Rhapsody, and Subscription Music, Come to the iPhone

There was a little bit of iPod news that Steve Jobs neglected to mention at Apple’s big music event Sept.9. Subscription music in the form of RealNetworks’ Rhapsody has come to the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The long-promised Rhapsody app appeared Wednesday night in the iTunes App Store. The app is free, but requires a $14.99 a month Rhapsody To Go subscription. It also requires the iPhone 3.1.1 firmware, a free upgrade for the iPhone but a $4.99 download for the Touch.

Real and Apple has a tangled and often acrimonious history. Several years ago, Real attempted to sell music for download to the iPod, a move shut down by a change in the players’ software. And Jobs has made no secret of his disdain for subscription music. Although some premium radio-like services, such as Pandora, have been approved for the iPhone, Rhapsody is the first true subscription service to win Apple approval. For the time being, Rhapsody offers streaming music only, but hopes to provide downloads in a future version.

Like other non-Apple services, Rhapsody has one big disadvantage relative to iTunes. Because the iPhone and Touch allow only one app to be active at a time, you can;t do anything else while playing Rhapsody music. iTunes, however, is allowed to play music in the background of other apps.