Nokia is, in some ways, a bit of an odd entry into the subscription music service arena. In fact, it was only through researching MSN Music and discovering the tie-in there that I even realised Nokia offered anything of the sort. It's a good thing I did, as Nokia has a pretty decent offering.
In terms of its streaming-only service Nokia offers almost exactly what MSN Music does (there are a few artists on each that aren't on the other), but with a dedicated application used to access that service. As a result Nokia provides a much better looking and more intuitive user interface but at an increased cost of £8 a month versus £5.99 for MSN Music. Personally I think a £2 per month 'looks better' tax is a bit much, but Nokia still charges less than Napster (£9.95) so if you've got something against Microsoft for whatever reason, it wins out there.
And, frankly, £8 a month for all the music you care to listen to is pretty darned good value. As per MSN Music, tracks can also be purchased from the store on an individual or album basis. Nokia charges 80p for singles and on average £8 per album. Again, the latter isn't great value for money when waiting a couple of months means the physical disc will almost certainly have fallen under £6 at any online shop, with all the benefits that brings.
Nokia also parallels MSN Music in its offering of pre- and auto-generated genre or artist playlists. Again, playlists can be saved once created, but only locally. I don't know why Napster is the only service smart enough to assume that if I want to listen to music wherever I am, having my playlists available there too is probably a good idea. Also as per MSN Music, those pre-made playlists that are available are few and far between.
Where Nokia really wins over MSN Music is its Comes With Music service. Currently only available for the Nokia N95 and Nokia 5310 XpressMusic, Comes With Music costs absolutely nothing on top of the cost of the handset and allows for unlimited music downloads to the handset from Nokia's track library.
Quite why Nokia is so restrictive with the number of handsets able to use Comes With Music I can't imagine. Were the scheme to be opened up to more Nokia phones or, better still, almost any device as with Napster To Go it would be a much more compelling offering. Even if a small charge was levied it would still be a worthwhile extension to the already compelling service.
Ultimately the biggest problem with Nokia Music as a streaming service is that it doesn't do enough better or in addition to MSN Music to justify the extra cost. If MSN Music wasn't available, then I'd definitely recommend Nokia Music as a worthwhile and good value subscription music service. As things stand, however, I can't make such a recommendation.
The almost-brilliant Comes With Music, as much potential as it holds has a far too limited a scope right now. If Comes With Music can be extended to encompass the same remit as Napster To Go - namely allowing downloads on almost any device - I'm all for that. But right now it's a case of close, Nokia, but no cigar.