Napster music player gets mobile phone outing

Once naughty but now nice Napster is taking its well-established music-streaming service on the road with mobile versions of the app for both Google's Android and Apple's iOS operating systems.

The company, which was once the scourge of the music industry with its free-and-easy (literally) attitude to copyright infringement has now courted its former adversaries to provide a paid-for service for music fans.

The outfit is currently offering a free, seven-day trial of the service which normally costs £10 a month for unlimited access to a library of 15 million tracks with Napster Unlimited Plus Mobile and, at first glance, the library seems to be pretty complete. The Beatles are, of course, conspicuous by their absence but grumpy old Pink Floyd, who normally insist that their prog rock noodlings are listened to in the entirety, have their entire back-catalogue presented in bite-sized chunks.

There are loads of ways of discovering new music including recommendations and categorised play-lists, which automatically sync across multiple platforms.

For your tenner a month you'll get unlimited streaming over Wi-Fi and 3G - though you'll need to keep an eye on your data plan for the latter - plus an intuitive interface which borrows lots of ideas from Apple's iPod, access to new releases, official music charts and an automix function.

Given enough space, the software stores the last 100 tracks played, and you can download single tracks or whole albums to your own playlists for off-line listening.

The whole shebang also syncs up with your home PC or Mac, which magically knows what you've been listening to.

Entire albums download in a few minutes over a robust wi-fi connection and our first forays into 3G streaming also seemed pretty snappy. The only thing we've found so far that doesn't work over a 3G connection is the 'Radio' facility which creates genre-specific play-lists of tracks, although those with a capped data plan might be grateful for the omission.

Our initial impressions are that Napster mobile will be great addition to anyone who buys a lot of downloaded music, and at £10 a month could be a bargain, but you'll need to bear in mind that, once you stop coughing up the cash, all of your music will disappear, forever.

We have both versions of the mobile apps in long-term testing and we'll let you know how we feel about the service once we've lived with it for a week or so.