Nokia is launching its music streaming service Nokia Music as an app for its Asha range of smartphones, giving users a new way to listen to an almost unlimited number of albums and singles.

The service offers listeners a number of pre-generated playlists based on a particular artist or genre, similar to Last.fm and Pandora. While the overall functionality is limited compared to on-demand streaming services such as Spotify and Rdio, it’s also completely free, making it a compelling proposition for users in emerging markets.

Nokia Music boasts a library of 24 million tracks and supports up to four mixes for offline playback. Music can be streamed or downloaded on a 2G, 3G or Wi-Fi connection, either by selecting up to three custom artists or choosing a curated playlist developed by one of Nokia’s ‘Musicologists’.

The service is being launched in Russia for the Asha 305, 306 308, 309, 310 and 311 over the next few weeks, although Nokia has hinted that “further rollouts will be shared in due course”.

On Windows Phone, Nokia Music faces strict competition from Pandora in the US, as well as Last.fm in the US, UK and Germany. Outside of these regions, however, there are few alternatives for free music streaming on Lumia devices.

Nokia will be hoping to continue this trend with its Asha range of smartphones, which were recently given an overhaul thanks to a redesigned interface and new SDK for developers. The company also started supporting Mail For Exchange, Microsoft’s business email program, for its Asha devices earlier this week.

The introduction of Nokia Music should be a more useful and compelling feature for new Asha owners, however, and help to stave off the rising popularity of low-end Android devices, as well as growing competition from BlackBerry 10 and the upcoming Firefox OS platform.

“We’ve had really positive feedback from users of Nokia Music on Lumia smartphones and we wanted more people to have access to this innovative, free music service,” Jyrki Rosenberg, Nokia’s Vice President of Entertainment.

“There’s nothing quite like it for phones in this price range and I believe it will change the way many people listen to music in Russia.”