While the big news was all about Apple’s ‘Spotify Killer’ – a new digital music streaming service called Apple Music – the company also found time to announce an update to its OS and the roll out of its contactless payment system, Apple Pay, across the UK. Chris Price reports.
1. Apple Music
Seems like Apple has finally ditched the ‘i’ prefix with Apple Watch and now Apple Music. Formed out of the company’s $3 billion acquisition of Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s Beats Music last year, it marks Apple’s digital music streaming debut (previously it focused purely on downloads but who downloads music these days when we have internet access virtually all the time?) Officially launching on June 30th, Apple Music will be available for iTunes on OS X and Windows, iOS and even Android (but not until the Autumn). The service enables you to stream everything available on iTunes, and will also offer many ‘human-curated’ playlists as well as song and playlist recommendations. Apparently unsigned artists will be able to share their music using the service and there’s a Connect area where artists can post anything from their latest tracks to video clips of them recording in studio. Following Apple Music’s unveiling at WWDC, Beats Music’s FAQ has already updated to tell people how to move their accounts. They’ll be able to keep their playlists, library, and account name when they switch to Apple Music, which costs the same $9.99 per month (presumably £9.99 per month in the UK).
2. Beats 1/Apple Music Radio
If you wondered just why Zane Lowe left Radio 1 to join Apple here’s the reason: to start a hugely ambitious worldwide digital radio station. Unlike iTunes Radio, which was largely collections of playlists, Beats 1 will be a live radio station that’s broadcast to more than 100 countries with Zane Lowe in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in New York and Julie Adenuga in London. The station will include exclusive interviews and guest hosts. Alongside Beats 1, Apple will continue to have more of a custom-created radio experience, now called Apple Music Radio, with stations in a range of genres programmed apparently by music experts. Beats 1 listening will be available to anyone with an Apple ID, not just people who pay $10 a month while Apple Music radio stations will also be available outside the paywall, but only subscribers get unlimited song skipping. The Music app has had a slight redesign too complete with a new MiniPlayer that appears above the tabs at the bottom of the app.
3. OS X El Capitan
In comparison to a new music streaming service to rival Spotify and a worldwide radio station with real superstar DJs (well Zane Lowe), a new operations system doesn’t seem quite cut it. But I’m sure the Apple fan boys and girls will still be frothing at the mouth over the latest OS X named El Capitan (not Mojave as many commentators originally reported). To be honest though there are just a handful of new features to get excited about including swiping to delete an email, improved Spotlight search with movable and resizable windows and the ability to pin popular sites in Safari. It also offers SplitView (similar to AeroSnap in Windows 8) and other window-arranging features to help you organise the operating system. There’s an OS X El Capitan beta available today for developers and a public beta will be available for consumers in July. See: How to join Apple’s OS X El Capitan Beta Seed Program.
4. Apple iOS9
For iOS9 Apple has announced a raft of new features including improvements to its voice assistant Siri, multi-tasking on iPads and new features within its Maps software. Importantly, Apple devices that can run iOS 8 (including the iPhone 4S) can move to iOS 9 when it launches later this year (probably September). The move to iOS 9 should be easier too for over-the-air updates, with Apple reducing the space required to 1.3GB, down from over 4GB with the iOS 8 update. One of the new features in Maps is ‘Transit’ which aims to provide specific information on public transport for numerous major cities, including New York, San Francisco and London. Apple also revealed a new app coming to iOS 9 called simply News that is designed to offer a more personalised experience for news aggregation, offering the ability curate content based on interests and publishers. It will launch in the US, UK and Australia.
5. Apple Pay
Last but definitely not least comes Apple’s mobile payment system, Apple Pay. First announced a year ago, this contactless payment system lets people make payments by waving their iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch over the contactless payment terminal. For those worried about security it’s worth knowing that 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 your device. According to Apple, over 250,000 shopping locations in the UK will accept the system. This includes all the major banks, the London Underground and high street shops like M&S. Ocado, the online supermarket, has also announced it will offer Apple Pay within its Ocado on the Go app. Says Lawrence Hene, Retail Director at Ocado said: “Our customers love the convenience of checking out their grocery shop in just a few taps using our Ocado ‘On the Go’ iPad & iPhone apps, and Apple Pay will allow us to offer an even more convenient, secure and private way to shop.” Apple Pay is compatible with iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. It launches in July.