Is Apple’s New Music Streaming Really Up To the Challenge?

After what has seemed like a long wait, Apple has finally announced more details about its brand new music streaming service, which will be known as iTunes Radio. It is due to launch in the second half of 2013, and it was announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco in June this year, alongside an updated version of the Apple operating system.

itunes radio

Apple’s operating system has come under fire from industry experts as lacking any significant updates in recent years, and it was seen as being outdated compared to its rivals, most notably Android and Windows, which allow users to multitask apps. Thankfully, the new Apple operating system now supports multitasking apps as well as coming with a fresh new look and typeface.

The launch has been delayed from last fall due to the length of time it has taken to sign up all of the major music producing companies. Sony Music was the last company to sign up to the service in early June, and now Apple are in a position to launch their music streaming service to the general public.

Apple’s iTunes Radio is going to be offered as a free service. However, listeners will have to listen to sporadic advertisements from time to time. For those customers who do not wish to listen to advertisements, they have the option to subscribe to iTunes Match, which will not only be ad-free, but it will also store all of your music in iCloud, and that includes songs you have imported from CDs and purchased elsewhere – all for the low cost of $25 per year.

One of the biggest selling points of the new Apple iTunes Radio has been the use of iCloud, as this will allow you to store all of your music and listen to it on different Apple devices, such as an iPhone, Mac or Apple TV. Plus, it will tailor its music stations to the kind of music you play and download, so the more you use it, the more personalized your listening experience will be. And your listening experience doesn’t stop there, as you will also have the opportunity to customize radio stations to suit your music tastes.

Apple’s Siri can also be used to control your music and you can ask Siri to identify the song and artist that you are currently listening to. If you are listening to a particular genre, and you would like to listen to more of the same you can even instruct Siri to “play more songs like this.”

One advantage that Apple iTunes Radio has over the likes of Spotify and other music streaming sites is that because they are the most popular music store, they are likely to have the latest music releases as soon as they come available, and before everyone else.

There is no doubt that there is fierce competition amongst online music streaming sites, as only a couple of months ago, internet search giant Google threw its hat into the ring of internet music services. Add to that, the music streaming sites such as Spotify, Rhapsody, Pandora Internet Radio and others, the music listening public has never had so much choice when it comes to internet radio sites.

Apple iTunes Radio is primarily designed to target those people who already own Apple devices and its use of iCloud to play tunes across a number of different devices is sure to be popular among Apple aficionados, however, the jury is still out on whether it will be enough to convince existing customers of other music streaming sites to swap.

Andy Heaps  has over 15 years of experience working in the telecoms industry. At present he is employed by thecomparison.co.uk as an editor and chief technical advisor. 

Image via Billboard

ITunes Remains Most Popular Platform for Online Music Sales

iTunes gift cards
A new study released by the NPD Group revealed that Apple’s iTunes remains the most popular method for buying music online.  The study, which was released last April 16 showed that iTunes remains the dominant music download service for the last quarter of 2012.

The NPD study revealed that iTunes maintains a healthy 63 percent share of the market for the last quarter of 2012. This means that almost six of every ten music downloads happens in iTunes. The second placer in the study is Amazon, which has a 22 percent market share. Continue reading

10 Things You Don’t Know Your iPhone Can Do

You’ve probably never read all 284 pages of Apple’s official iPhone manual, but we have. We’ve found 10 awesome things to make your life easier that you probably don’t know your iPhone can do.

10-things-your-iphone-can-do-autocorrectStop Autocorrect

iPhone users love to complain about Autocorrect, but you can actually make it a lot smarter with just a little effort. Identify whatever words or phrases you use frequently that Autocorrect doesn’t seem to like, and do this.

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap General > Keyboard > Add New Shortcut.
  3. Enter your unusual word or phrase in the Phrase field, but leave the Shortcut field empty.

10-things-your-iphone-can-do-shortcutsCreate Your Own Typing Shortcuts

Avid texters love to use acronyms like “lol” or “imho.” Whether you’re into that sort of thing or you just want to speed up your texting, you can create shortcuts to do a lot of the work for you. Get creative and use them for any phrase, word, or even names of people you text frequently.

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap General > Keyboard > Add New Shortcut.
  3. Enter your word or phrase in the “Phrase” field, and whatever sequence of letters you want to use for your shortcut in the “Shortcut” field.

10-things-your-iphone-can-do-smsSwitch Between iMessage Texting and SMS

This one’s useful for those times when Apple’s iMessage service is on the fritz. If you can’t get a message to send through iMessage, you can have it try again as a standard SMS text message.

  • Double-tap on the blue bubble you want to resend as SMS. The bubble will turn green, indicating that your phone has changed it to an SMS text and sent it that way.

10-things-your-iphone-can-do-siri-punctuationHave Siri Insert Punctuation in Your Dictations

Siri’s great for dictating stuff to instead of always thumbing the virtual keyboard. But if you want to dictate more formally, with proper punctuation marks and all, that’s always an option. Siri understands all punctuation marks if you say them aloud, like “new paragraph” or “quote… end quote.”

  • Just say what you want, exactly where you want it. For example, you might dictate, “Hi comma how are you question mark” to get Siri to output “Hi, how are you?”

10-things-your-iphone-can-do-vibrationsCreate Customized Vibrations

You probably know you can set different ringtones for different callers, and chimes for notifications. You may even know that you can set different vibrations for various uses. But did you know you can use your iPhone to create vibration patterns? Maybe you want your phone to vibrate in Morse Code, or the drum beat to a favorite song. It can be anything you can imagine.

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap Sounds, then select any item on the “Sounds and Vibration Patterns” list.
  3. Tap Vibration.
  4. Tap “Create New Vibration.”
  5. Tap out the vibration you want to create. When you’re satisfied with it, tap Save. You can now assign it to any action or caller.

10-things-your-iphone-can-do-dial-breakAutomate Phone Dialing of Extensions and Pass Codes

Speed-dial is great, but it hits a big ol’ speed bump when you have to dial an extension or you get one of those godawful automated operators. Fortunately there’s a very easy way to keep even this part simple. Using one of two options, you can insert pauses in your speed-dialing.

  1. Go to Contacts.
  2. Select the one you want to add an extension to, and tap Edit.
  3. Enter the phone number first.
  4. Tap the “+*#” button on the keypad.
  5. Choose Pause or Wait and then enter the extension.

Pause inserts a 2-second break. You can use Pause multiple times if you want to add longer breaks. Use this one when you know exactly how long the break is between the answer on the other end and the moment when you’re directed to enter the extension.

Wait stops all dialing activity until you hit the Dial button a second time. So you enter the phone number and then it kicks into the Wait function while you listen for the recording on the other end to finish. Use this when you don’t know the exact break time between when they answer and when they ask for your extension. Or if the break is a different length each time you call.

10-things-your-iphone-can-do-focusLock the Camera’s Focus and Exposure

I never knew about this one until I read the iPhone manual, and boy do I wish I’d known it before now. You know how it is: you’re trying to snap a great picture but people or cars or whatever keep moving in and out of the frame in the foreground — making the camera’s autofocus go all kinds of wonky. It keeps changing focus so various areas of the frame get blurry while others sharpen up, shifting between light and dark, and it all fluctuates so wildly you can’t get it to land on the right focus or exposure. To work around this, you can easily force your camera to focus on one specific spot and lock it there.

  1. With the Camera app open, identify the spot on the screen that you want it to lock focus on.
  2. Touch and hold your finger on that spot until the rectangle starts to pulse. “AE/AF Lock” will appear on the screen near the shutter, indicating that you’ve been successful. Now, no matter what happens, the focus and exposure both will remain locked on your sweet spot.
  3. When you’re ready to turn it off, just tap the screen.

10-things-your-iphone-can-do-itunes-barChange the Shortcut Buttons in the iTunes Store

The iPhone’s version of the iTunes Store is very minimal, and one size doesn’t fit all. The black shortcut bar at the bottom defaults to Music, Movies, TV, and Search, but if these don’t suit your needs, you can customize the bar to include the shortcuts you want.

  1. Open the iTunes Store on your phone.
  2. In the shortcut bar at the bottom, tap on More at the far right.
  3. On the next screen, tap Edit in the top right corner.
  4. A new menu will slide down showing the nine buttons available to use in the shortcut bar. You can change out your shortcuts for stuff like Tones (ringtones), Audiobooks, Genius, and more.

Sadly, you can’t customize the shortcut bars in the App Store or iBooks.

10-things-your-iphone-can-do-donotdisturbTrick Out Do-Not-Disturb Mode

You’ve probably heard of Do Not Disturb mode, but you may not realize just how smart and useful it can be. It’s not a blanket thing where you throw the switch and suddenly all sounds are turned off. Or rather, it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t even have to manually turn it on and off.

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap Notifications, then Do Not Disturb.
  3. The next screen gives you a number of options you can tweak here to make DND work more intelligently. At the top of the screen you can set specific time you’d like your iPhone to turn DND on and off for you each day. Below that, you can allow calls from specific people when DND is on. (These are defined in Contacts, by setting individuals as Favorites or putting them in Groups.)

10-things-your-iphone-can-do-zoomZoom In

You don’t have to have vision problems to want to see things on your screen a little easier. Your iPhone’s robust Accessibility suite includes a nifty option for zooming in that works on the Home screen and inside most apps.

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap General > Accessibility > Zoom.
  3. Turn Zoom on.

From here, use the following gestures to control the settings on-the-fly:

  • Auto-zoom in and out: double-tap the screen with 3 fingers
  • Manually zoom in and out: tap the screen with 3 fingers and then drag up or down
  • Navigate a zoomed-in screen: drag the screen with 3 fingers

Apple Plans to Reimburse Accidental In-App Purchases in Kids’ Apps

Toca Store on iPad (Toca Boca)

It’s clear that kids love iOS devices. My kids can’t get enough of the iPad. Even if I tell them that I need the iPad for work (I use it for accessing another email account, making to-do lists, appointments, and work charts), they often win in the end and would play their favorite games or watch cartoons on Youtube. It’s amazing the way kids can navigate through these devices and actually finding AND using functions they shouldn’t be using – like buying stuff.

This was a problem with previous versions of iOS, specifically the ones before version 4.3. With these earlier versions, people could make in-app purchases without having to enter the password – specifically during the 15 minute period after downloading a new app. Continue reading