Samsung launched its Music Hub service in the U.S. on Tuesday. It's an effort to capture some of the buzz around Spotify with a feature that combines a cloud music locker, unlimited song streaming, a radio player and a music store.
All that costs $10 a month, although song purchases are charged separately. The catch: you need a Samsung Galaxy S III phone to use it.
The U.S. launch comes with a 30-day free trial period. Music Hub was introduced in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Britain in May.
The service offers covers a range of services not available now from a single provider.
Apple Inc. sells songs on iTunes for up to $1.29 each and copies or matches songs on your computer in a virtual locker on distant computer servers for $25 a year.
Sweden's Spotify gives you on-demand access to millions of tracks for $10 a month from mobile devices, and provides a free radio service that streams songs in certain genres.
Music Hub does all of that in a single app.
"We purposely are trying to blur the line, whether it's music from radio or catalog or your music," said Daren Tsui, chief executive of mSpot, a digital music company that Samsung acquired in May to create Music Hub. "Honestly, where it comes from is less relevant especially if it's a single plan. What you want is a holistic music experience at the end of the day."
Having the ability to buy music and store it in a cloud music locker for mobile playback might seem redundant if you can access millions of tracks from mobile devices for a monthly fee. But some artists keep their material off of subscription music plans. For instance, The Beatles' music is sold in digital form only on iTunes, and you won't find classics like "Here Comes the Sun" on subscription services.
So people who have collected the Fab Four's music over the years would have to save the digital files to their hard drive, download a Music Hub application that uploads them to the cloud and then stream or download them to the Galaxy S III phone. The files could also be transferred from computer to phone with a USB cable.
T.J. Kang, senior vice president of Samsung's media services, said that while matching Music Hub's features might cost more through a patchwork of other services, Samsung won't be losing money because of its arrangement with cellphone carriers and music companies.
"We basically are doing it to make our device more competitive by providing the best experience," Kang said.
Samsung wouldn't say how many people have signed up for Music Hub.
The company is embroiled in a legal battle with Apple Inc., which accuses Samsung of copying the design of the iPhone in its Galaxy line of phones. A trial involving the world's two largest makers of mobile phones began Tuesday in San Jose, California.
Last week research firm IDC said Samsung Electronics Co. extended its lead over Apple in mobile phones, shipping 50.2 million units worldwide in the April-June quarter, compared to 26 million for Apple.
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