Since its release, Apple Music—Cupertino’s streaming audio service—let people stream music and music videos to their iOS devices, dive into numerous curated playlists,and find artists using Siri voice commands. An Android version debuted shortly after its iOS counterpart, which is a major departure for Apple, one that shows how seriously it takes music. Now, Apple Music continues its platform expansion by bringing its 50 million-song library to web browsers. Apple Music’s many attractive features, including its human-curated Beats 1 channel, make this service a strong contender in its category, one that challenges our Editors’ Choices, LiveXLive Powered by Slacker Radio and Spotify. Note, however, that Apple Music lacks rival services’ standout extras like podcasts and ticket sales.
Apple Music is a streaming music service that brings more than 50 million songs and a strong music video crop to macOS, iOS, tvOS, watchOS, CarPlay, HomePod, Windows, Android, Chrome OS, Amazon Echo, Sonos, and web browsers. So, if you own a consumer tech device, there’s a good chance that you can use it to stream Apple Music.
Signing up is easy. Apple Music offers a three-month trial, which is a significant amount of time to try before you subscribe (you’ll still need to supply credit or debit card info, though). After that, you’ll need to sign up for a subscription plan. The $9.99 per month Single Membership and the $14.99 Family Membership (for up to six people using iCloud Family Sharing) grant ad-free music listening, ad-free video watching, offline listening, and access to Beats 1 Radio (Apple’s human-curated, 24/7 channel). I like seeing Apple Music and other streaming music services adopt family plans, which is something that LiveXLive still lacks.
If you’re a college student who’s enrolled in an eligible college or university, you can subscribe to Apple Music for a wallet-friendly $4.99 per month. Students can take advantage of the discount for up to four years. Spotify and Tidal offer a similar student deal. Unfortunately, Apple Music lacks a free, ad-supported version.
Putting the Needle
to the Groove
Apple Music’s layout features large, eye-catching icons that invite you to explore the service, be it via a browser or an app. Honestly, that’s something that you’re likely to do anyway, as the interface features a menu structure that helps you quickly find content. Library, Playlists, Artists, Albums, and Songs are all prominent and easy to navigate.
Apple Music is also for discovering new music, not just for listening to old favorites. So, I hopped over to the For You section and swiped through numerous themed playlists, such as Eric Clapton: The Early Years and Lady Gaga vs. Madonna.
Apple must have discovered that people really dig these prefabricated
Digging Into the Library
Apple Music features a vast selection of albums and songs, including Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, as well as tracks from Taylor Swift and other pop acts. I found many Prince albums, too, including 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign ‘O’ the Times. You can also listen to music channels dedicated to certain themes, such as Hip-Hop Workout Anthems and Disney Princess Radio.
There are plenty of comedy tracks, too, for those times when you’re in the mood to yuck it up. Maria Bramford, Kevin Hart, Eddie Murphy, Joe Rogan, Amy Schumer, Daniel Tosh, Katt Williams, and Daniel Tosh arer just a few of the notable comedians who have standup work on Apple Music.
Meanwhile, Apple’s flagship radio station, Beats 1, features tracks curated by DJ Zane Lowe, along with artist interviews. However, that’s the extent of the music-related extras; Apple Music lacks LiveXLive’s Stories and music history channels (Artist DNA and Sample City), Tidal’s editorial, and Spotify’s podcasts. If you want to listen to podcasts, Apple Podcasts is your destination.
If you dig music videos, you’ll be happy to know that Apple Music has a dedicated section for that medium. The videos are tailored to your preferences, too, so it was not at all surprising that I was fed plenty of hip-hop tracks.
Audio Quality and Siri
Apple Music’s audio quality is fine, but not as high as Tidal’s Hi-Fi and Masters offering. Only hardcore audiophiles will notice the difference, as the audio streams at 256 Kbps. That’s a lower bitrate than Spotify’s 320 Kbps streams, but Apple’s use of the AAC format enables its streams to retain more audio data. In addition, Apple Music supports lyrics (when they are available), so you can sing along to a song, even if you don’t know the words.
What would an Apple service be if it didn’t encourage you to use other Apple services and products along with it? You can use Siri to tell Apple Music to play specific songs or ask for recommendations, like The Top Songs of the 80s. Apple Watch owners can sync music to their devices and keep listening even when not paired
A Sound Garden
The 90-day free trial should be plenty of time to determine whether Apple Music is a service you want to invest in (just make sure to turn off auto-payments in case you don’t dig it). However, chances are that if you’re a music fan, you’ll like it. Apple Music has numerous tracks and music videos, as well as very solid radio service in Beats 1. Just don’t expect non-music content, such as LiveXLive’s Stories or Spotify’s podcasts and Archie comic book adaptations.