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Unlimited talk, text, data Streaming music finds its way into more devices

Joe Kennedy, third from left, CEO & President, and Tim Westergren, fourth from left, Chief Strategy Officer & Founder, of Pandora Internet radio, ring the NYSE opening bell to celebrate their company's IPO at the New York Stock Exchange, June 15, 2011. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

Pandora shares took a serious dive Friday after reports hinted that Apple may be considering going into the streaming music business for Web browsers and smartphones.

The stock, which had been doing well following a strong second-quarter earnings report — was down 16 percent with a share price of $10.58 around 3 p.m., Eastern.

The suggested move from Apple may indicate that the company is looking to continue building out the services that it offers to its mobile customers. Streaming music, after all, is making a stronger showing in recent smartphones and smartphone plan announcements.

For example, Nokia Music was a slightly overlooked, but exclusive feature included in the introduction of the Lumia 920 and 820 earlier this week.

But the addition of Nokia Music is one way that the smartphone maker can differentiate its phones from its competitors — something IDC analyst William Stofega told the Post earlier this week was key for the Finnish smartphone maker as it tries to leave its mark in the smartphone market.

Consumers will be able to stream music from over 150 playlists “curated and kept up to date by an expert team” at Nokia, the company said in a news release. Users will also, of course, be able to create their own playlists by accessing the service’s library of songs, and can even play their tunes offline. Lumia 900 and 710 users will also have access to the service.

The pre-paid carrier Cricket recently announced that it would include unlimited music from Muve in Android plans, along with unlimited talk and text and unlimited (but throttled) data.

“We feel like there’s a real opportunity to deliver a compelling experience that customers are asking for,” said Cricket’s senior vice president of product and marketing, Tyler Wallis, adding that customers have said they like having music that they don’t have to sync with other devices.

Cricket’s plans start at $50, for which the customers can get all the services with up to 1GB of data before hitting the slowdown mark. For $60, that throttle mark is bumped up to 2.5 GB, and users will be able to tether their phones Internet connection to run other WiFi devices. If you use a lot of data, Cricket also has a $70 per month plan that doesn’t throttle until the 5GB mark.

Wallis said that music has been at the “top of the list” when the company asked consumers what they want out of their smartphone experience, which prompted Cricket to integrate Muve into its normal plans.

The all-inclusive approach eliminates one step for consumers looking to add tunes to their smartphone lives.

Yes, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Songza and other streaming music services already have a substantial presence on smartphones with free and paid apps for iOS and Android. Yet Friday’s market shows that there’s little investor confidence that the stand-alone services such as Pandora would survive if a company like Apple — powered by its iTunes store — decided to make consumers’ decisions for them, jump into the fray and include streaming music in a single package of services.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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