Nokia launches free music service

Nokia sweetened the pot for current and prospective Windows Phone users by launching a free music service on the eve of Nokia World, a two-day event in Helsinki. Nokia Music is targeted at music lovers in the U.S. who own Lumia handsets, which run Windows Phone 7. The service is offered free of advertising, subscriptions, or registrations. Lumia owners looking for ear candy can hear it in several ways through the service which, according to Nokia, has a library of millions of songs.

There are more than 150 playlists to listen to, covering everything from Detroit house tracks to New York Philharmonic favorites. Those lists are curated and kept current by a team of U.S.-based musicologists, according to Nokia. Playlists created by popular artists, such as Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna, are also offered. In addition, custom playlists can be generated by users based their favorite artists. Playlist content can apparently be stored on a phone, too, because Nokia Music supports an offline mode that allows users to listen to their favorite lists when not connected to the cloud.

Another feature of the new service is the Gig Finder. It uses a phone's location technology to serve up information on live events scheduled to take place in the vicinity of the handset.

“The USA is the most vibrant and competitive digital music market in the world—by a wide margin," Jyrki Rosenberg, Nokia’s vice president of entertainment, said in a statement. "We have worked extra hard to ensure our service meets the expectations of the demanding, active and inspired music fans in the USA," he added.

Nokia rebranded its global music service last year, when it retired the Ovi Music Unlimited name.

During Nokia World, Nokia is expected to introduce two new Lumia models, the 920 and 820, that run the upcoming Windows Phone 8 operating system. Although Windows Phone 8 won't run on phones made for Windows Phone 7, it's believed Nokia's music app will run on both systems.

In announcing its new Windows Phone 8 models, the Finnish phone maker hopes to gain some buzz for its new products before Apple announces its new iPhone next week and overloads the buzz channels.

According to the latest speculation, the Lumia 920 will have a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 8-megapixel camera, wireless charger and 4.5-inch display with 1280 x 720 pixel resolution. The current iPhone has a 960 x 610 pixel, 3.5-inch display.

The Lumia 820 is expected to have a smaller display -- 3.5 inches -- and may not have the 8-megapixel camera.

With the rollout of Windows Phone 8, Nokia, no doubt, hopes to make some headway in the smartphone market—headway it hasn't been able to make with Windows Phone 7, as recent sales number show. In the quarter ending in June, smartphone sales for the company dropped 39 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

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