December 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm

SoundHound’s Holiday Surprise: Free, Unlimited Music Identification

After a year in which the SoundHound music identification app for iPhone, Android, and Nokia Ovi posted big gains against its main competition, Shazam, SoundHound issued a surprise statement on Wednesday: It plans to drop its charges for unlimited music identification completely.

That means that with the app installed, you can hold your iOS or Android device up in the air to identify as many currently-playing songs as you want, during a given month (free versions typically cap out at five or so free identifications per month).

The app listens to the music coming out of the speakers and, in most cases, can identify the song for you. (Other options include typing in lyrics and humming the song, which work with varying degrees of success). It’s really neat; if you’re not using either of these apps, you probably should be — and as of today, SoundHound has a big advantage in its unlimited free version.

Shazam, by comparison, allows unlimited tagging only if you started using the service before November 9, 2009, and otherwise limits you to five song identifications per month.

SoundHound also trumpeted its significant gains over the past year, including its claim of number one-ranked music application in about 25 geographical regions within iTunes, as well as beinga best-seller in the Android Marketplace and Nokia Ovi app stores.

The company says its mobile user base increased 500 percent during 2010, with usage increasing to millions of hits per day, and mentioned its “world first on mobile” premiere of a new piece of music within the app.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the paid version of SoundHound’s app is ranked number six on iTunes’ list of the most popular paid app, with Shazam trailing at number nine. Meanwhile, the free version of Shazam is ranked at number two — one better than the third-place free version of SoundHound. Due this holiday surprise from the latter, we wouldn’t be surprised if SoundHound were to become top music ID app in the free section of the iTunes app store as well.

The free version of Melodis SoundHound includes ads, while a $5 upgrade fee removes the ads.  It’s currently available on iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch (free or $5), Google Android Marketplace (free or $5, but no web links), and Nokia Ovi ($5).