As predicted, Apple unveiled its own streaming service at this year’s instalment of its annual developer conference. Called Apple Music, the new service allows users to stream any of the millions of tracks in the iTunes Store, listen to a dedicated 24-hour radio station called Beats 1, or choose from a range of customised and curated playlists. In other words, Apple has Spotify firmly in its sights.
Apple Music also has a feature called Connect, which acts like a social network for artists and bands to share content with fans using the new service. And if there was any doubt as to how aggressively Apple intends playing in the streaming space — one it’s characteristically late to — that’s been removed by Apple announcing it’ll let users try the service for three months for free before committing to the $10/month subscription fee.
Most music streaming service charge around $10/month for their premium offerings, including Spotify. The notable exception is Tidal, which charges double that in exchange for higher quality audio files. That certainly makes Apple Music competitive out of the gates — the price point is right and Apple Music lands with as big a catalogue as any of its rivals.Apple Music is also coming to Android users, but they’ll have to wait until spring to get it. That’s right, Apple is going to make an Android app. It’s a smart move – for something like Apple Music to have the sort of reach the folk at Cupertino are chasing it’ll need to be on every platform, even those Apple doesn’t control. Expect a Windows Phone app to follow in due course, along with apps for every other mobile platform, current or future.
In the meantime, Apple Music will be available via an update for iOS (version 8.4) for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch on 30 June. It’ll also be launching in 100 countries come the end of the month, which may include countries like South Africa where Spotify has yet to launch, giving Apple something of a leg up in the race to catch up with the Scandinavian darling of music streaming.
Apple Music may have catching up to do and will have to convince consumers who may have been using rival streaming services for years to move to it, but it has some obvious advantages. First, it’ll ship with every new Apple device made, and going on the last few iPhones’ performance, that’s potentially hundreds of millions of devices.
Second, Apple Music integrates with Apple’s digital voice assistant Siri and the added contextual and natural language search functionality coming to it with iOS 9. This ability to plug in to Apple’s hardware and software so seamlessly could make it a compelling option, particularly if Apple (or third parties) create tools to make moving from a rival service to Apple Music easy. You can bet someone’s working on the first such tool already.