Apple to Offer Music Streaming with iTunes Radio

Music streaming is coming to iTunes. The iTunes Radio music streaming service was revealed at Apple's 23rd WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference). Finally, Apple recognizes that people are interested in playing music without having to buy it. Late to the game, Apple is incorporating some, but not all, of the best features of Pandora and Spotify. Still, Google Play Music has superior radio features to those demonstrated by Apple. At this point however, your choice is made for you. Google Play Music is only available on Android devices, and Apple's iTunes Radio are only on iOS mobile devices, Apple TV, and in iTunes on computers.

The service is free but ad supported similar to the Pandora model. iTunes Match Subscribers ($24.99 per year) can stream ad-free. The Match service finds songs that you've uploaded from CDs to your iTunes library and "matches" it to songs in iTunes. Those songs are available on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Songs matched in iTunes in the Cloud, have recently become accessible without downloading to your device. iTunes Radio is the logical next step in that it would let you expand your music library with the vast iTunes library.

The iTunes Radio station works similarly to Pandora. Stations can be customized by choosing to "play more songs like" the current track or to "never play this song" again. Apple is adding a slider to the station for further customization. On one end of the slider, the station will play only hit songs from the chosen artist. On the other end are more obscure songs so you can "discover" new music and choose any level of mixing hits and discovered songs.

Like Spotify, Apple announced that there will be a social aspect to share radio stations with others. Also similar to Spotify, you will be able to skip to the next song or see the next song in the radio queue. There was no demonstration of features similar to Google Play Music—editing the upcoming song list in the radio station or saving the radio song list as a playlist. Apple mentioned that you'll be able to "save" your radio stations but not the specific songs.

Apple's iTunes Radio has two things going for it. The first is that iTunes has an exclusive on the entire Beatles collection which cannot be streamed from any other service. (It is not clear whether all songs from the iTunes library will be available to stream in iTunes Radio.) The second is Siri voice control. When a song is playing in iTunes Radio, you can ask Siri "Who sings this?" or "What's the name of this song?" to find out the name of the artist or track. You can also use voice commands to pause, skip, play, or stop in the same way it currently controls music in the iPhone's music library or to customize a station by telling Siri to "never play this song" or "play more like this." (Of course, Siri never understands me so this feature doesn't particularly excite me.)

Unlike Spotify and Google Play Music, you won't be able to add individual songs to your library from radio stations. Songs can be added to a wishlist that makes it easy to purchase the songs you like for your music library at $1.29 each. At least the price is right for iTunes Radio (free), and it's your best bet for streaming to an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. iTunes Radio is part of the iOS 7 upgrade to mobile devices that will be released Fall 2013.

notabadname's picture

Having an extensive iTunes library already, I love the whole Eco-system iTunes Radio will provide. I like Pandora, but purchasing songs I like is not as seamless as it will be on iTunes. Combined with my matched music in the cloud, this gives me one stop listening and buying with no adds for the reasonable $24 per year. Using my phone in the car with this will be like having XM.

Head_Unit's picture

Really, I want a truly on-demand subscription service like MOG- or Rhapsody- to-go, where I can pick exactly what to listen to and download over WiFi at home to avoid data streaming while driving.

At least the slider to supposedly play only that artist could let me check out new stuff to some degree. And, hopefully this is a first step towards a true subscription model.