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Summary:

Later today, Apple will release iOS 7 and with it, iTunes Radio. Although I’m a big user of Google services and devices, iTunes Radio is consistently playing better music to my ear than Google’s competing service.

iTunes radio home

At some point on Wednesday, Apple will release iOS 7; the most radical update yet to its mobile operating system. The software features an all new look and a bundle of features that we’ll be taking a deeper look at later but one of the most surprisingly good ones is the addition of iTunes Radio.

iTunes Radio

I should preface this by saying I use an Android phone far more often than I use my iPhone 5. And I’ve tried a number of online music services over the years, ranging from Spotify, Rdio, Xbox Music, Pandora and many more. Lately I’ve been testing a free trial of Google Play Music All Access, but since installing iOS 7 on my iPhone, it’s been iTunes Radio powering my headphones and speakers.

I’m very impressed with what Apple has put together in iTunes Radio. The app is super clean-looking and easy to use. There’s just enough in the way of settings to keep me happy and it’s a snap to create a new station from an artist or song. You can vary the station’s music by playing only hits, more variety or a wide range of music discovery. And the app will learn more about you when you click the little star icon and tell the app to play more like the current song or never play the song again. You can skip up to six songs an hour.

iTunes Radio settings

The new iTunes Radio is free — helping to add appeal — although there are occasional ads. They’re not very obtrusive and are often about the artists I’m listening to: New or upcoming albums and such. Note that iTunes Match service subscribers won’t hear any ads. And every single song has a purchase button, so there’s another money maker for Apple. That button doesn’t take you to the iTunes store, however. In a smart move, Apple has built the purchase process right into the app: Click the price and it turns into a “Buy” button; tap it and you’re done.

One definite feature that I think some will miss is the lack of offline listening. Then again, the product is pitched as a “radio” app so this might not bother everyone. I’m generally always on a Wi-Fi network so my offline time is minimal; perhaps I’d feel differently if that wasn’t the case. And I carry enough of my own local music that this doesn’t bother me.

So if iTunes Radio sounds like just another streaming music service, why do I like it better than I thought? It has to do with the music choice. I’m shocked that iTunes Radio is offering what I think is more music that I enjoy than Google Play Music All Access. Considering how much I use Google through my Chromebook Pixel, Android devices and Google apps, I would have thought Google would know my musical preferences better.

Based on my use of iTunes Radio, that’s not the case; at least not subjectively to my ear. I find that with Google All Access, I’m spending more time tuning the stations to my likes and dislikes of each song. For iTunes Radio I might have disliked two or three songs over the past week. Here’s a recent history of tunes played; it might not be music you like, but every song was a winner to my ear. Granted, we all have different music tastes so your experience could differ.

itunes radio history

As a result, I’ll probably cancel my All Access trial with Google and save the $9.99 per month. I won’t be able to listen to iTunes Radio on my Chromebook or Android devices, but iTunes has found a new lease on life for the iMac on my desk. And I just might be carrying an iPhone a little more often too.

  1. I tested out TuneIn recently. The diversity of programming is far better than on any of the selection-type “radios.” The listener can switch from local news to talk shows to almost any kind of music instantly. I’m now using it on phone, tablet, computer, and a Logitech internet radio. It’s far better if your listening needs shift during the day and if you like really, really obscure music, which I do.

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    1. Completely agree. I use TuneIn quite a bit actually; mainly for stations that stream the Beatles 7×24. I’m a different kind of user; I generally don’t switch channels during the day at all. For those that do, TuneIn is awesome.

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    2. Agree – like TuneIn. I also started using Songza which has some good “stations”.

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      1. Yeah, tunein is sweet but 8tracks just fits in right too :D

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  2. I agree Google Music radio sucks. I found that it doesn’t really respond to station personalization well and has a high probability of picking songs I dislike. I don’t have an iPhone otherwise I might try it. For now I still stick to Pandora when I want to listen to radio and Google Music when I know what artist I want to listen to.

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  3. Personally, I have very little interest in “discovering” new music, so it will be nice to be able to set the level of discovery. Looking forward to trying iTunes Radio and getting rid of Pandora which has been getting more annoying as time goes on.

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  4. Apple really needs to come up with Offline listening app.

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    1. Yeah! But not just them. Pandora, Raditaz, Songza and others need to follow Slacker’s lead.

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  5. I have iTunes Match so no ads and I can skip as I want. iTunes match is a great deal at $24.95 per year allowing you to store and play your music from the could and you can upload any music from any source and it will convert it to 256k AAC or you can keep it in whatever format you want. even if you don’t resubscribe to iTunes match you can keep your music forever.
    With iTunes radio you have your own music plus radio music in one app. Pretty nice. I’ve been using iTunes radio for about a month in beta and it is just really good. I also have a subscription to Google Play Music all access (change the dumb name google) and will keep it for awhile but will probably dump it in favor of iTunes Radio. The new flat design in this case is very nice making for a simple interface and maximum use of screen space. I don’t like all the new flat designs but this one is excellent.
    Between Google Play Music and this I would be very concerned if I were Spotify, Pandora, Slacker, etc.

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    1. I have match but I can’t skip more than 6 songs.

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  6. Holy crap, i didn’t even know you could change the variety. One of the first things i did while I was navigating the phone to see whats new was go to music, saw the radio, tried it and completely agree with your post. The quality of the music is amazing and it played the top songs that I love that i don’t currently have first. I haven’t turned it off after two hours and no annoying blaring Pandora ads either. This is just great. Pandora is done.

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  7. can anyone tell me whether iTunes Radio is only for US subscribers – or is it available in other countries? Tks

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  8. Is iTunes radio available on non IOS7 devices? I have an older iPod that won’t update to IOS7 but seems iTunes radio is not available. Pandora can stream to this device, can Apple?

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    1. Joe, I think iOS 7 is required for iTunes Radio on a a mobile device. :(

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  9. I have match but I can’t skip more than 6 songs.

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