(Credit: Apple, Inc.)

While the iTunes Music Store may have been the default place to buy and download MP3 files back in the day, it's all about streaming now -- and the Silicon Valley giant is still playing catch-up to the established players like Spotify or Pandora. But the equally heated rivalry among wireless carriers in the United States may be an opportunity for it to finally gain the upper hand.

Today, 9to5Mac reports that Apple Music is coming as a free perk for Verizon Wireless customers who have the "Beyond Unlimited" and "Above Unlimited" plans. (Side note: "Unlimited" apparently doesn't mean what it used to.) These two plans are $50 and $60 a month, respectively, before adding the taxes and fees.

Right now, Verizon already offers a free six-month trial of Apple Music, but this change would make that trial indefinite. According to 9to5Mac, Verizon will launch this new yet-unannounced plan this Thursday, January 17.

SEE: Apple Music now requires family account to get multiple streams

An Apple Music subscription ordinarily costs $9.99 a month; the app comes pre-installed on iPhones and iPads, while Android users need to download it themselves.

In the event that you prefer Tidal instead (download for iOS or Android), Sprint has a six-month free ride of its own for that music app.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile partnered with Pandora in August 2018 to provide Pandora Plus free for the first 12 months. Pandora Plus is an enhanced version of Pandora's "radio" stations, which are curated playlists that evolve as you vote up or down on individual songs. T-Mobile also offers a service called Music Freedom for certain plans, where a variety of streaming partners do not count against your monthly data cap.

Speaking of Pandora, this streaming service just added a voice-activated virtual assistant to help you navigate content and control your tunes. So even as mobile carrier perks evolve, so do the perks themselves. At this point, we wouldn't blame you if you went to a flowchart to figure out your streaming choices. Did we mention that each carrier has varying fringe benefits for streaming videos, too?

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Check the fine print for streaming restrictions

When Verizon's Apple Music plan purportedly goes live on Thursday, we recommend checking the fine print to see the extent of your streaming options. That's because these perks frequently come with subtle limitations.

For example, that Tidal subscription via Sprint is limited to your Sprint device, at least officially. So you can't use it to stream Tidal on an iPad, or via an app on your smart TV, or anywhere other than the device that's been assigned a Sprint SIM card.

Because of that precedent, it's possible that Verizon's Apple Music add-on will only be available on a phone or tablet that's on your Verizon account. So if you're used to listening to Apple Music on a HomePod or Bluetooth speaker, don't quit that subscription just yet.

Takeaways

  • According to 9to5Mac, Verizon Wireless is on the verge of adding Apple Music for free to some of its unlimited data plans, an upgrade from the current six-month free trial. Apple Music ordinarily costs $9.99 a month.
  • However, this kind of offer has historically been limited to the device that's serviced by your wireless carrier, so check the fine print for restrictions on where you can use an Apple Music subscription as provided by Verizon Wireless.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.