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Apple Music will dominate with the power of the preinstalled app

Jason Snell | June 18, 2015
Apple's current Notes and Maps apps aren't as good as their competitors, yet they're used far more. Why? Because they're there.

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Apple Music enters a streaming-music market that's full of tough competition, from market leader Spotify to longtime stalwart Rhapsody to international player Deezer. And yet Apple Music has a single, huge advantage that makes it a most formidable competitor: It'll be standard issue on just about every iPhone in use.

Just as incumbency is a powerful force in politics, being preloaded on every device is a huge advantage for apps. Preloaded apps are one tap away, meaning users tend to try them before even considering an alternative. It's a long way to go from trying an app, finding it wanting in specific ways, considering that there might be alternatives, launching the App Store app, searching with appropriate terms, sifting through the search results, and downloading or buying a replacement.

Popularity contest

Last week at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple leaked a couple of tiny bits of information that emphasize this point. According to Apple's Craig Federighi, the built-in iOS Notes app--never a darling of tech observers given its limited feature set and curious commitment to paper textures--is used regularly by about half of iPhone users.

Half of iPhone users use Notes, and use it regularly. It doesn't matter that it's mediocre or that there are dozens of better options, because it's on the device and does a good enough job at what it's designed to do--namely, be a place where you can jot down the number of the space you parked in or an idea for a plot twist in that novel you keep promising yourself you'll write.

Then there's the case of Apple Maps. Hey, remember when Apple switched away from Google's map data and started using its own? Remember how everyone was simply furious that Apple's map quality wasn't up to the same standard as Google's? Even Apple admitted it, though the company has worked hard for years now to improve its data sources. Still, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn't admit that the entire transition was a debacle, and I still hear from people who can't believe anyone uses Apple's Maps app instead of Google Maps.

Guess what? According to Federighi on stage at WWDC, Apple Maps is used 3.5 times more often than the next most popular mapping app on iOS, with more than 5 billion requests per week. Google Maps is known and loved, Apple's mapping data is derided, but...the proof is in the usage. The stock Maps app wins, and by a wide margin.

Simply irresistible

These statements make me wonder about the future prospects of Apple Music--and, for that matter, the new News app. Will Apple Music be as good as Spotify? I don't know, though I've been using Beats Music this last year and liking it a lot. Even if Apple Music is a good service, though, it's got to compete against an entrenched competitor with millions of subscribers.


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