Apple unveiled its new internet radio service on Monday as part of the iOS 7 operating system for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, as expected, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. You can’t use it yet, although a developer preview is available; it will ship with iOS 7 in the fall, and probably around the same time on Mac, Windows, and Apple TV.
We still don’t know how deep the catalog is within iTunes Radio — or whether independent artists and labels that were not part of Apple’s negotiations with major labels and publishers will be included in Apple’s new internet radio service, but we do know its name: “iTunes Radio.”
Here’s what else we know about Apple iTunes Radio so far:
- It will be built in to Apple’s Music app on iOS 7, and also into iTunes for Mac and Windows, as well as Apple TV. Apple did not say whether iTunes Radio will be available on its Mac, Windows, and Apple TV software before the fall, when the iOS 7 version will be released.
- ITunes Radio includes lots of pre-made playlists of all kinds, created by iTunes staffers. Examples include genre radio, artists on tour, songs that are trending on Twitter, and summer songs.
- When you’re listening to a song in iTunes Radio, you can share it or create an entirely new station based on that song.
- A My Stations section lets you create your own stations based on any artist or song, or you can choose from a list of genres.
- The app allows skipping. Apple did not mention whether you can skip more than six songs (the usual limit with internet radio services such as Pandora that use the standard license). You can also ban or star songs.
- Eddy Cue says it’s “an amazing new way to discover music.” No surprise there.
- As one would expect with a name like “iTunes Radio,” and because it was made by Apple, there are commerce hooks all over the app that encourage users to buy songs in iTunes. You can save songs to a wishlist if you want to consider buying them later, as well as glancing back at your play history in each channel, so you can shop for songs you’ve heard even without having made a specific note of them. In both cases, you get previews of the songs, so you can be sure you’re buying the right one.
- Apple will include iAds in iTunes Radio, which is free, unless you pay $25 for iTunes Match. It appears that Apple is sticking with Steve Jobs’ dictum that people want to buy music and rent movies, because Apple now has two ways to subscribe to music (under the same payment), and neither of them is for unlimited, on-demand music. It’s still very much about buying songs from iTunes once you like them (or using bit torrent).
- Eddy Cue demonstrated iTunes Radio with a Led Zeppelin station, which played “Whole Lotta Love” into The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”
- There was no mention or indication of the catalog size, or how non-major-label artists can get their music on there. Apple could be copying Slacker’s approach, which is to use the standard licensing for independent music for which it does not have bespoke deals.
- iTunes Radio will follow an opposite route to that of Spotify; it’s available in the U.S. for starters, adding other countries over time.