Apple Music review: a solid streaming service with an identity crisis
So Apple Music has launched in over 100 countries today to a fanfare of excitement. On paper it seems like the streaming service everybody has been waiting for for years (or have given up waiting for in favour of Spotify). With the added perks of an whole music solution including global radio and a social element for exclusive content from your favourite artists, it seems to be a metaphorical slam dunk.
I do have a couple of gripes though.
The interface of the music app on iPhone has always been a bit hit and miss, and losing that simplicity with extra features has created a UI more confusing than ever. Part of this comes from the collaboration with Beats music, taking some cues from their original streaming service (like the 'select your favourite genres and artists' bubbles). It seems like a bit of a mash-up of the two without any real thought for integrating into one unified experience.
"What's the point of iTunes?"
The second seems to be around the purpose of this service existing. I get it, musicians and record labels alike really don't like the idea of free ad-supported music streaming. Their bug bear about Spotify is expressed through Jimmy Iovine's awkward presentation of Apple Music. But I say this on behalf of the listeners. A tenner is the same standard price as you'd be expected to pay for something like this, but then add £22 for iTunes Match on top of that to stream your offline library to all your devices, or the existence of said offline library on that device.
They're all seamlessly integrated into the same music app, but it gives these individual parts an identity crisis that begs the question: what's the point of iTunes? With Match combined with Music, you're essentially paying for two different services that do a similar job. This service removes the sense of music ownership, which it should do alongside consumer expectations. But that industry of music purchases, which Apple virtually dominated seems to be slowly waning. I'm not sure I feel so great about that!
Now that I've ripped the plaster off on the concerns I have, if you can get past them you're looking at a pretty stellar, diverse service for anybody with an Apple device. Let's not mince words here, the Android version is probably going to be naff, as it's simply a statistic to make the company look like they're playing nice with others.
The real destination is an iPhone and it's a great one for anybody with a love for music. Beats 1 is off to a cracking start with the return of Zane Lowe to my ears being a particular joy (you know he's back when you're listening to a transition between Skepta and AC/DC). Put on top of this 'Connect,' which is what seems to be Apple's second attempt at a music social network after 'Ping.' It's too early to tell whether this will be successful or not, but this is pure filler which you won't really find yourself using, albeit nice filler.
So where does that leave us? What we have here is the logical choice of streaming service for anybody with an Apple device. It's only a few hours old, so expect a lot of my previous concerns to be answered along with the identity crisis it seems to be going through right now. Beyond the walled garden, go for something else. But the service feels very complete to say we're just at the beginning of a very long journey.
Apple is a good enough service to compete with Spotify, but it's got to compete with itself first...