Last year, Apple bought Beats Electronics for $3 billion. In San Francisco’s Moscone Center tonight, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed what the company got for its money. Although Beats is best known as the makers of fashionable, hefty over-ear headphones, Apple seems to have been more interested in the company’s audio streaming service.
Cook was launching the annual World Wide Developers’ Conference to a hall packed with 6,000 software developers hanging on his every word. There were new versions of the software for Apple Macs, iPhones, and Apple Watches.
Siri, the voice-activated assistant will now be proactive, it’s claimed, offering to play an audiobook as you sit down in the car, say, before you ask for it. Developers can now make apps just for the Apple Watch where previously they had to be add-ons to iPhone apps.
And the iPad Air 2, from the autumn, will have advanced multitasking capabilities so you can, for instance, watch a video in a window on the tablet screen alongside the email you’re composing. Meantime, if your iPhone battery runs low, the new software will have a low power mode which will add three hours’ battery life, Apple says.
But the big news was the development of Beats into Apple Music. In recent years, streaming services like Spotify and more recently Tidal have become the way to listen to music. For a monthly fee you can listen to millions of tracks and, in Spotify’s case, there’s a free version which offers something similar but with playback limitations. Apple Music aims to be “All the ways you love music, all in one place.”
Jimmy Iovine, from Beats, claimed it evolved as a response to a music industry that was “a fragmented mess.” Apple’s solution comes in three parts:
First, a new Music app for iPhone and iPad has a revamped design that shows the music you’re listening to. Once you’ve told it what music genres you like, it offers suggestions of other music Apple thinks you’d like. If you do, one click adds it to your playlist.
Second, Beats1 is a live radio station broadcast worldwide through the app from Los Angeles, New York and London. A third element called Connect lets artists, even if they’re unsigned and unknown, upload photos, lyrics, music and more ready for fans to discover.
The service goes live on 30 June and though no UK price has been announced it’s likely to be £9.99 a month, the same as Spotify. But it’s likely that all the artists on iTunes will be in Apple Music, including Taylor Swift who famously refuses to allow her songs to be streamed on Spotify.
Subscribers will also be able to choose a package where six family members can have their own account for an expected price of £14.99. Playlists can be streamed or downloaded for offline use. And if there’s a track you must own, it’s a seamless process to buy it direct from Apple’s iTunes.
It remains to be seen whether Spotify loyalists will desert – after all, the service is already good. But first glimpses suggest that Apple Music will have the company’s trademark clean design, exceptionally easy interface and simplicity. Plus, it’ll automatically be on every iPhone. And Apple will make it available for the rival Android smartphone system later in the year.
Another key part of the event, for the UK, is the imminent arrival of Apple Pay. This is the payment system which effectively turns the most recent iPhones and the Apple Watch into contactless credit cards. It’s been up and running for months in the USA now, and the UK will be the first place to follow, with 70 per cent of banks joining in July and more in the autumn. Retailers including Waitrose, Boots and Marks and Spencer will accept Apple Pay, and so will TfL, making it possible for Tube and London bus commuters to pay by swiping their iPhone or Apple Watch across the card reader.Reuse content