LOS ANGELES (AP) — Samsung launched its Music Hub service in the U.S. on Tuesday. It's an effort to capture some of the buzz around Spotify with a feature that combines a cloud music locker, unlimited song streaming, a radio player and a music store.
All that costs $10 a month, although song purchases are charged separately. The catch: you need a Samsung Galaxy S III phone to use it.
The U.S. launch comes with a 30-day free trial period. Music Hub was introduced in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Britain in May.
The service offers covers a range of services not available now from a single provider.
Apple Inc. sells songs on iTunes for up to $1.29 each and copies or matches songs on your computer in a virtual locker on distant computer servers for $25 a year.
Sweden's Spotify gives you on-demand access to millions of tracks for $10 a month from mobile devices, and provides a free radio service that streams songs in certain genres.
Music Hub does all of that in a single app.
"We purposely are trying to blur the line, whether it's music from radio or catalog or your music," said Daren Tsui, chief executive of mSpot, a digital music company that Samsung acquired in May to create Music Hub. "Honestly, where it comes from is less relevant especially if it's a single plan. What you want is a holistic music experience at the end of the day."
Having the ability to buy music and store it in a cloud music locker for mobile playback might seem redundant if you can access millions of tracks from mobile devices for a monthly fee. But some artists keep their material off of subscription music plans. For instance, The Beatles' music is sold in digital form only on iTunes, and you won't find classics like "Here Comes the Sun" on subscription services.
So people who have collected the Fab Four's music over the years would have to save the digital files to their hard drive, download a Music Hub application that uploads them to the cloud and then stream or download them to the Galaxy S III phone. The files could also be transferred from computer to phone with a USB cable.
T.J. Kang, senior vice president of Samsung's media services, said that while matching Music Hub's features might cost more through a patchwork of other services, Samsung won't be losing money because of its arrangement with cellphone carriers and music companies.
"We basically are doing it to make our device more competitive by providing the best experience," Kang said.
Samsung wouldn't say how many people have signed up for Music Hub.
The company is embroiled in a legal battle with Apple Inc., which accuses Samsung of copying the design of the iPhone in its Galaxy line of phones. A trial involving the world's two largest makers of mobile phones began Tuesday in San Jose, California.
Last week research firm IDC said Samsung Electronics Co. extended its lead over Apple in mobile phones, shipping 50.2 million units worldwide in the April-June quarter, compared to 26 million for Apple.
4.8-Inch Super AMOLED Display
The screen is huge, up from 4.3 inches on the Galaxy S II. A 4.8 inch screen makes it one of the largest displays on a flagship phone there is. Compare with HTC's One X (4.7 inches), the Motorola's Droid Razr Maxx (4.3 inches), and Apple's iPhone 4S (3.5 inches). The resolution is 1280x720.
Samsung introduces 'S Voice' on the Galaxy S III. To wake the phone up and activate the voice sensor, you simply say "Hi Galaxy!" and the phone wakes up; no need to push a button. Other voice commands, in addition to the stock ones in the Google Voice Actions catalogue: Using your voice, you can launch the camera and take a photo, turn the volume up and down, snooze the alarm (say "Snooze" as your alarm is going off -- dangerous!), and send texts and emails.
If you're writing a text to someone, and then you raise the phone to your ear, the GS3 launches the telephone app and automatically calls the person you were texting.
The Galaxy S III comes with an NFC chip that allows you to "bump" information like photos or video to other Galaxy S III owners by touching phones together, using a combination of the NFC technology and Wi-Fi Direct. With All-Share Cast, you can beam your screen to any DLNA-compatible television; All-Share Cast also allows you to share your screen onto anyone else's smartphone for document collaboration.
Pop Up Play
"Pop up play" will allow you to play a video anywhere on the screen while also performing other tasks, like checking your email or responding to texts. You can make the video window as large or small as you want. Here, you can see a YouTube video playing toward the bottom of the screen while a demonstrator prepares to search Google.
The Galaxy S III's 8 megapixel camera comes with burst photography: Holding down the shutter will take twenty photos in a row; you can then choose the best photo and the phone will automatically erase the other 19. A similar function exists on the HTC One line of phones. An alternate function: The Burst camera can take 8 photos in a row and then automatically choose the best one, if you're too indecisive to choose on your own.
Buddy Photo Share
The photography software comes with smart facial recognition: When you take a picture of a friend, it can recognize their face and will prompt you to send that photo to that person's phone or email address.
Essentially an eye recognition technology, the GS3 can sense when you are and are not looking it: When you are looking at your screen, the display will stay illuminated; when you stop looking at your phone, the display goes dark to save power. The feature can be toggled on and off, if you prefer to just let your screen time out.
Here's the first commercial for the Galaxy S III. At least, we think it's advertising the Galaxy S III. It might also be advertising a soap opera or Zach Braff film of some kind.