Apple iTunes Radio

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As was widely speculated, at WWDC 2013 today Apple unveiled iTunes Radio, its entry into the already-crowded streaming-music field.

Like the popular streaming-music service Pandora, iTunes Radio lets you create personalized radio stations based on one or more artists, albums, songs, or genres of your choice. This makes it an attractive alternative to your iTunes library if you’re looking to discover new music. And if you are already using iTunes or the built-in Music app on iOS as your media player of choice, then jumping onto iTunes Radio is almost a no-brainer, since it will come built into these programs come fall.

Because Apple was able to strike deals with all the major record labels, iTunes Radio already has a sizable music catalog to attract listeners who are not already tied to another similar service.

Apple shows off iTunes Radio at WWDC 2013.
With iTunes Radio, its easy to jump to the iTunes Store to purchase the song that’s currently playing. (Credit: James Martin/CNET)

One thing that sets Apple’s product apart from competitors is its access to your iTunes account and all of your purchase data. Because of this connection, the more music you play and purchase, the better iTunes Radio gets at creating featured stations that are tailored to your taste. On top of this, iTunes Radio makes it easy to quickly jump from radio-play to the iTunes Store to purchase the track that is currently playing. Apple, of course, hopes that this bridge between music discovery and purchase will make for a very profitable (for the company) cycle.

In addition to the algorithmically programmed stations that are available, iTunes Radio comes with more than 200 genre-based stations and even a station dedicated to music currently trending on Twitter.

Featured stations based on your iTunes history are a big part of the iTunes Radio experience. (Credit: James Martin/CNET)

While you listen, iTunes Radio lets you manually customize stations by tapping Play More Like This or Never Play This Song. This is similar to Pandora’s Vote Up and Vote Down system. Beyond this, iTunes Radio gives you a slider to adjust a station’s balance between top hits and lesser-known tracks, which is great for creating a more personalized experience according to your listening preferences or mood.

Because iTunes Radio comes integrated with Siri, it lets you issue voice commands to play stations, get track information, and add songs to a wish list. You can also tell it to pause, stop, or skip a song.

Apple’s iTunes Radio will come built into the Music app on devices running iOS 7. In addition, it will be available through iTunes on Macs and PCs, and on Apple TV. It is an ad-supported service, but comes ad-free if you’re an iTunes Match subscriber. It will be available in the U.S. at launch, but Apple does plan to expand to other countries in the future.

While iTunes Radio doesn’t appear to have any killer features that will make Pandora devotees want to switch immediately, the convenience of having it built into iOS 7 will likely make it an attractive option for iOS users who haven’t yet committed to another streaming-radio service.

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