iOS 7

Pandora gets you coming and going

Monday, December 9, 2013 - 12:20pm

In and out of sleep, that is.

Pandora updated its iOS app for Apple devices, adding a wake-up alarm. The app already had a timer feature that encouraged falling asleep to Pandora radio with a timed shut-off. Now users can fall asleep to Pandora, wake up to Pandora, and fortify the “hours listening” metrics Pandora publishes every month.

Pandora is biting into two competing categories with the new wake-up feature. First, obviously, clock radios and the radio stations embedded in most of them. Second, Apple’s wake-up alarm built into all iOS devices.

That built-in iOS alarm is easily controlled by Siri, which is an Apple advantage. It is a simple use-case to poke Siri in the ribs, sleepily mutter “Set the alarm for 6:00am,” slam the phone down on the nightstand, and drop directly into delta sleep. Voice control would make Pandora’s alarm a killer feature. We tried to make Siri recognize Pandora’s alarm, but she grew annoyed, and suggested setting a “reminder to call mom.” OK, we acknowledge our negligence in that area, but still wish for a voice-controlled Pandora alarm clock.

We tested the alarm by setting it one minute into the future. Oddly, Pandora warned us to plug into a power source, as if our half-full battery was gasping its last breath. Never mind that -- the alarm worked fine, gently arousing us from a 60-second reverie with a selected custom station.

You can stop the alarm or snooze it for a preset amount of time. We respectfully request an “OK” function which turns off the alarm but keeps the music playing.

Songza updates iOS 7 app

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 9:15am

The release of Apple’s iOS 7 mobile operating system, with its dramatic design changes, has generated an influx of app re-releases of a new “iOS 7 update” category. In other words, little or no functional changes, but the app is prettied up to make the most of iOS 7 translucencies and other cosmetic loveliness.

Such is Songza’s upgrade, which landed in the Apple app store this week. Songza’s Concierge service (mood/activity “life moments” listening) remains unchanged, as do its finely curated genre stations. The only discernible change to our eyes is the Now Playing screen, in which the share buttons are more obvious (good for Songza brand extension) and more easily accessed (good for users who love sharing). The design is quite beautiful on an iPhone, not so striking in the iPad app.

In the iOS 7-upgrade race, Songza has now caught up with Slacker -- worth mentioning because the two seem locked in an orbital dance. Slacker recently copied Songza’s day/mood/activity listening model with the My Vibe section of its app, which it launched with iOS 7 beautification. That maneuver definitely comprised an eat-your-lunch aggression toward Songza. (See RAIN coverage here.) In our humble opinion, Slacker still looks better, and has more streamlined navigation.

For listeners, though, the main test is quality of music. All these mobile platform apps have the same essential design elements. Does the playlist work for you? That’s what counts.

Apple shakes the ground with early iTunes Radio usage

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - 12:10pm

Apple is showing off some dazzling M’s:

  • 200M iOS 7 activations (iOS 7 includes iTunes Radio by default)
  • 9M iPhones sold (combined iPhone 5s and 5c)
  • 11M unique listeners on iTunes Radio

That last item is generating some noise in the media echo chamber, and some misunderstanding. Witness this CNET headline: “At this pace, iTunes Radio beats Pandora in a month.” As baseball enters the scramble of its final pennant races, it should be a reminder that in sports and business, it’s a long season. Predicting Pandora’s defeat after less than a week of Apple competition is like predicting an undefeated season for a pitcher who wins his first game in April.

Furthermore, there is an importance difference between unique users and active users. As anyone in the content business knows, attracting unique users is hard, but converting them to active users who return to the brand is even harder. Pandora has over 200M uniques, and over 70M actives. It is fair to presume that many of Apple's 11M uniques were engaged in experimental listening. The three-month build-up to iOS 7 and iTunes Radio, following Apple’s WWDC announcement in June, naturally created some degree of must-try anticipation. No data are available as to whether Pandora experienced a listening dip over the weekend. But whether it did or not, it is reasonable to assume that Pandora and Apple are sharing uniques. Some of them will probably become unglued from existing Pandora habits. But it’s also reasonable to assume that with Apple’s colossal iOS 7 footprint (e.g. those 200M activations, with more to come), some of the 11M uniques are first-timers dipping their toes into the currents of internet radio for the first time. Those might be users that Pandora will never acquire ... or never would even absent Apple's gravitational field.

Music streaming is not a one-winner business, any more than the mobile ecosystem industry consolidates around a single dominant player. However, carrying through that comparison, major-league internet listening will probably boil down to two, three, or four preeminent platforms, surrounded by a cloud of smaller indies. If that’s how it plays out, it will in retrospect be unsurprising that Apple, with its intense user trust and equity in the music and mobile businesses, took a giant first step.

It might be worth noting that on Monday, Pandora stock (ticker: P) skidded from its Friday close of $26.99 to yesterday’s final price of $24.26, a plunge of just over 10 percent. There can be no certain connection between Apple's strong start and the precipitous one-day decline of P stock, of course. But Wall Street is no less reverberative than the media business.

Public gets first crack at iTunes Radio a week from tomorrow, with new iOS 7

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 11:10am

Today during its iPhone press event, Apple announced its iTunes Radio webcasting service will go live to the public when the new mobile operating system, iOS 7, becomes available on September 18.

As we've previously reported, iTunes Match customers (who pay $24.99 a year) will access iTunes Radio free with no ads. The service will be free, but with ads, for others (in the U.S.). iTunes Radio will work on iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Apple TV), and iTunes on Mac and PC. Listeners will be able to create their own stations based on songs or artists, and easily purchase music they hear. There will be a number of unique "feature" stations, and over 200 genre-based channels. There will not be any "Spotify-like" on-demand music listening.

"Because we love music," said Apple CEO Tim Cook, a short performance by artist Elvis Costello capped off the hour-long event, which mostly featured Apple's two new iPhone models, the 5S and 5C.

Read our prior coverage of iTunes Radio here.

Next week's iPhone event likely to include more details on iTunes Radio, TechCrunch thinks

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - 10:50am

Apple has sent invitations for the rumored September 10 press event (so it's now official) to introduce the latest iPhone. TechCrunch believes that since the new mobile operating system, iOS 7, is due to arrive around September 20 or so, Apple will likely include more details about iTunes Radio as well.

We reported in August that that the iTunes Radio launch would happen in September, along with several large advertising campaigns purchased by Pepsi, Nissan, and other blue-chip advertisers (see RAIN here. See more of our iTunes Radio coverage here).

Tuesday's event will take place at the Apple Campus in Cupertino. The invitations include the tagline "This should brighten everyone's day," along with a series of various colored dots under a white Apple logo. Apple is rumored to unveil  different color casings for the new phones, or at least a gold color, for what will possibly be called the iPhone 5S. A lower-cost phone, the iPhone 5C, is also likely.

Read more in TechCrunch here.

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