iTunes Radio is a new service by Apple that allows you to play any song in the iTunes library. Those in the US have had iTunes Radio for a while now, but we're still wondering when iTunes Radio will launch in the UK. It didn't arrive in the UK with iOS 7.1, but for those in the US and in Australia, the service got a bit of a tweak with the update introducing a new search field and the ability to buy albums with the tap of a button.
In addition to the update, the launch of iTunes Radio in Australia on 10 February is a good sign for those of us still waiting for the service. It's the first time the service has been expanded beyond the US, and we expect this means Apple is working hard behind the scenes to take the service to additional countries including Canada, New Zealand and some European countries including the UK.
Some Macworld readers have reported that had iTunes Radio mysteriously started appearing in the UK last month. It has been suggested that this is a glitch on Apple’s part and that restoring the iPhone removes the service. This has led to much speculation that Apple is about to launch iTunes Radio in the UK, but as March arrived and iOS 7.1 launched there was still no sign of it here.
Has Apple said when iTunes Radio will come out in the UK?
Apple itself has neither confirmed nor denied the imminent launch of iTunes Radio, although we are expecting it in the first half of this year. What is interesting is that iTunes Radio doesn’t require a software update to work in the UK, it seems to be that Apple can turn it on at any time.
We believe that Apple is still negotiating the rights for iTunes Radio with the music industry in the UK.
iTunes Radio enables you to create a radio station using tracks from the iTunes Store. You simply enter a song or artist name into iTunes Radio and it starts playing, it then plays songs related to that Song.
How does iTunes Radio work?
So in some ways iTunes Radio is a bit like iTunes Genius, only instead of being limited to songs in your library you can play any track from the iTunes Store.
It’s a great idea and best of all iTunes radio is completely free. Apple plans to occasionally place ads between tracks, just like a commercial radio station. However, if you purchase iTunes Match (£21.99 per year) then you can use iTunes Radio commercial-free.
The problem is that iTunes Radio is only available to customersin the US and Australia at the moment, leaving those of us in the UK out in the cold. This is a shame although it’s not surprising. As a general rule we tend to see staggered launches for new music and movie services around the globe, so Spotify took a while to get to the US, and the iTunes Store took over a year to move from the US to the UK (it only opened in Hong Kong last year).
What apps are like iTunes Radio?
If you can’t wait to create a custom radio station there are other similar apps available. One of the biggest radio services is Rdio, which enables you to listen to custom radio stations. Although it costs £9.99 per month for an account.
TuneIn Radio is a free ad-supported app that works more like regular radio, but enables you to listen to internet-based stations. Meanwhile the BBC iPlayer Radio is a good app for catching up on BBC radio shows. Probably the closest competitor to iTunes Radio is Spotify, which enables you to create a playlist of tracks from a song (just like iCloud). Spotify no longer requires a premium subscription to play on the iPhone, although if you use the free service you have a more limited selection of songs. Another app worth checking out is MB by MixerBox. This enables you to create playlists of tracks from YouTube music.
Current estimates still suggest that iTunes Radio will be out this year. Bloomberg claims to have talked to people “in the know” and that iTunes Radio is launched in early 2014 in Canada, the UK and other European countries. Just how early is early 2014 is anybody's guess, but we think it’ll be sooner rather than later.
Why is iTunes Radio taking so long to come to the UK?
This isn’t because Apple is tardy, or because of technical challenges. But it’s more to do with licensing deals, these are generally negotiated with the major record labels and Apple has to negotiate with each label for each continent and country. Apple typically starts with the US because it is a US company and that’s where it’s primary market is. Britain, along with Germany and France typically come shortly afterwards.
The iTunes Store launched in April 28, 2003 in the US and June 15, 2004 in the United Kingdom. So that took just over a year to negotiate. iTunes Radio launched in the US in September this year, so we’d expect it to launch in the UK before the end of next year.
There are already services available that perform similar function to iTunes Radio in the US, including Pandora. In the UK Spotify offers a similar Radio function. While these are popular services the integration of iTunes radio directly into iTunes on the Mac, and especially into the Music app on the iPhone and iPad must surely be compelling to the music industry. After all Apple is the leading music store and iTunes Radio encourage people to purchase music that they’re listening to.
Apple has a pretty good, if somewhat fractious relationship with the music industry so we think they’ll be able to bring iTunes Radio to the UK pretty quickly.