Shazam has been around for a few years now--CNET U.K. took note of the service back in 2006--but with today's launch of Apple's App Store, it could become a whole lot more popular. It has the potential to change how people discover and buy music.
The concept behind Shazam is simple: whenever you hear a song playing and can't identify it--on the car radio, at a friend's house, at a bar--you activate the Shazam application on your mobile phone. It "listens" to the song for about 30 seconds, then sends a text message to your phone identifying the artist and title. Shazam's database contains audio fingerprints for nearly 5 million songs, so there's a pretty good chance of a positive ID. However, closing the loop with an actual purchase was hard--you had to tag the song, then consult a Web site to see your tagged item, then go to another service (such as iTunes) to buy it.
The version of Shazam for the iPhone 2.0 fixes this problem: once you've tagged a song in Shazam, you can launch iTunes directly from that tagged song and buy the song immediately. That's assuming you have a Wi-Fi connection to the Internet--iTunes doesn't let you download music over a 3G data connection yet. (This is weak, but it's not Shazam's fault. Once Apple, AT&T, and the music companies work out all the business details to allow 3G downloads, Shazam could become even more useful. )
Downloading Shazam from the Apple App Store is free for the time being. No charges are mentioned in the terms as far as I can see, but the company reserves the right to begin charging for its service later (after notifying users). Using Shazam from other phones generally costs half a U.K. pound (about $1) per identification, or 2 pounds (about $4) per month for unlimited usage, so a similar fee structure could apply to the iPhone version as well.
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