The end of iTunes for many consumers is bringing a new era for podcasters. Apple announced it will launch a dedicated app for Apple Podcasts, the means by which roughly 60% of all shows are consumed. Craig Federighi, Senior VP of Software Engineering at Apple, told the annual Worldwide Developers Conference Monday in San Jose that the standalone app will come with the release of the next version of MacOS called Catalina. For Windows users, iTunes will live on, at least for the time being.
The dedicated Apple Podcasts desktop app “features all the great features you are used to in iOS like where you can see new episodes, and keep track of your listening across all of your devices,” Federighi said. “And it includes a great new feature that has to do with search.”
Even bigger for podcasters than the launch of a dedicated app was the news Apple was also using its technology to help tackle the growing issue of how to help listeners find their way through what are now more than 700,000 podcasts on Apple Podcasts. “Sometimes you hear about something on the radio or a new podcast on the news and you want to hear more about that but you’re not sure what show was or what the title was,” Federighi said. “Now we use machine learning to index the spoken contents of podcasts so you can search that content and find the podcast with just a few clicks in the app.”
The iTunes breakup, at least on iOS devices, will also mean a new dedicated Apple Music app. “With its singular focus on music it’s so simple but it has all the powerful music features that you expect from iTunes, all while being blazingly fast. It is the best place for Apple Music subscribers with personalized recommendations from a catalog of over 50 million tracks,” Federighi said. It’s a move that’s likely aimed at bolstering its $15-per month Apple Music service which currently has more than 50 million subscribers. Apple TV is also getting its own app that will include access to third-party streaming services and premium channels. “The future of iTunes is not one app, but three,” Federighi said.
Apple said users will still be able to buy and download songs through the iTunes' Music store within the Apple Music app, and purchase movies and TV shows in the Apple TV app. Analysts say the shift away from iTunes is consistent with consumer preferences to pay for access to content rather than an ownership model.
Apple is also making it easier for podcasters and streaming music companies to find users of the Apple Watch. The company said the device is now getting its own App Store. It means users won’t have to rely on their companion iPhone to find or download apps. “You can stream great content like podcasts, music, live sports games,” said Kevin Lynch, VP of Technology at Apple.
Handoff Comes To HomePod
In a move that will make it easier for podcast listeners to start a show at home and then take it with them on the go—or vice versa—Apple is bringing its Handoff feature
to the HomePod. “Now when you walk through the door just bring your iPhone close to your HomePod to instantly handoff music, a podcast, or even a phone call and you can just take it with you when you leave,” said Stacey Lysik, Senior Director of OS Program at Apple.
In a related move, Apple also announced five-year old CarPlay is getting its biggest update so far. “It all starts with the CarPlay dashboard,” Lysik said. “You can now have your music next to your maps and still have room for Siri smart suggestions like a garage door opener when you get close to home.”
She said CarPlay will also now supports third-party apps like iHeartRadio, Pandora and Spotify. “Music has been redesigned so your album art is front and center and beautiful. Siri stays out of the way so you don’t lose sight of what’s on the display,” Lysik said.
100,000 Radio Stations
Responding to what’s fast becoming an audio-first world, Apple on Monday unveiled new ways it will make it easier to listen to live radio and podcasts on its devices. While the tech behemoth has long supported popular streaming radio apps, Siri is getting in on the action, so that users can call on the digital assistant to access some 100,000 radio stations.
Amid a barrage of product updates announced at its Worldwide Developers Conference yesterday in San Jose, Apple said it is making live radio available via Siri, its digital assistant. “Today we’re introducing live radio so you can ask Siri to play stations from iHeartRadio, TuneIn and Radio.com,” said Lysik. “In fact we have over 100,000 radio stations from all around the world.”
Apple already had a relationship with iHeartMedia and a spokesperson for the radio and streaming company said the integration with Siri will be added later this year.
Apple’s live radio announcement came as part of an update on Siri, which Apple said it is improving for use on its HomePod smart speaker, AirPods wireless earbuds, iPhone and CarPlay, the tech behemoth’s connected car platform. Handoff, the feature that allows you to start something on one Apple device and then pick it up on another, will now let you walk into the home and tap your iPhone to transfer whatever is playing on your iPhone to HomePod. So someone listening to a live radio stream on their iPhone can continue listening to the station when they get to their home or office or another location where they use Apple’s HomePod smart speaker.
According to Edison Research, 41% of first adopters have asked their smart speaker to listen to an AM/FM station in the past week, compared to 47% of early mainstream users. First adopters are defined as an individual who has owned a smart speaker for at least one year while early mainstream refers to those who have owned one for less than a year.