iTunes 9 is the most bloated version yet: The app alone is 160MB, even bigger than iMovie. And while the it is pretty slick, and Genius can now make you the personal mixtape you always wanted, iTunes 9 also tries hard to woo you into buying more music with its iTunes LP packages.
But what if you just want to find some new music without launching a behemoth desktop app or fronting a lot of money?
Luckily there are several new applications that let you do just that. Of course, streaming music to your iPhone isn't new; apps like Last.fm and Slacker have been at it for a year. But the problem with these apps, in short, is that they suck at replacing the iPod. The interfaces are middling, and they're essentially radio stations that you don't totally control--no picking songs or albums allowed.
Enter Rhapsody for iPhone, approved by the App Store several days ago and already near the iTunes top 100 free apps list (above The New Yori Times and Amazon Kindle apps). Rhapsody is an all-you-can eat music buffet that's been popular among the subscription music set for some time: $15 a month and you can listen to pretty much any artist or track imaginable, make playlists and so on.(You can also have as many users as you want logging into the Web interface, if you want to split the cost with a fellow music lover.
Rhapsody's iPhone app allows you to look up and listen to specific albums and artists--something streaming radio apps don't let you do. The interface is solid, speedy and iPod-like, and if you get really attached to an album, you can buy it forever, regardless of whether you continue paying for the $15 monthly service. You can also check out the charts and make playlists on the fly, and the sound quality is good.
You still need a 3G connection, however, if you want the tunes to keep playing. That's why Spotify, a UK-made app for iPhone and desktop, has so many people excited. Spotify is like Rhapsody, but it works even when you don't have cell service. It allows iPhone owners to cache playlists they've streamed, so they can listen to them anytime, whether or not there's a streaming connection available.
While Spotify isn't available in the U.S. just yet, some enterprising music-nerds have found ways to make it work. The company says it'll be bringing its app stateside soon.
If you have plenty of music already on your home computers, but not enough space on your iPhone, there's a $3 app called SimplifyMedia that does the trick. SimplifyMedia lets you stream music on your hard drive to other computers as well as iPhones over 3G. If you're the kind of person who believes buying music is for suckers, then you've probably got 100GB of pirated tunes at home you're dying to take on the road. They also make an app for photo-sharing.
If you know of other music apps that help you avoid the iTunes trap, let us know in the comments.