iTunes Radio – First Impressions

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Almost a week ago Apple released iTunes Radio in Australia. As someone who listens to a reasonable amount of music, that same morning I began listening on my commute into the Brisbane CBD.

My main use of streaming services, (to date has involving both Pandora and Spotify), is to utilise the discovery type features to hopefully stumble across some new music I like. Given I have a reasonably sized collection of my own music accessed through iTunes Match, I have never seen the need to subscribe to the paid or premium levels of any streaming services.

After hearing about iTunes Radio last year, I was keen to see it released in Australia, knowing that as an iTunes Match subscriber I would avoid advertisements, yet have access to a free, curated streaming service. An added advantage was purported to be that iTunes Radio would learn my tastes, and adjust my stations accordingly.

Other features include the ability to build stations based on the artists or songs you choose; play iTunes Radio through any iOS device, Mac or Apple TV; check play history; immediately buy a track from iTunes (of course); utilise Siri for voice control of most features; and easily share stations.

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All of the PR aside, how good is it? For me – I have found a good mix of songs and artists in both the Apple curated Hot Alternative and my own stations based on the Arctic Monkeys and The National I have listened to so far. Although the lack of ads has been nice, this never really bothered me with Pandora, however became somewhat annoying at times when using Spotify (no great complaint though, as I realise I am accessing this music for free, and artists deserve to be paid). How well iTunes Radio learns my preferences will become more apparent with time.

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Personally I would recommend giving iTunes Radio a run. Others have found some faults with the service (relating to the use of the iTunes desktop interface, curation and lack of easy customisation). These aren’t really a problem given most of my listening takes place on iOS devices, and the other points I wouldn’t necessarily agree with from experience. Whether or not the results played by Apple when creating your own stations are to your taste, is simply a matter of, well…your taste. A comparison of Pandora and iTunes Radio and any conclusions drawn are more a reflection of personal taste rather than any definitive conclusion as to the merits of one over the other. Whether certain songs don’t belong in a playlist generated by a particular song or artist, is for you to decide, which again leads me to my recommendation – give it a try.

Is there really anything to lose apart from your time (which would be minimal if you work with music in the background anyway), and perhaps some data if you are streaming on your iPhone or iPad data plan, which, according to Gizmodo, will chew up around 28MB per hour (840MB over 30 days if used an hour per day) – though of course this is not unique to iTunes Radio, and applies to any music streaming. Probably one thing I would like to see is easier access to song and artist information within iTunes Radio itself, rather than having to follow the link back to the iTunes Store (this would be particularly useful with the “Spin the Globe” and “New Artists” featured stations).

I will certainly be utilising iTunes Radio quite a bit, and for the times I want to listen to an entire album or specific, queued tracks I’ll simply head back to iTunes Match. Whether or not the stations align more with my preferences over time remains to be seen, however my early impressions lead me to think Apple will be quite competitive in the music streaming market.

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