By Alexandra Burlacu | Jun 11, 2013 02:50 PM EDT
After countless rumors and lots of speculation, Apple finally makes it official: the much-talked-about iRadio is very much real and it's here as iTunes Radio.
Apple is a pioneer when it comes to sales of digital music, but it arrives quite late in the growing music-streaming business. After tough negotiations for more than a year with music labels and publishers, the Cupertino tech giant is finally ready to jump with both feet in this booming sector with its own music streaming service.
Apple's new iTunes Radio feature is set to launch this fall along with a new version of the company's mobile operating system, iOS 7, going head-to-head with fierce and established rivals such as Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, Twitter Music and Google Play All Access.
On the other hand, Apple is not just any newcomer and the company is far from being a newbie. Its iTunes store is already the largest music retailer in the whole wide world and despite the fact that Apple's late to this particular party, the iTunes Radio could give iTunes a great boost.
Apple's new iTunes Radio is basically what rumors said it would be. It's a new streaming music service that takes users' tastes and preferences into account in order to play similar tracks that are likely to suit their tastes - much like Spotify.
In other words, Apple is essentially using its Genius jukebox-like feature, which goes through users' libraries to build various playlists based on genre, or suggests other artists and tracks based on what the user is listening to at that point. The big difference with the new iTunes Radio service, however, is that it can access the iTunes catalog in all its massive entirety, which currently amasses more than 26 million tracks. Universal, Sony and Warner have Apple's back on this one.
As expected, the service will use ads, both text and audio, to support the streaming so the service is free for U.S. users. A while ago some whispers suggested the negotiations hit a rough patch over track skipping, but this feature is also on board.
To be honest, Apple's new iTunes Radio looks very similar to Pandora. Users will be able to create their own stations or give thumbs up when they enjoy a track. Apple also embedded a "Buy" button in the corner of every song to encourage purchases in the iTunes Store.
The iTunes Radio will come integrated into iOS 7, the iPhone, iPod Touch, Apple TV, as well as iTunes on Macs and PCs. The company's music team built 200 stations for iTunes Radio and users will also be able to follow whatever music is trending on Twitter.
The new iTunes Radio service will launch sometime in the fall and it will initially be available only for U.S. users. The rollout should come at or around the same time as iOS 7. As previously mentioned, the service is ad-supported, except for iTunes Match subscribers. Apple's cloud-based music library costs $24.99 per year and will deliver an ad-free experience for subscribers.
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