Nokia offers paid upgrade to music service

The paid service offers unlimited track skips and downloads of playlists for offline playback

Nokia plans to roll out in the first quarter of this year its Nokia Music+, a new subscription-based upgrade to its free-to-stream mobile music service.

The paid service will offer unlimited downloads of sets of tunes or "Mixes" for offline playback, and unlimited track skips, Nokia said on Sunday.

Nokia started offering last September in the U.S. its Nokia Music, a free music streaming service. The service will continue to be available free of charge, with no advertisements, registration or subscription to Nokia Lumia owners, Nokia said.

The upgrade service, tentatively priced at around US$3.99 per month, will also offer higher quality streams, allowing downloads at eight times the existing quality, Nokia said. Users can also set rules to only download higher quality audio when they are on Wi-Fi, for example. The price of the service will vary according to the territory in which it is offered, Nokia said in a blog post. The price in Euros for the service is also likely to be about 3.99 per month.

The free service has allowed users to download up to four Mixes, each of which contains hours of music, and play them without an Internet connection. The paid service removes that limit, Nokia said in the blog post.

Mixes are created by Nokia specialists who curate the genres or music types, Nokia said in June last year.

Under the upgrade service, users can have lyrics streaming for many tracks. They can also listen to Nokia Music through a Web app on Internet-enabled devices including a PC or tablet.

"It's the only smartphone music service out there offering access to millions of songs out of the box without the need to sign up, sign in, or suffer adverts in between enjoying the music," Nokia's vice president of entertainment, Jyrki Rosenberg, said in the blog post. "When you add in the ability to skip songs and save playlists for offline uses like the tube, you have something unique."

Nokia swung to a net profit in the fourth quarter of last year, partly on increased sales of its Lumia smartphones. Sales of the Lumia smartphones went up to 4.4 million units from 2.9 million in the previous quarter and 4 million in the second quarter. Nokia's portfolio improved with new models like Lumia 920, but the company still lacks a "true hero model" that can compete effectively with Apple's iPhone or Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S III, research firm Strategy Analytics said.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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