Xbox Music for iPhone is Microsoft's streaming-music service that's taking aim at services like Spotify and Slacker Radio, but isn't quite up to speed just yet. The interface is mostly intuitive and the app is smooth and responsive, but it lacks features found in other services, making it hard to recommend to those who don't own an Xbox. With that said, if you do have an Xbox at home (preferably one that's hooked up to your whole entertainment system), it's definitely worth a look.
To get started, you'll need an Xbox account along with an Xbox Music Pass. There is a 30-day free trial you can sign up for at Xbox.com under the music tab, but it requires a credit card. From there, you'll have 30 days to decide whether you want to keep the service, but it will cost you $9.99 per month after your 30-day trial (or you can get a 12-month pass for $99.90). Once you have the Music Pass, you can listen to music on your desktop through a Web browser or on your iPhone. Xbox music is not optimized for iPad at launch, but you can use pixel-doubling from the iPhone app.
Finding and playing music
In keeping with the design aesthetic of the Windows 8 and Windows Phone interface, Xbox Music keeps the look simple -- unfortunately, compared with other services, the features are pretty simple as well. To find music, you can use a search field to look for specific artists and songs, but there is no way to browse through musical genres. There is also no music discovery tools like featured artists, popular music, or any Microsoft curated content. With this app, you simply search for a song or artist you already know to make playlists or start listening right away.
You can, however, create playlists and add to your music collection that is shared across all your devices on the same account. The difference between the two is that playlists are songs you picked that will be played in the order you add them. You can make as many playlists as you want. But the collection is a kind of favorites list for all the songs you want easy access to across all your devices. Both are synced up to the cloud, so you can create a playlist on your iPhone or add songs to your collection, and then you can access them on other devices.
There is also a way to create radio stations based on an artist that will give you similar music in a stream. When you find a song you like in a search result, simply long tap the song to bring up a menu that lets you start a radio station.