Introduction to Apple’s New iTunes Radio Service
The Music app that comes preinstalled with iOS versions 6 and earlier enables iPhone and iPad users to listen to digital music that’s stored on their device and that was either purchased from the iTunes Store or imported from another source.
An alternative is to use a streaming music service, such as Pandora (via the free Pandora app), or to use a radio station’s proprietary app to stream programming from a traditional radio station so that it can be enjoyed using an iPhone or iPad that has continuous Internet access.
iOS 7 Features a Redesigned Music App That Now Includes a Radio Button
With the release of iOS 7 in late-2013, the redesigned Music app will offer free access to Apple’s new iTunes Radio streaming music service. When an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch has Internet access (preferably using a Wi-Fi Internet connection that has no monthly wireless data allocation associated with it), tap the Radio button (shown in Figure 1) when using the Music app to launch iTunes Radio.
Figure 1: The redesigned Music app that comes bundled with iOS 7 has a new Radio button that displays near the bottom-left corner of the screen.
Like Pandora, iTunes Radio offers more than 200 pre-created streaming radio stations. Each plays music from recording artists and bands from the selected music genre or artist, enabling you to listen to the music you enjoy, when you want to hear it. In addition, iTunes Radio enables users to create customized streaming radio stations.
Upon launching iTunes Radio, displayed at the top of the screen, you’ll discover a listing of Featured Stations, ranging from ‘80s Dance Party and Trending on Twitter, to Alternative, Pop Hits, or Country Hits.
Create Custom Radio Stations That Play Only the Music You Love
What makes iTunes Radio appealing is that with a few taps on the screen, you can create custom radio stations that stream music, for free, from your favorite artists. Simply tap the Add a Station button. Then, from the New Station screen, tap a music category. There are approximately 30 music categories to choose from. Then, choose from a list of pre-existing iTunes Radio Stations that relate to that music genre or artist.
Alternatively, using the Enter an Artist, Genre, or Song field, you have the option to use the virtual keyboard to enter the exact artist or song you want to hear, and then iTunes Radio creates a streaming radio station based on your preference. Within seconds, music starts playing.
You can hear audio from the Music app, including iTunes Radio programming, through your iPhone or iPad’s built-in speaker, a Bluetooth phone headset, EarPods, or headphones connected to the headphones jack of your iOS mobile device or through wireless speakers linked to your device via AirPlay or Bluetooth.
As music is playing, the on-screen controls (shown in Figure 2) are relatively simple. Displayed in the center of the screen is album artwork related to the song or artist that’s currently playing. Below the artwork is a time slider. To the left of this slider is a clock that displays how much of the song has already played, and to the right of the slider is a timer that displays how much of the song is remaining.
Figure 2: One option for controlling iTunes Radio is by tapping buttons and icons displayed on the screen.
Displayed under the time slider is the title of the song that’s playing, as well as the name of the artist and the title of the album that the song is from. As you look down further on the screen, you’ll notice three command icons: Favorites, Play, and Fast Forward.
As songs play, tap the Song Preferences icon (that’s shaped like a star) to access a song selection submenu. Next, tap the Favorite icon (also shaped like a star) to mark a particular song as a favorite. This impacts song selections that iTunes Radio chooses for you in the future.
Press the Play/Pause button to play the current song or pause it. By tapping the Fast Forward button, you’ll instantly jump to the next song on the iTunes Radio station’s playlist. Songs played on a custom station will be from the same artist/band or from a recording artist/band from the same music genre or era.
Listen to iTunes Radio While Using Your Favorite Apps
Keep in mind, just like when playing music that’s stored on your iPhone or iPad via the Music app, when iTunes Radio programming plays, you can switch to using another app, and iTunes Radio continues playing. When using iOS 7, you can then control the music from Control Center (shown in Figure 3), the Lock Screen, by re-opening the Music app, or from the button controls on the headphones you use.
Figure 3: You can control iTunes Radio from iOS 7’s new Control Center.
You can also use Siri to control iTunes Radio. For example, if you’re listening to a song you like, activate Siri, and say, “Play more music like this.” Or if iTunes Radio plays a song you’re not familiar with, ask Siri, “Who sings this?”
When iTunes Radio plays a song that you really like and want to own, tap the Price icon that displays near the top-right corner of the iTunes Radio screen to purchase that song from the iTunes Store. It will immediately be downloaded to your iOS mobile device and available via your iCloud account, so it can be enjoyed on your other computers and mobile devices that are linked to that iCloud account.
Also when iTunes Radio plays a song, from the main iTunes Radio app screen, you have the option to tap the Info button that displays near the top center of the screen. This can also reveal a Price icon to purchase the song or the option to purchase the entire album related to that song or artist. There are also options to select a New Station from Artist or a New Station from Song, which can provide you with a greater variety in terms of playlists streamed to your iOS mobile device based on the type of music you enjoy.
To exit any iTunes Radio screens within the Music app, tap the left-pointing arrow icon that’s displayed near the top-left corner of the screen, or tap the Done icon that’s displayed near the top-right corner of the screen, depending on what’s being displayed. You can also press the Home button to return to the Home Screen and allow the music to keep playing, or double-tap the Home button to enter into Multitasking mode and switch between already open apps, also while the music from iTunes Radio continues playing.
iTunes Radio Can Also Work with All Macs and Apple TV
If you’re a Mac user, the same iTunes Radio programming you enjoy for free from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch can also be enjoyed using the latest version of the iTunes software on any Mac. Likewise, it you can enjoy iTunes Radio programming using Apple TV.
Although there are other Internet radio alternatives to iTunes Radio, Apple has ongoing deals with virtually all the major record labels, independent record labels, and many individual recording artists and bands. As a result, Apple can offer the largest online-based music library on the planet, both through its iTunes Store and now through iTunes Radio. Thus, iTunes Radio will soon be used to help launch new artists and for established artists to debut new music before it’s heard on mainstream terrestrial radio or satellite radio.
To make iTunes Radio a free service, listeners will be exposed to advertising in the form of banners that display on the screen, as well as audio ads interspersed between songs. However, as an additional feature being offered to iTunes Match subscribers ($24.99 per year), iTunes Radio will be offered ad-free.
The iTunes Radio service offers yet another reason to get excited about the release of iOS 7 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and the release of OS X Mavericks for the Mac.