How Apple Music Stacks Up to the Competition
Apple Music entered the streaming-music marketplace with the typical fanfare and enthusiasm expected from any Apple release. Now that it has been up and running since June, the highlights and lowlights are coming into clearer focus. With stiff competition from established streaming music purveyors such as Spotify, Pandora, and Rdio, Apple Music has to prove itself in the increasingly cluttered world of streaming music.
Set Up Is a Beast
Apple Music is composed of five distinct sections: For You (personalized selections based on your preferences), New (new releases and what’s hot), Radio (featuring Apple Music’s own Beats 1 station), Connect (updates from bands and artists), and My Music (where you can access the tunes you own). The service is all about creating a tailored music listening experience, so from the very start, you have to teach it what you like via a number of selections. The good news is that there’s a method to the lengthy set-up madness: Once Apple Music understands your tastes and preferences, its unique “For You” section will suggest songs you’ll love, like, or at least find interesting.
Desktop Is a Downer
Apple Music is currently available on iOS devices and will soon be available on Androids, but the desktop version is accessed through the Apple’s not-so-popular iTunes. Users have noted that its integration with iTunes simultaneously makes iTunes even clunkier to use and leads to complications like deleted or duplicated songs when merging the service with the songs you already own on iTunes.
Selection Is Great
Buried behind a cumbersome and at-times confusing user interface is a solid selection of tunes. With an impressive library of more than 30 million tracks, their selection is on par with Spotify and beats out Google Music and Tidal.
Playlists Are So-So
On the one hand, thanks to stellar playlists from Beats Music (which Apple acquired), Apple Music has some interesting and highly curated playlists to choose from, but the length is short. Apple Music’s playlists are about 12-16 tracks long whereas Spotify’s lengthy and oft-updated playlists feature 50+ songs. Also, since Spotify has been around for years, it already boasts thousands of user-generated playlists, so in this area, Apple Music has some catching up to do.
Tailored Tunes Are Nice
Apple Music’s For You section picks out songs it thinks you will enjoy. After going through the thorough set-up and establishing your preferences, it’s cool to have a personal DJ serving up new artists you might have never found.
Experts Over Algorithms
One of the unique features of Apple Music that sets it apart from competition like Pandora, for example, is its reliance on actual people –music experts– as opposed to algorithms that select music based on factors like genre and beat structure. In an age of artificial intelligence, it’s refreshing to know that Apple Music’s playlists are hand-curated.
Cost Is Reasonable
Much like its competition, Apple Music has an advertisement-laden free option, but unlike its competition, the free version is only Beats 1 radio with ads—no access to Apple Music’s other features. Monthly membership, though, is reasonable at $9.99 for a single user or $14.99 for a family plan with six users. Spotify also comes in at $10 for a single user, but their family plan tops out at five users for a relatively hefty $30 per month. And for the time being, at least, Apple Music is offering a free three-month trial.
All in all, Apple Music has made a respectable debut and its future iterations will surely shine where this version falls short.
– By Tim Alan