One of the many products of the famous Apple, Inc., iTunes Radio is an up-and-coming music streaming service that boasts an extensive music library, intuitive features, and a price that can't be beat.
Based out of Cupertino, California, Apple announced the creation of iTunes Radio in June 2013 and proceeded to launch the service in September that year. Initially, it was made available in only the US, but a few months later, in February 2014, Apple extended it to Australia as well. Currently only those two countries can use the new service.
iTunes Radio takes a similar approach to most competing music streaming companies. It detects users' listening activity-likes, dislikes, downloads, etc.-and uses that information to update and personalize their stations. Apple offers professionally curated stations and, in this way, helps you discover music you've never heard before.
In the short amount of time that iTunes Radio has been functioning, it has developed a long list of benefits for users. But like any competitor, it has its disadvantages too.
One word: free.
That's all it costs to stream with iTunes Radio, which is probably the most prominent advantage of using it.
Surprisingly, very few competing streamers can claim that they offer a free version. But that's about the only option Apple does provide. Supported by advertisements, iTunes won't charge you a cent for streaming with them. And even if you do want to get rid of the ads, you only have to pay $25 per year for iTunes Match-an extremely low price compared to most ad-free services.
Through iTunes Radio, users have access to a variety of stations composed of individual songs. Rather than being able to listen to a full album on-demand, like you can do with Spotify, iTunes suggests individual songs instead. You can also create radio stations based off of your favorite artists, genres, or songs.
iTunes's music library is quite impressive too. With approximately 43 million songs to choose from, including both new releases and even some pre-releases, you're sure to find the songs you love most. That's one of the biggest libraries of any music streaming company out there.
Apple also offers a variety of features that allows iTunes to personalize your stations and make your experience much more convenient:
- Even though you can't listen to most full albums on-demand, "First Plays" is a feature that allows you to listen to the entirety of select albums before you purchase them so you can decide whether you like them.
- As you listen, you can use the buttons "Play More Like This" or "Never Play This Song" to let iTunes know your preferences.
- There's a setting to hide explicit content so you can keep your stations family-friendly.
- You can specify whether you want your station to play mostly top hits, unfamiliar independent songs, or a variety of both. In this way, iTunes Radio serves as both a resource for your familiar favorites and a means for you to discover new tunes.
- The "History" feature shows every song you've listened to on your account. If you want to remember the name of that song you jammed to last week, all you have to do is pull up this tab to find it.
- The "Wish List" feature is how iTunes Radio lets you make purchases. As you listen to songs, you can add the ones you love to your list and then buy them with the click of a few buttons.
- Like other Apple products, Siri functions with iTunes Radio and will pull up songs you ask to listen to.
You can share what you're listening to through social media like Facebook, Twitter, AirDrop, Mail, and Messages.
Last but not least, iTunes works with a variety of devices, including your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, PC, and Apple TV. That bodes well for the avid Apple fan because, like all other Apple products, iTunes Radio functions easily on the other equipment you've invested in.
Truth be told, however, Apple has a reputation for being somewhat restrictive. You can only use Apple products with other Apple products. For instance, iTunes tracks can only be played through iTunes and on devices like your iPod, not just any old device you have lying around.
The same holds true for iTunes Radio.
It functions primarily through iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, etc. So if you haven't invested in one of those products and don't plan to anytime soon, iTunes Radio will prove to be a dead end for you.
And despite the wonderful virtue of being a free service, iTunes Radio also comes with ads. Because you don't have to pay for a subscription, Apple gets paid by sponsors instead. And that means commercials will come on every few songs to disrupt your listening experience.
Along with that, there aren't nearly as many perks as you'd get with a paid subscription. In particular, iTunes Radio doesn't provide on-demand listening and only lets you skip six songs every hour (and only lets you skip, not fast-forward through, a song you don't like). In addition, don't expect any offline listening. Any downloading you do will be for tracks you pay for; it's not included for offline mode later on.
Another limitation with iTunes Radio is that it's not nearly as global as most competitors. It currently reaches only the United States and Australia, which might make it harder for you to take your music with you when traveling-or to use it at all if you plan to live in any other country.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, iTunes Radio is one of the few free music streaming services out there-and that speaks for itself, especially in today's economy. So even though their perks are much less glamorous than most companies, iTunes is still a strong competitor because of its unbeatable price and vast music library.
If you plan to give Apple a try, keep in mind that they're still new to streaming music and you might run into restrictions as far as the devices you stream your music through. As long as you're good with that, you'll enjoy navigating their intuitive features, listening to personalized stations, and discovering new music-all at a wonderful price.