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Spotify: iPhone sideloads for £120 a year, unlimited

Needs Jobs' blessing, though

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Streaming music sensation Spotify today announced a music download service for £120 a year. That's how much an annual subscription to Spotify Premium costs - and you'll need to be a Premium member to use its iPhone/iPod Touch native client.

For now, it's all rather moot - there's no guarantee that Apple will approve this powerful new rival to its iTunes media shoppe - particularly as Spotify has ambitions on serving up video, too, as we reported last month.

Spotify made the announcement on its blog this morning, but it could make no guarantee that the software will ever appear on Apple hardware. Apple's App Store is the only place to acquire iPhone/Touch software "officially" - otherwise you must jailbreak the device - and Apple manages the approval process jealously. It could easily put paid to Spotify's iPhone ambitions.

Spotify also has an Android client in the works, but it has yet to announce Windows, Java or Symbian plans.

As with the Android client, the native iPhone version of Spotify rejects streaming as the method of acquiring music, and it's really just another proprietary music download player, pulling songs you request out of the Spotify desktop client's encrypted cache, and syncing them to a mobile player. That's a DRM of sorts, because the music is trapped within a properietary, vertically integrated system. It isn't yet clear whether you'll extract an MP3, and sideload from Spotify Premium to another device.

So Spotify is immediately comparable with Virgin's upcoming ISP download service, MusicStation, Datz and Comes With Music. How does £120 compare price wise? Datz's Music Lounge is £99.99 a year for unlimited music - the DRM needs a dongle. Virgin hasn't disclosed prices for its forthcoming service, but the unlimited option will only be available at the top tier of a tiered service for "the price of a couple of albums a month". That suggests something in the £15 to £20 per month, or £180 to £240 per annum range.

Omnifone's MusicStation is sold through carriers who set their own pricing: Vodafone UK charges £1.95 a week (£101.40 pa) but that only gets you the mobile client, not the rich desktop version. That too has DRM. So pricing-wise, Spotify is much of a muchness, and there are cheaper annual music subs.

Spotify needs a viable revenue stream, and this may be its best hope.

As we exclusively revealed here at El Reg, Spotify had fewer than 17,000 paying Premium subscribers in May, despite rocketing to over 500,000 registered users from a standing start. Advertising income was only £82,000 in May, a long way short of covering the cost of the royalties it must pay.

So will you cough up £120 a year? And is no-strings-attached MP3 format a deal-breaker for you? ®

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