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Critics View: Apple Music

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Apple Music makes its long-awaited debut, but what do the experts think about the latest entrant into the streaming market?

iOS 8.4 was released earlier this week, introducing Apple’s long-awaited music streaming service to iPhone and iPad. Apple Music will eventually be released on Windows, Mac and Android in a bid to become a genuine alternative to market leader Spotify.

But what do experts make of the first build of Apple Music?

Mark Savage, BBC News music“The new Music app has that recognisable Apple sheen – bright, colourful and slick, with much less reliance on text than its predecessor.

“What the service lacks is a coherent social element. At launch, there are no collaborative playlists – one of Spotify’s most popular features – and the “connect” feature, which provides status updates from your favourite artists, is no match for Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook.

“Apple users will enjoy the seamless integration with their current iTunes library – but with the UK pricing now confirmed to be the same as Spotify others will need more persuasion to switch than the availability of Taylor Swift’s album 1989.”

Walt Mossberg, Re/Code

“Would I pay $10 a month — $120 a year — to use it?

“My answer is a tentative yes, with some caveats. Apple has built a handsome, robust app and service that goes well beyond just offering a huge catalog of music by providing many ways to discover and group music for a very wide range of tastes and moods.

“But it’s also uncharacteristically complicated by Apple standards, with everything from a global terrestrial radio station to numerous suggested playlists for different purposes in different places. And the company offers very little guidance on how to navigate its many features. It will take time to learn it. And that’s not something you’re going to want to do if all you’re looking for is to lean back and listen.

“My first impression of Apple Music is that it’s the most full-featured streaming music app I’ve seen — and heard — and the first I’d consider paying for. But it may overwhelm some users, and I’ll need to live with it more before I can reach final conclusions.”

Dieter Bohn, The Verge

Apple Music CEO Tim Cook“Here’s Apple Music in a nutshell: it’s ambitious. It borrows ideas from nearly everybody: it has a clean UI like Rdio, a massive catalog like Spotify, a lot of music management buttons like iTunes, and human curation like Beats.”

“Our first impressions are that although there are some unavoidable places where you can get lost, Apple Music has pulled off the basics of what you’d expect from a streaming music service. You can find the music you want (including, yes, Taylor Swift), and if you just want Apple’s curators to help you stop being An Old who only listens to Built to Spill because he stopped paying attention to music 10 years ago, you can do that, too. I’m looking forward to finding more.

Ed Power, The Telegraph

“As a user of Spotify and Deezer, I found Apple Music, which will cost £9.99 for a monthly subscription after a free 12 week trial period, generally unremarkable. Unless you’re a Taylor Swift fan, the breadth of tracks is on a par with those of its rivals.

“One potential sticking point is the user interface, which feels clunky and lacking in Apple’s trade-mark slickness. Incredibly for a company synonymous with dazzling aesthetics, Apple Music is ungainly on the eye, with too many tiny album sleeves vying for your attention and a home-page that scrolls when you don’t expect it to and remains static when you expect it to scroll.

“Up against cleaner, more intuitive competitors such as Spotify, Deezer and Google Play, however, Apple’s new product comes across as fussy and spring-loaded with distracting extras nobody asked for. There is so much noise it is hard to focus on the music.”

Chris Johnston, The Guardian

“If I did not already have dozens of playlists in Spotify I would probably cancel my subscription and switch to Apple Music. Spotify isn’t perfect and its user interface has some annoying quirks, but I’m used to them now. Will I stay tuned to Spotify? Probably, but I’ll use both during my three free months with Apple Music and then decide.

“Given that there is no free tier on Apple Music, unlike Spotify, it will be interesting to see how many keep paying after the three-month trial ends.”

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