Apple’s entry in to the music streaming market was finally announced at the company’s annual developer’s conference (WWDC15) in San Francisco. Apple Music will debut worldwide from June 30. Also previewed at the event was iOS9, the next iteration of the OS X Mac operating system and Apple Pay’s arrival in the UK.
Apple Music will be a single app combining a streaming music service, a worldwide live radio station from Apple broadcasting 24 hours a day and a way for music fans to follow their favourite artists. Curated playlists are a key feature of Apple Music, as the company seeks to differentiate its offering from other streaming services, such as Spotify and Deezer. The ‘For You’ playlists will be available for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, PC, Apple TV and Android phones. In addition to human curation, Apple’s Siri digital assistant now responds to music questions, such as “Play me the best songs from 1990” or “What was the number one song in February 2011?”.
“We love music, and the new Apple Music service puts an incredible experience at every fan’s fingertips,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “All the ways people love enjoying music come together in one app — a revolutionary streaming service, live worldwide radio and an exciting way for fans to connect with artists.”
“Apple Music is really going to move the needle for fans and artists,” said Jimmy Iovine, the record producer and former co-owner of Beats Music, the company Apple bought in 2014. “Online music has become a complicated mess of apps, services and websites. Apple Music brings the best features together for an experience every music lover will appreciate.”
Apple Music Radio introduces Beats 1, Apple’s first-ever live radio station, broadcasting live 24 hours a day to over 100 countries. Beats 1 will be led by influential DJs Zane Lowe in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in New York and Julie Adenuga in London. Listeners around the globe will hear the same programming at the same time.
The third pillar of Apple Music is Connect, a reimagining of Apple’s aborted Ping feature within iTunes 10. With Connect, artists can share lyrics, backstage photos, videos and release new music directly to fans from their iPhone. Fans can comment on and ‘like’ anything an artist has posted, sharing it via Messages, Facebook, Twitter and email. Artists can also respond directly to fans.
Apple Music will be available from June 30 in over 100 countries. A three-month membership will be offered free, after which time a $9.99 per month subscription fee will apply. There will also be a family plan providing the service for up to six family members for $14.99 per month. UK pricing has yet to be confirmed.
Also previewed at WWDC15 was iOS 9, the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system, due for launch later this year. The focus for this version has been to make iOS devices more intelligent and helpful, with improved search and a more proactive Siri experience; new multitasking features designed specifically for iPad allowing users to work with two apps simultaneously, either side-by-side or with the new Picture-in-Picture feature (e.g. watching a video while browsing the web or composing email while using another app); and a dedicated News app, powered by the new Apple News Format, a digital publishing format supporting custom typography, galleries, audio, video and interactive animations, allowing publishers like Conde Nast, ESPN and The New York Times to create beautiful editorial layouts for iOS users.
“iOS 9 is packed with more intelligence throughout and delivers big updates to the apps customers use most. Maps supports public transit, a redesigned Notes app provides great new ways to capture ideas and a beautiful News app delivers content that’s personalised to your interests,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.
Base level refinements in iOS 9 include battery optimisation for greater performance and a new low-power mode to further extend battery life. Security is also on the agenda, with Apple ID strengthening the passcode that protects your devices and incorporating two-factor authentication directly into iOS. Developer APIs announced include extensible search, GameplayKit and Model I/O for building better games, ReplayKit for recording gameplay, new HomeKit profiles, wireless CarPlay and new HealthKit data points.
Apple’s programming language has been updated to Swift 2, bringing new features and performance improvements to produce faster apps. The Swift compiler and standard library will be made available as open source later this year.
El Capitan, Watch software
The keynote event also introduced the next iteration of Apple’s Mac OS X operating system, codenamed El Capitan, new Watch software and Apple Pay updates.
Building on OS X 10.10 Yosemite, El Capitan introduces enhancements to window management, built-in apps and Spotlight search to make everyday activities faster and more responsive. Metal, Apple’s graphics technology, is integrated into El Capitan, delivering system-wide performance gains and enabling games and pro apps to tap into the full power of Mac graphics processors. El Capitan will also feature a new system font optimised for Retina displays, appropriately called San Francisco.
“OS X delivers unparalleled integration between Mac hardware, iOS devices, apps and online services and has helped Mac sales outpace the PC industry every year for the last decade,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “Customers loved last year’s landmark OS X Yosemite release and made it the fastest-adopted PC operating system ever. With El Capitan, we’re further refining the Mac experience.”
Apple Watch was also given a software update, giving developers tools to build faster, more powerful apps to run natively on Watch. Developers can now take advantage of key hardware features of Apple Watch, such as the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine and heart rate sensor, along with software APIs to build new app experiences.
Available to end users later this year, watchOS 2 also includes new watch faces from favourite photos, other watch-face Photo Album options, third-party app information and new communication capabilities in Mail, Friends and Digital Touch. Other new functions extend the usefulness of Watch, including a Nightstand Mode to transform Apple Watch into a bedside alarm clock, with the Digital Crown and side button serving as snooze and off buttons for the alarm, and the ability to use merchant reward and store cards with Apple Pay, which can be added to Wallet.
Finally, it was confirmed that from July, Apple Pay will be available in the UK. At launch, over 250,000 locations will accept Apple Pay, with support from eight of the UK’s most established banks, across all of the major credit and debit card networks.
“Apple Pay has quickly become a big part of millions of users’ everyday shopping routines, providing a simpler, faster and more secure way to pay,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “We’re thrilled to bring Apple Pay to the UK with support at launch from the most popular banks, an incredible roster of merchants and many of our users’ favourite apps.”
In stores, users can simply hold their iPhone near the contactless reader, while keeping a finger on the Touch ID sensor on the phone. With Apple Watch, double-clicking the side button and holding the Watch face close to the contactless reader will complete the purchase directly from the wrist. In-app purchases can be authorised courtesy of Touch ID.
Security and privacy are at the core of Apple Pay, protecting personal information, transaction data and credit and debit card information. When adding a credit or debit card, the actual card numbers are not stored on the device, nor on Apple servers. Instead, a unique Device Account Number is assigned, encrypted and securely stored in the Secure Element on the user’s device, with each transaction authorised by a one-time unique dynamic security code.
Apple Pay will support UK credit and debit cards from American Express, MasterCard and Visa Europe, issued by many of the UK’s most popular banks, including first direct, HSBC, NatWest, Nationwide Building Society, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Ulster Bank. Other major issuing banks will follow later this year, including Bank of Scotland, Coutts, Halifax, Lloyds Bank, MBNA, M&S Bank and TSB Bank.
“As part of our goal to be number one, we are absolutely focused on giving our customers the best and most innovative experience possible,” said Ross McEwan, CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland. “Whether on the high street, in a small shop or on the go within apps, Apple Pay offers a simple and secure way to pay. We are pleased to be among the first UK banks to offer this service to our customers.”
Starting in July, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch users will be able to make purchases anywhere contactless payments are accepted. In addition to the 39 Apple Stores in the UK, leading locations for everyday shopping that will accept Apple Pay include Boots UK, BP, Costa Coffee, Dune, JD Sports, KFC UK & Ireland, Liberty, LIDL, Marks & Spencer (M&S), McDonald’s UK, Nando’s, New Look, Post Office, Pret A Manger, SPAR, Starbucks, SUBWAY stores, Wagamama and Waitrose. Transport for London will also accept Apple Pay, so an iPhone or Apple Watch can pay for travel.
“We are proud to be one of the first retailers to introduce Apple Pay at our stores across the UK. Whether customers are enjoying our special food range or our clothing collections, our early introduction of Apple Pay will provide them with a seamless and secure way of checking out,” said Marc Bolland, CEO of Marks & Spencer.
Apps accepting Apple Pay in the UK include Addison Lee, Airbnb, Argos, Booking.com, British Airways, Domino’s, easyJet, Hailo, HotelTonight, hungryhouse, JD Sports, Just Eat, lastminute.com, Miss Selfridge, Ocado, Stubhub, thetrainline.com, Top 10, Topshop, Uncover, Vueling, YPlan, Zalando and Zara, among others. When paying for goods and services within apps, Apple Pay is compatible with iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.
Apple Music infographic