When Apple finally announced iTunes Radio, a collective sigh could be heard from many music enthusiasts. Finally, here was Apple’s answer to music subscription services like Pandora and Spotify. Now that iTunes Radio is now available to users installing iOS 7 today, iPhone and iPad users are in for a bit of shock when they download it. That’s because iTunes Radio isn’t remotely as transformative as industry watchers first speculated.
That isn’t to say that iTunes Radio is a miss entirely. The service does allow users to tailor their radio streams by choosing different specific artists and asking iTunes Radio to play more songs like the one their listening to, (or not play bad songs at all). In an industry that has increasingly opted for playlists maintained by algorithms and data, Apple’s decision to include playlists curated by real humans is very unique and something that I wish more music services would do.
Really, the problem for iTunes Radio is that it doesn’t attempt to do anything new, or particularly better than third-party competitors. In fact, the only real advantage of iTunes Radio is that it’s built into iOS 7 and doesn’t require users to install extra applications and sign up for separate accounts. Oh, and its ridiculously low price tag of $25 a year is also unique, I suppose.
By comparison Microsoft’s Xbox Music, which is also available on iOS, costs users $99 a year. Sure, it’s more robust than iTunes Radio, but even Pandora’s premium service costs users $36 a year. However, being cheap and integrated doesn’t necessarily spell useful or potentially successful. The Ping social network that used to be included with iTunes is a perfect example of that.
In my limited use, iTunes Radio isn’t a replacement for even the most basic of music services. Users can’t store music for later in the event that they are somehow disconnected from the internet. Users also can’t choose individual songs to play. As such, there’s no playing specific albums. Instead, users have to rely on Apple’s algorithms to find music that they want to listen to.
iTunes Radio is now available in iTunes 11.1 for Windows and Mac and available in iOS 7. Users can download all three now from Apple’s website. The operating system comes pre-installed on the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. Both of those devices launch this Friday.