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Apple Music trials come to an end: Should you pay to stay?

Caitlin McGarry | Sept. 30, 2015
We weigh the pros and cons of Apple Music and compare it to other streaming services.

Discovery: I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve discovered more new music with Apple Music in the last three months than ever before due to two features: the For You tab and the live radio station Beats 1. For You recommends albums and playlists to me based on what I’ve listened to and liked in the past, and it’s often scary how on point those recommendations have been. I had no expectations for Beats 1, though Apple bet big on the station with three big hires from the radio world, and even if it’s not always my cup of tea, I usually hear songs I would’ve never found on my own and end up loving them. I first heard one of my favorite songs this summer, Jack Garratt’s “Weathered,” on Zane Lowe’s show in the station’s early days. Beats 1 is something no other service offers, and it’s a huge selling point (though you can also listen for free if you give up your subscription).

The cons

User interface needs work: Apple Music’s options can be a little confusing sometimes, though the app has definitely improved in iOS 9. Little bugs like needing to add a song to My Music before being able to add it to a playlist have largely gone away, in my experience, and now you can actually tap on an artist’s name when looking at an album or a song and navigate to the artist’s page. These are small tweaks, but meaningful ones that should’ve been in place from day one.

Apple isn’t good at cloud services: This is a refrain I’ve heard often since Apple Music launched, and the kerfuffle over iCloud Music Library and iTunes Match DRM wreaking havoc on some users’ libraries proved that Apple has some work to do. We won’t even get into the history of .Mac and MobileMe, but suffice it to say that the company has a long, tumultuous relationship with the cloud. And when iCloud services go down, as they sometimes do, there goes your ability to stream music.

Lacks a free tier: If you don’t have $9.99 a month, you can’t use the bulk of Apple Music’s features, not even if you agree to listen to ads. Apple is bypassing the freemium model that worked well for Spotify and Rdio, likely because record labels aren’t a fan of letting people listen to music for free even if ads are part of the deal. For some listeners, that’s a dealbreaker. You can still listen to Beats 1 and select ad-supported radio stations, and see content that artists share via Connect, but it’s not the on-demand with ads you’ve come to expect from other services (though that appears to be a dying model).

 

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