Apple Wants to Be Your DJ, Wallet And Newspaper
Digital newsreaders, music-streaming services, mobile wallets -- these are all promising products that have yet to gain mass adoption. Maybe that's why Apple has decided to give each a try.
Today, Apple unveiled a revamped mobile wallet and new news-reading and music-listening apps at its annual developer conference in San Francisco. Here's a rundown of its plans for each.
Apple is turning up the volume on its own music business to drown out competitors like Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio. Apple Music will roll out on June 30 for $9.99 a month. It folds an on-demand music service, a radio station and music-centric social network into one app.
"It's all the ways you love music all in one place," said Jimmy Iovine, who co-founded Beats, the headphone maker and music service that Apple bought for $3 billion last year.
People will be able to use Apple Music to stream "millions" of songs that are available in the iTunes store and check out Apple-curated playlists. They'll also be able to check out a section called Connect that marks Apple's second attempt at a music-centric social network. Unlike the defunct Ping, Connect is about artists rather than average people. Artists like Pharrell and Drake will be able to upload photos, videos and songs to their Connect profiles, which are effectively Apple's music-only version of a Facebook page.
Perhaps Apple's most surprising musical foray is Beats 1, a 24/7 radio station available around the world. "The truth is internet radio isn't really radio. It's just a playlist of songs," said Apple exec Eddy Cue. For those who may not remember -- intentionally or otherwise -- Apple has tried radio before. ITunes Radio launched in 2013 as exactly the kind of thing Mr. Cue called out on Monday. But Beats 1 is different. Like a traditional AM/FM radio station, Apple will have hosts stationed in Los Angeles, New York and London anchoring actual radio shows that seem like they'll include interviews as well as music.
It's unclear whether Apple plans to run ads on Beats 1, though the company has scheduled meetings with media buyers to discuss iTunes Radio. Advertisers are expected to spend $2.75 billion this year on digital radio ads running in the U.S., according to eMarketer estimates. That's up 28% from last year, but only 18% of the $15.13 billion the research firm expects to be spent on AM/FM radio ads this year.
The company today also confirmed that it is bringing loyalty programs to Apple Pay, starting with retailers like Kohl's, Walgreens and JCPenney. Dunkin' Donuts, which has long had a robust loyalty program, will bring its rewards program to Apple Pay this fall. And it's also allowing people to connect store-branded credit and debit cards to Apple Pay.
Google also made updates to its payment offering, unveiling at its developer conference in May an overhaul of its mobile payments, announcing Android Pay and a revamped Google Wallet. Android Pay is similar to Apple Pay, which allows people to pay with their phones at retail and online checkouts, while the Google Wallet has been updated to function basically as a peer-to-peer payments app.
Seemingly in recognition that it has finally developed a mobile wallet, Apple has renamed its Passbook app that stores people's Apple Pay-synced credit and debit cards as well as their movie tickets, boarding passes and other digitized versions of things people normally stuff in a billfold. That app -- which will now also store retailers' digitized loyalty cards -- is now called Wallet.
To help get more people using Apple Pay (and not only at major retailers) payments company Square plans to support Apple Pay with its new credit-card reader, which is designed to appeal to small- and medium-sized local merchants.
Apple has joined the ranks of tech companies like Facebook and Snapchat that want to be publishers. The company has developed a new Flipboard-like app called News that will feature custom-formatted articles from publishers including ESPN, Vanity Fair, BuzzFeed and The New York Times, the last of which has committed to upload 30 free articles each day to the app.
People will be able to select which publications they'd like to see articles from as well as which topics they're interested in. Those articles will then be presented in a personalized magazine-like layout. People will be able to swipe between articles in their feed or check out publisher- or category-specific channels.
According to Re/code, which first reported news of the app earlier on Monday, publishers will be able to sell ads against their articles in Apple's apps and keep 100% of the revenue.