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Spotify has quickly become one of the most popular music streaming services around. It comes in a free, ad-supported version, a version free of advertising interruptions, and a mobile version that allows you to download playlists from the desktop application and play them on your smartphone in offline mode. This last service costs £9.99 a month, so you'd need to be a fairly committed music fan and make extensive use of its library.

Spotify also suggests that this is a useful option if you're travelling abroad and want to be able to access your favourite Spotify albums: just download them to your Android device before you go.

A similar principle to Napster's streaming service applies to accessing your stored Spotify tracks: you have a full month to listen to a downloaded track before the service checks that your subscription is still active. You can also synchronise your library with up to three PCs or Macs.

STREAMING HOT

Sensibly, playlists and albums download only when you have a Wi-Fi connection, saving your 3G data allowance and battery life. Music can be streamed over a cell network connection as well as Wi-Fi.

Another advantage of signing up for a Spotify subscription is that you can access new albums before they become available to users of the free service. As with Shazam, sharing is a big element; you can create a playlist and share it on Facebook or Twitter, via email and so on.

Spotify's music catalogue is broader than some, so you're not stuck with Katy Perry and Take That but can rediscover alternative gems from your youth. The only real issue we have with the Android version is that support for hardware is more limited that we'd have expected.

Of the eight Android devices we had to hand when we came to try out Spotify for Android, only three - the LG GW620 and the Sony Ericsson Xperia models - proved to be compatible with it. As of December 2010, 20 Android devices were supported in total.

Last.fm ititititi ( FREE I

Music geeks and Android lovers unite! Last.fm is an across-the-board great application. Boasting 'the world's largest online music catalogue', the service itself probably needs no introduction; it's already used by more than 40 million music lovers worldwide. The Android app brings it within reach of even more.

If you already have a Last.fm account, you can simply sign in to jump to the service's homepage. If you yet don't have an account, setting one up takes only a minute within the app.

The homepage has tabs for Artist, Tag and User along with a search bar. We tried a search for the Pixies, and almost immediately Frank Black's voice started singing from the speakers.

STALK THE STARS

When Last.fm plays a song by an artist who's currently touring, the upper right corner of the album artwork displays a banner that says 'On Tour'. Clicking this leads to an artist bio, a 'similar artists' tab, tags, fans and events. The information on events includes a listing of all nearby shows that this artist is playing along with their dates and venues. Intuitive and classy - we like that in an app.

The Radio tab holds all stations you've recently listened to as well as a list of recommended artists and popular artists in your neighbourhood. Your Profile tab will show your top artists, top albums, top tracks, recently played music, events, friends and tags.

We enjoyed playing around with this app, which performed nearly flawlessly, and kept finding pleasant surprises in each new feature. For instance, Last.fm has background streaming, so you can listen continuously while using other features of your phone. We were also pleasantly surprised to find you can purchase songs from Amazon directly from the app. Though we did miss a pause button, we could probably have kept Last, fm running all day - if only the speakers on our smartphone weren't so tinny.

liRS]e 8:29 AM

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