

Spotify also scans your existing collection from iTunes or any other folder and replicates your playlists without having to upload them. 

Pricing:

Spotify offers a free, ad-sponsored account for desktop players. They also have an Android app, but you can't use the free version to play Spotify tunes. You can only use it to play songs you've already downloaded onto your device. 

$5 per month will buy unlimited ad-free streaming, but the $5 plan won't unlock Spotify streaming on Android. 

$10 per month will buy unlimted ad-free streaming on any supported device, including Android. You can also download songs for offline playing, so you don't get spotty service while you're on the road. 

Disadvantages:

Spotify is more expensive than a streaming Netflix account. If you don't buy more than an album every other month, you're not saving money, and some may question whether it lives up to all the hype. Spotify songs only play for as long as you're renting them, so if you decide to cancel the account, you've cancelled all your songs.  

Spotify works very well on a variety of devices if you're willing to pay for it. The offline playlists allow it to bridge the difference between streaming services and local players.

Full disclosure: Spotify provided me with a one month trial membership as part of this review. 

3. Google Music

Google Music Beta on a Xoom
Screen Capture

Google Music is Google's streaming music storage service. It's still a beta release, so it's still got a few missing pieces, such as the ability to purchase music from within the app and have it transfer directly into Google Music. However, it's still a great player, and the price at this point is absolutely free with no ads or rude interuptions. You can also upload all your DRM-free songs from iTunes or any other music folder. 

Google Music streams music from online, but it also downloads your most frequently played songs, so you're not totally without music on an airplane trip. They also offer free sample tracks. 

Pricing:

Free, at least for now and for the first 20,000 songs. Google has at least implied that they may charge for additional storage in the future. This is close to the model they use for Picasa and other Google services. There also may be ads in the future, but I tend to think they won't be intrusive ads. Google generally steers clear of those. 

Disadvantages:

This is a beta product, so it may change significantly between now and the time it's fully "baked." The good news is that you're not locked into the service, and the music you upload is music you already own. 

4. Amazon MP3 Player / Amazon Cloud Player

Amazon Cloud Player
Screen Capture

Amazon offers a free online storage service called Amazon Cloud Drive, and you can play music files you've stored there using Amazon Cloud Player. It's similar to Google Music, only with a worse interface and better shopping experience. You can upload your files from your iTunes account or other music folder, just as you can with Google Music, and any songs you purchase from Amazon.com can be transferred directly to the Cloud Player or downloaded back to your machine.

Pricing:

The first 5 gigs are free to anyone with an Amazon.com account. After that, Amazon will charge for storage. You pay individually for any songs you purchase through Amazon.com, but you're not limited to only using their service to purchase music. 

Disadvantages:

The interface on Cloud Drive and Cloud Player is still a little clunky, and it's worse on the Android app. Amazon is releasing an Android-based version of the Kindle, so we can probably expect some improvements in this area. 

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