Apple Music, Apple’s first full foray into the world of streaming music, was released last week, as part of updates to iOS and iTunes. I’ve had a bit of time to play with it since.
On iOS, Apple Music usurps the old Music app and takes over four of the five tabs:
- The home tab is now called ‘For You’ and contains suggested playlists and albums based on your tastes.
- ‘New’ is the home to new music, which can be filtered by genre.
- ‘Radio’ is the home to Apple’s new radio stations, including ‘Beats 1’.
- ‘Connect’ is Apple’s attempt at introducing a social aspect, with status updates posted by the bands and artists that you listen to.
- ‘My Music’ is where the music you’ve downloaded lives.
As I mostly use my iPhone to listen to music that I already own, having this shoved into one small corner of the app wasn’t entirely welcome, but I get that Apple would rather me pay them £10 per month than buy occasional songs to keep.
I haven’t used the radio stations yet but have tried listening to an album that I didn’t already own in full (Delain’s The Human Contradiction). I was on a train at the time and it took a bit of convincing to get it working; firstly, I had to enable Apple Music to work over cellular internet rather than just wifi. Eventually it played, and coped well when I lost connection as the train passed through a tunnel; presumably it has generous buffering where the connection allows.
Setting up Apple Music was relatively straightforward. On first launch, it will ask you to tap on artists that you like; double-tap on artists that you love, and tap and hold on artists that you don’t like, to build up your preferences. You can do this several times to hone your preferences if you wish. You’ll also be signed-up for a 3 month free trial – if you don’t want to be automatically billed when the trial is up, follow the instructions here.
Some users have had major problems with their existing music libraries following Apple Music’s launch. I got lucky, despite also being an iTunes Match user, but I did find that all of my playlists were duplicated. After I deleted the duplicates in iTunes, everything was fine.
If you’re a last.fm user, then I have bad news. Any songs that you play that are not in your own library will not be scrobbled. Apple has never officially supported last.fm, which is a shame. This is in spite of Apple’s previous attempt at a music social network, Ping, which was an utter failure.
I suppose the big question is: how does it compare to Spotify? Apple Music tries to be more personalised, and integrated with your existing music library. But Spotify is cheaper; whilst Spotify Premium is the same price as Apple Music, there’s also the cheaper Spotify Unlimited which is £5 per month, and a free tier supported by advertising. Spotify has always had last.fm integration, and connects with your Facebook account so that you can share your playlists and see what your friends are listening to in real-time. The social experience on Spotify feels more authentic, as it’s between your friends, rather than a broadcast from artists and bands.
Given the choice between Apple Music and Spotify, I would choose Spotify. It’s cheaper (I have the £5 a month unlimited package), and feels like a more polished product. But Apple Music is still new, and there’s plenty of time for Apple to improve it.