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Apple Music Review…

Product Overview

Best for

Apple loyalists, album listening

Not for

Social playlists, free listening

Features

Price $5 /mo. student, $10 /mo. individual, $15 /mo. family plan
Standout features Upload your music, Apple ecosystem, unique content, Beats 1 Radio, lyric search
Free trial 90 days
No. of tracks 50 million+
Compatible with Amazon Alexa devices, Sonos, Apple CarPlay, Apple Watch (LTE version), Apple TV, Apple HomePad, iPhone, iMac/Macbook, iPad, iPod touch
Offline listening

Optimized for hosting your music library

One of Apple Music’s distinguishers is its affinity for organizing your whole collection of music. You can easily upload songs you own, either from a CD or an older iTunes account. You can sync all those files to the iCloud Music Library and listen to them on other devices. Avid users report Apple Music is great for organizing large catalogs of music and albums. If you prefer albums over playlists, and have a lot of your own records to integrate, Apple Music caters to your needs.

Search by lyric

You know that song? The one that goes “Look at this photograph.” No? Well, Apple Music probably does. Typing that phrase into Apple Music’s search bar will pull up the Nickelback classic “Photograph.” It’s the only music streaming service that has such an advanced search feature. Being able to search for that earworm by lyrics alone is a gift for the forgetful.

Integrates with the Apple ecosystem

If you already own quite a few Apple products, Apple Music is the easiest way to listen to your tunes. It seamlessly integrates with the iPhone, iPads, iMac/Macbook, Apple Watch (LTE version), Apple TV, Apple CarPlay, and Apple HomePod. In fact, if you have Apple TV or an Apple Watch, it’s your only music streaming option. Apple Music is also compatible with Amazon Echo smart speakers. Users already steeped in the Apple operating system will find familiarity and ease with the design of the Apple Music platform.

Exclusive and unique content

Though Apple Music no longer holds the only keys to Taylor Swift’s discography, there’s still plenty of exclusive content to tempt your coin.

The Apple Music playlists are human-curated by industry tastemakers and DJs. You can even expand your global taste with “World Hits”, a collection of 100 chart-topping songs from different countries. You can listen to summertime playlists curated by stars like Lizzo, Shawn Mendes, and Chris Hemsworth. And you can appreciate the talent behind your favorite songs with the “Behind the Boards” series that collects songs from the same audio engineers.

Playlists go beyond moods like “chill” and target the moments when you need music most. For example, Apple offers an “In My Room” playlist with the descriptor, “Shut out the world and get in your feelings with moody pop cuts.” There may be a smaller catalog of playlists to sort through than Spotify is known for, but we found Apple Music’s playlists to curate experiences so specific we didn’t even know to look for it.

Hit talk show gimmick, “Carpool Karaoke” has found a new home with Apple Music. You’ll still find the James Corden-hosted version on “The Late Late Show,” but Apple Music’s content is shuffling celebrities together to host their own mobile karaoke party. You’ll get to witness your favorite celebrity BFFs (like Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner) belt it out and invite you into their inside jokes, and surprising eclectic pairs like Linkin Park and Ken Jeong.

Subscribers will also have access to exclusive artist documentaries (Kesha, Wiz Khalifa, Ed Sheeran) and music videos. Apple Music also has a unique monthly documentary series called “Up Next,” that follows up-and-coming artists as they get their chance in the spotlight.

Beats 1 Radio

Apple Music is really set apart from the competition with a live, 24/7 Beats 1 radio station. “Radio” stations from other music streaming services are typically just a shuffling algorithm based on an artist or genre. Every Beats 1 station is human-curated by music experts and artists. It has stations anchored by popular DJs and artists like Elton John, Ryan Adams, and Pharrell, who will offer commentary on the songs they broadcast and give you a taste of what your favorite artists admire. Annie Clark (of St. Vincent) has a particularly interesting format. For her station, called “St. Vincent’s Mixtape Delivery Service,” she asks fans about what’s going on in their lives and will assemble the playlist to suit them. You can also tune in to news stations from CBS, NPR, ESPN, etc.

Possible Drawbacks

No free version

The biggest downside to Apple Music’s service is its lack of a free version. Many music streaming services offer a completely free version of their service, with ads and a few restrictions (no offline listening, no smart speaker streaming, etc.) Though you can take advantage of a 90-day free trial, if you don’t pay for the service afterward you’ll no longer have access to any playlist or streaming content. Casual listeners who may not want to commit to a monthly fee for music streaming will be better off with another service.

Timothy J. Trudeau, CEO of Syntax Creative, offered some direction here when we spoke with him: “There are essentially two types of music consumers, active and passive. The active listener is the type of person that knows what they like. They attend concerts and wear their favorite artists’ merch. Inside of a digital service provider, they know what they are looking for and they make their own playlists for just the right time and moods. The passive listener likes music, but can’t remember what band sings what song and doesn’t really have the time to seek out music directly. They would rather be served music by just pushing a button and then letting the service do all of the work.” The active listener is more suited to Apple Music, while passive listeners will probably be fine with a free version of Pandora or Spotify.

Limited third-party integration

Apple is much more than just a music streaming company and is reluctant to offer compatibility to its competitors. The company has a lot of direct rivals in the tech space, which translates to limited compatibility. You can stream Apple Music on any Apple device, Amazon Alexa speakers, and Sonos.

For comparison, Spotify is purely a music streaming business and thus has no qualms allowing its service to be played on Google, Sony, or Microsoft devices. Spotify also works on video games consoles like Xbox and PS4, while Apple Music has yet to offer a solution for those devices. Before cashing in on Apple Music, survey the technology you already have in your home to be sure you’re choosing a service that can easily integrate.


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