Ever since the iPod’s launch in the early 2000’s, Apple has dominated digital music, and iTunes has become the #1 place for buying your favorite songs online. Now the company hopes to take digital music to the next level by offering a one-stop solution for music listeners. They can choose from a catalog of music for a small monthly fee, but does Apple really deliver on what it’s hoping to achieve?
Like any new platform, the experience will seem rocky at first, and the interface on iOS devices was a little clunky in the beginning. Fortunately, Apple has addressed this issue with an update, and the interface is more user-friendly than it was before.
It also seems committed to making the service cross-platform. People can stream music from iTunes on either a PC or a Mac, and it will work on both iOS and Android devices. Although the Android app doesn’t seem te be as smooth and slick as its iOS counterpart.
The real question is if Apple Music can compete with Spotify, and at $9.99 a month it seems to be about the same. Apple Music also offers a family plan for $14.99 a month, which can be valuable for someone who has kids. The standard plan won’t allow you to stream music on more than one device at the same time, but if you’re the only one using the account it won’t make sense to do so.
A Closer Look at the User Interface
Each of the six areas of Apple Music is represented by an icon, which will be located at the bottom of the app on your mobile device, or at the top of the iTunes window on your computer. But it’s clear that Apple Music wants to be more than a glorified jukebox. It will learn about what you may like based on what you’ve played, and it’s the one thing that separates Apple Music from many of its competitors.
Aside from having a “For You” section that will present you with a list of choices that caters to your musical tastes, Apple Music can keep you updated on any new releases. And they can be either genre-specific or can be based on what’s at the top of the charts. It will even give you information on the hottest new bands, as well as any popular music videos. You might like the “Radio” section as well, especially if you’re into Top 40.
If you want to keep up with all your favorite artists on social media, you’ll be able to do it with Apple Music because it will give you updates right from the app. However, this service seems redundant, and there doesn’t appear to be a lot going on.
How Apple Music Compares to Spotify
Spotify has dominated online music streaming for several years, and it has over 40 million paid subscribers as of last October. This is in addition to the 55 million people who listen through their ad-based free service. Apple Music puts the company directly in their line of fire, but can it really compete with the world’s largest music streaming service? By offering seamless access to a user’s iTunes library, it might have a fighting chance. But just to give some numbers, as of last December, Apple reported to Billboard that they’ve passed the 20 million paid subscriber mark. That’s pretty good considering the short time this streaming service is available.
Apple is giving people 90 days to try their service before they have to pay, so this might give people an incentive to at least take it under consideration. Not to mention, it’s backed up by what has been a music distribution giant for the better part of 15 years. People can access any music they have downloaded through iTunes, which can be a huge advantage for someone who wants to purchase music they can play offline.
One of the downsides to Spotify is that it can be hard to find any new music, and this is where Apple really shines. While Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” has some good features that can help you find new songs based on your personal tastes, Apple Music does it at a much higher level. It will even give you information on the latest hits in pop music and other genres, which can be valuable for someone who wants a more comprehensive guide on what to listen to.
Another area where Spotify falls short is online radio. It doesn’t hold a candle to Slacker and Pandora, and Apple Music seems to move strongly in that area as well. Aside from having access to “Beats 1” – the premier radio station for all the latest hits – it has many other genre-specific radio stations that can cater to every kind of musical taste. And it has non-musical stations as well.
In terms of price, it’s the same as Spotify, as well as many other music streaming services. Apple did want to sell its service for half the price, but doing so would upset major labels who own the rights to most of what’s in their catalog. However, it does have a family plan that can offer more value to certain groups of people. The downside to Apple Music is that it doesn’t have an ad-based free version, even though it offers a 90-day trial.
The Quality of the Streaming Experience
In terms of online streaming, Apple was a late bloomer. But does it offer a quality experience for music listeners? With a tile-based user interface and a comprehensive way to find new music, it seems to deliver. It gives people a way to listen to a vast library of music on any device, and it integrates perfectly with iTunes.
While it had a rocky start in the beginning, the latest update seemed to address many of the issues that people have been complaining about last summer. And while it’s still not perfect, the quality of the service has improved. The layout of the mobile app looks cleaner, and it makes it easier to browse through titles or search for specific artists. For many people, those small changes have made a huge difference.
Instead of hiding every feature within layers of complicated menus, you just have to “long press” a title to do whatever you want to do (iOS only at the moment of writing) – whether you want to download or add it to your playlist. Apple has always been committed to creating a quality experience for its customers, and Apple Music is no exception. But whether you want to make the switch from Spotify or any other streaming service will depend on what you’re looking for. Just make sure you weigh price against the overall value, which is pretty high.
The biggest plus is the “Radio” section, which is the one thing that Spotify lacks. And at $9.99 a month switching to Apple Music might be worth it. While Slacker and Pandora offer their services for free, you have to deal with the occasional ad, and that can diminish the listening experience. If online radio is all you care about, Slacker and Pandora offer quality service for half the price. So, at the end of the day, it’s all about value.
Apple Music offers a lot more than online radio. It has a full range of music streaming services that can make it a “one-stop shop” for digital music, so in that respect its light years ahead of the competition. There may be a good chunk of the market that’s willing to pay a higher price tag for a service that delivers more, so it’s a strong possibility that Apple Music will take a chunk out of Spotify and other music streaming services. However, there’s no way to know how much of a dent it will make in the company’s market share.
The Final Verdict
Apple Music isn’t perfect, but no service ever is. The question is whether it adds value in the right areas for it to be a commercially viable product. Because it’s new to the market, it’s hard to know for sure. Only time will tell, but with a 90-day trial it’s definitely worth a look – especially if you’re already using iTunes.
The real question is whether it can be as cross-platform as Apple wants it to be. And again, time will tell. That it wants to move into the Android market could be enough to shift the tide of online music streaming, and it has already made improvements from the clunky interface that it had last summer. That could be enough to feel optimistic about the company’s bold new step, so it’s possible it could do the same thing for online streaming that it did for digital downloads. And who knows? It could offer a free option down the road. Then again, maybe not. After all, it’s not the Apple way.
If you love listening to music, and you want to have everything all in one place, Apple Music is worth taking a look at. And with three months to check it out, you have nothing to lose. You may find more value with what they have to offer than anywhere else, and you may never want to use Spotify or Pandora again. Just make sure you’re willing to pay for the service because as of now there is no free option.
So, are you using Apple Music? If so, let me know your experience in the comments below!