Music aficionados have a ton of options when it comes to grooving out on Microsoft's console, but for sheer variety and personalization, Last.fm is an audiophile's best choice. Membership is free (provided you are a Gold member), and Last.fm listeners can play a slew of songs from artists across all genres, while also accessing bios, pictures, and behind the scenes info on the titles that pop up. Don't know what you want to hear? Search by genre and let Last.fm suggest your next favorite band. Last.fm analyzes your listening habits and suggests new artists or albums based on what you've enjoyed previously, either through Last.fm or your own personal music selection. Think of it as a self-aware AI DJ software who's always listening and never goes to sleep.
Radio app top alternatives:: iHeart Music (US), Slacker Radio (US, Canada), Absolute Radio (UK)
Zune (soon to called Xbox Video and Xbox Music) is Microsoft's version of Apple's iTunes, offering a la carte music, HD TV, HD movies, and other content for playback on Microsoft brand gadgets. Like it's Apple competition, the Zune Marketplace is a mecca of downloadable entertainment, all of which can be saved onto the Xbox 360 and played at one's whim. With a Zune Music pass, that content can also be shared with Microsoft PCs and Windows Phone. Kinect integration also means you can ditch the controller all together and assemble your dream music and video database with a few flicks of the hand.
Music top alternatives: Rhapsody (US), Napster (Germany, UK)
We've all been there: One minute you're saving the galaxy from annihilation, and the next you're desperately wondering how many likes your Sad Keanu Reeves meme received or what your co-worker Gary ate for dinner. With Xbox Live's Facebook app, you don't have to worry about leaving your Xbox 360 to maintain your social network dominance. Even better, the Xbox Live Facebook app empowers users with the ability to automatically share Xbox 360 achievements and other game-related notices, saving precious moments of typing that can then be reinvested into pwning that next newb or racking up a kill streak on Call of the Army: Brotherhood of Fortune III. Alas, if only Mark Zuckerberg were alive to see his invention put to such wondrous use. Hold up, we're getting a memo...
Like Facebook, YouTube is available on virtually every single smartphone, laptop, computer, tablet, 3DS, PSP, PS Vita, and wi-fi enabled toaster. Also like Facebook, YouTube is a titan of the social network arena, and one of the best apps you can have on your dashboard. Pretending for a moment you can't already access YouTube from anything within a 2-foot radius, the Xbox 360 YouTube app is a handy source for video walkthroughs, tips, news items, trailers, and anything else game related. Having trouble on a specific boss? Watch someone else beat him. Looking for that last gold collectible? Let YouTube be your guide. Just in the mood to watch kittens claw their way out of a paper bag? It does that too. YouTube is a an app that suits many tastes, and for gamers it can be a digital lifeline.
Video aggregate top alternative: Dailymotion (all regions)
Rounding out the Xbox 360's social media trifecta is Twitter, the app that lets you tell the world what you're playing, how you're playing it, and whatever random thought you have in 140 characters or less. The app functions on the Xbox 360 the same way it does from any other device, but adopts a more streamlined interface for easier navigation. Assuming you're already on the Twitter hype train, this makes a versatile addition to your dashboard.
Launched this summer, the Kinect PlayFit app doesn't offer any new Kinect activities per se, but it does track your fitness progress as you jump, dance, slice, and fight your way through associated Kinect titles. With it, health-minded users can track how many calories they've burned off, earn exercise-related achievements, and post their progress for all the world to see (don't worry, you can turn this feature off). It isn't the most exciting app in Xbox 360's stable, but for players who already have a Kinect set up, it's one of those why not? downloads.
Games currently trackable on Kinect PlayFit: Big League Sports, Dance Central 2, Deepak Chopra's Leela, Kinect: Disneyland Adventures, Kinect Sports: Seasons Two, Kinect Star Wars, Let's Cheer, Nike+ Kinect Training, and Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012
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So what's next? Microsoft already told us during E3 that its Smart Glass app is going to be in every single first-party Xbox 360 game, meaning you better save space for that one. Further ahead, plans are in place to add even more news, music, and movie streaming content to Xbox's app marketplace. Let us know what you're looking forward to most and if we skipped over your personal favorite app in the comments below.