The new Zune desktop software, Zune HD, and Zune Pass service are pretty fantastic, but do you really need to buy a Zune to take advantage of the excellent $15/month unlimited music subscription (that includes 10 non-protected songs that you can keep each month)? You’ve already got a Windows Phone that can play music. Who wants to carry around another device?
Thanks to the Zune Pass’s Digital Rights Management, and Windows Media Player Mobile’s DRM support, it’s perfectly possible to get all of that unlimited music from your Zune desktop software onto your Windows Phone for portable listening. The video below will show you how to do it.
Basically, you use the Zune desktop software (while logged in with a Zune Pass enabled account) to download whatever music you like. The music is downloaded in DRM protected WMA format which is naturally also supported by Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center on the desktop. Since the Zune software only detects and syncs to Zune portable devices, you’ll have to use Windows Media Player to sync the Zune Pass music to your “Plays for Sure” compatible device. Windows Phones and Windows Mobile’s Media Player have been compatible with DRM WMA files since Windows Mobile 2003 SE. While the mobile Media Player hasn’t changed much, of course it maintains subscription and rights managed music playing capabilities.
Be sure you connect to the desktop Windows Media Player using ActiveSync (WMDC) mode on your phone, otherwise it won’t be able to identify the device as supporting DRM. Zune Pass music will likely not play in other media players such as CorePlayer, since those may not support the licenses required by the digital rights management.
One gotcha that you have to pay attention to is that the Zune Pass music will expire about 30 days after you first synced those files to your phone. You need to re-sync with Windows Media Player on your desktop in order to update the licenses for those files each month. It will happen automatically during a sync, but you have to remember to plug-in periodically in order to keep those licenses up to date.
Some of the features you might miss out on in using a current Windows Phone with your Zune Pass (as opposed to a Zune HD for example) might be: the ability to stream any music wirelessly, the ability to download songs remotely from the Marketplace, the rich content associated with each artist, play counts, awards, “the social”, music channels, and the ability to email songs to friends.