Apple Music Explained: What it is and What it isn’t

Apple Music is a lot of things. Along with a music streaming service, it will let you play songs you have stored locally on your iOS devices, plus songs that you’ve uploaded from your local machine to iCloud using the $25/year iCloud Match service (which is now free if you use Apple Music). Then there’s the radio component. Both the algorithmically generated, artists/genre based radio stations like Pandora and a live, human DJ based 24/7 radio station called Beats 1.

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There’s a lot to figure out and unpack. So let’s get to it.

The Basic Facts

If you didn’t watch the WWDC keynote reveal for Apple Music (you lucky duck), here are the basic facts about the service in an easily digestible form.

  • The service starts at $9.99 for a single user and has a $14.99 family plan for up to 6 users (based on iCloud Family Sharing). There’s a 3-month free trial.
  • The service launches on 30th June and will be available in 100 countries. Yes.
  • Apple Music will let you stream up to 37 million songs (Spotify has 30). That’s most of the catalogue, but some edge cases like The Beatles will be missing. I’m glad I bought all those albums.
  • You will be able to download songs for offline playback.
  • There’s a Beats 1 live radio station manned by real DJs around the word which will be free for everyone to listen to.
  • The old iTunes store still exists. You’ll still be able to buy music.
  • Free users will also be able to listen to artist based radio stations, but there will be limited skipping allowed.
  • Apple Music will be available on Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch at launch. With Android client coming in the fall (around September).
  • There’s more. Let’s talk about that below.

It Has the Best of Beats Music With the Best of Apple

Beats didn’t have a stellar music library or even a free tier. What it did have was amazing curation. Beats hired experts in the field and asked them to make awesome playlists. It also had a feature where you’d tell it the kind of music you wanted to listen (genre, mood) and it would generate the playlist for you. The first part has been successfully integrated in the Music app.

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The problem with having access to 37 million songs in the palm of your hands is that you have access to 37 million songs in the palm of your hands. Where do you start? What do you listen? It’s overwhelming. Curated playlists by real human beings is a great thing for discovery. And yes, Apple Music also has the old-fashioned algorithmically generated stations/playlists, don’t worry.

Now, the best people at Beats are creating curated playlists, but using Apple’s large catalog. Sounds like a great recipe to me.

It’s Not Revolutionary, It’s Evolutionary

Apple Music doesn’t have anything dramatically different from other streaming services. A hologram of Pharrell isn’t going to pop up when you’re playing Happy for Nth time (can’t blame you).

And that’s fine. Apple has a track record at taking something that’s already out there and making it better. Apple Music is taking all that’s out there, making it better and presenting in a way that only Apple can.

It seems like Apple Music will stream songs at 256 kbps instead of the industry standard – 320. Audiophiles might think that’s a lot worse but if it makes a difference in practice is yet to be seen. It does save more than 20% bandwidth though.


I honestly have no idea what to expect from Beats 1. While it won’t be for everyone, I think it’s going to be fun to listen to music picked by people who know what they’re talking about.

The Price Makes Sense

In the US, Apple Music costs the same as every other streaming service – $9.99/month. And it’s launching in 100 countries. Here in India, it’s priced at Rs 120, that’s $2/month. It might seem cheap to you, but actually that’s in line with Rdio and other local streaming services. If the pricing in every other 98 countries is just as sensible, Apple can expect millions of users to jump ship.

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But the only problem is that Apple Music doesn’t have a meaningful free tier. With Spotify and Rdio, you can stream any song you want for free – with ads. With Apple Music, that’s just no possible. You can play artist radio stations but with limited skips – it’s just not the same.

Just For You

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Apple Music has a For You section where you select your favorite artists and Apple will present albums and playlists based on what you like. Just as everything else, Apple Music will learn from what you’re playing over and over, what you’re skipping and what you’re saving. Based on that, Apple Music will recommend more music.

There’s a Lot More, but I Can’t Wait to Try It Out

There’s still a lot we don’t know about Apple Music. How exactly do radio stations work, can you download songs for offline use on Mac/PC, will the Android app be usable? But I’m excited to try Apple Music out. I have a feeling that it’s going to be way better than Rdio (whose apps are just a web wrapper at this point). After all, Apple Music has the largest song collection. Check out the chart below by TechCrunch to see how it compares with others.

Music Chart1

Will You Be Switching to Apple Music?

There’s a free 3 month trial that Apple believes will be enough to get you hooked. Will you be trying Apple Music out? Share with us in the comments below.

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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