Nokia's Music Store to threaten iTunes

Nokia's new Music Store is set to take on Apple's all-conquering iTunes Store when it launches on Thursday. Nokia gave us a hands-on demo at an event in London's Soho last night.

The service certainly looks impressive. It's fast and easy to use and has plenty of clever features. For example, you can add favourite tracks to a wishlist, buying them all immediately or downloading them later if you don't have sufficient Wi-Fi or 3G coverage.

You can download tracks to your PC or, like Apple's iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store, pipe them straight to your mobile phone. Tracks will automatically sync between your mobile phone and your PC when you hook the devices up.

You can also transfer purchased songs via your PC to compatible Nokia devices, including the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic and Nokia 5610 XpressMusic.

Two million tracks baby

Some two million tracks will be available at launch, ranging from major artists from big labels such as EMI, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, to more independent and local artists. In comparison, the iTunes Store carries over six million songs.

We tested the content by suggesting some obscure artists and tracks, most of which were featured in the Nokia Music Store catalogue. Tracks are offered in high-quality 192kbps audio in Windows Media Audio (WMA) format.

Besides download tracks, you can also opt for the unlimited streaming service available to PC users, for which you'll pay £8 for a monthly subscription. This buys you as much track streaming as you like, all done through the Nokia Music Store's website.

There are plenty of exclusive playlists from various artists and celebrities, if you fancy getting inspired by your idols. The streaming service won't be available over mobile, at least not initially.

Muscling in on iTunes

We think the Nokia Music Store has the featured content and user interface to take on Apple's iTunes Store but cost is still a question mark for us.

Tracks are priced at 80p and albums cost £8, but you have to factor in the data charges from your operator too. With the Apple iPhone and its iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store, you just pay for the tracks as the Wi-Fi is offered free of charge through Apple's deal with The Cloud.

The Nokia Music Store, part of Nokia's Ovi internet offering, will go live at 7am GMT on Thursday 2 November. So far it will only be available on the Nokia N95 8GB and the Nokia N81. The latter is apparently being touted by both Vodafone and O2, Nokia said.