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November 14, 2014

Beats, Apple Launch Solo2 Wireless Headphones

Beats Solo2 Wireless Beats by Dr. Dre today expanded its wireless lineup with the launch of the Solo2 Wireless on-ear headphones.

Solo2 Wireless features the same sound and design as the original Solo2, but without the hassle of being tethered to your device.

Using Bluetooth, the Solo2 Wireless can connect to a smartphone, tablet, computer, or boombox from up to up to 30 feet away. But they also allow the wearer to take calls, skip songs, and change the volume on the headphones' ear cup.

A rechargeable battery also promises up to 12 hours of wireless playback. Once the headphones run out of juice, just plug in the provided RemoteTalk cable, and continue jamming out.

"We're taking the most popular headphone in the world and adding wireless Bluetooth functionality to it," Beats president Luke Wood said in a statement. "The Solo2 is already a world-class headphone much lauded for its acoustics, and now it joins our growing family of successful wireless products."



April 24, 2014

Apple Closing In on 800M iTunes Accounts

Review: iTunes 11.1

Apple this week announced that iTunes accounts are approaching 800 million.

That's a "staggering number," CEO Tim Cook said during a Wednesday earnings call with analysts. Most of those accounts, meanwhile, are linked to a credit card, he said.

"iTunes software and services revenue continues to grow at a double-digit rate, thanks to an incredible ecosystem and our very large, loyal and engaged customer base," Cook said. "With its strong momentum in growing profitability, iTunes is a very important driver of our business not only here in the United States, but around the world."

Overall iTunes software and services revenue was $4.6 billion for the first quarter, up 11 percent year over year and an all-time quarterly record, said Luca Maestri, who will take over for Peter Oppenheimer as CFO this fall.



July 1, 2013

Microsoft Launches Xbox Music for the Web

Xbox Music

Microsoft on Monday launched Xbox Music for the Web.

Until now, Xbox Music was only available on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 devices, as well as the Xbox 360, but this update provides access via the browser at music.xbox.com.

There's no free streaming option, however. You'll need to purchase an Xbox Music Pass to start listening. Microsoft is offering a free, 30-day trial (when you provide credit card information). After that, it's $9.99 for a one-month pass or $99.90 for a one-year subscription.

Xbox Music was unveiled at E3 2012 and made its official debut in October, shortly before the launch of Windows 8. The all-in-one music service lets music lovers dive into tunes as they see fit by streaming custom-created playlists as well as subscribing to and streaming songs.

Xbox Music leverages the cloud to integrate the music experience across all devices: phone, PC, TV, and tablet. It comes pre-installed as the default music player on all Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 devices, and is also available on the Xbox 360.



June 27, 2013

iTunes Radio Royalties Reportedly Higher Than Pandora’s

iTunes Radio WWDC 2013

Apple already hooked the big-three music labels for its new iTunes Radio service, but now it's looking to bolster its indie cred.

The company has reportedly been sharing details with independent record labels about the royalties it will pay to major labels for iTunes Radio, and those rates are more than what rival Pandora pays to stream songs on its service, the Wall Street Journal reported.

During the first year of iTunes Radio, Apple will pay 13 cents each time a song is played, plus 15 percent of net advertising revenue, according to the Journal, which reviewed Cupertino's terms. That amount gets a boost in year two, rising to 14 cents per listen, plus 19 percent of ad revenue.

Pandora, meanwhile, pays out 12 cents per listen on its Internet radio service, which currently boasts more than 70 million listeners, as well as a library of more than 100,000 different artists.

But Apple does not pay for performances of songs already in listeners' iTunes libraries or those on an album the user already owns part of. Those tracks selected for special promotions also come royalty-free, the Journal said, and Cupertino will get away without paying for songs that listeners skip in the first 20 seconds — applicable only to two songs per hour for any given user.

Apple did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment.



June 21, 2013

iTunes Users Buying About $12 Worth of Music Each Year

iTunes 11

What are you buying on iTunes? According to new stats from Asymco, users are spending most of their money on apps, though video consumption has exploded in recent years.

In announcing that HBO GO and WatchESPN are now on Apple TV, Cupertino this week revealed that iTunes users have now downloaded one billion TV episodes and 380 million movies to date, and are purchasing over 800,000 TV episodes and over 350,000 movies per day.

Asymco's Horace Dediu decided to break down those numbers, and "my new estimate for the rate of spending on iTunes video is about $1.75 billion" per year, he wrote in a blog post. Dediu had previously underestimated how much money people were spending on movies, so "this is much more substantial than prior estimate," he wrote.



June 7, 2013

Report: iRadio Closer to Reality With Apple, Sony Deal

iRadio

Apple and Sony Music have reportedly inked a deal, moving Cupertino's anticipated iRadio service another step forward.

According to All Things Digital — which cited a person familiar with the companies' negotiations — this means Apple now has the support of all three major music labels, including Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group.

Don't expect to start tuning into iRadio just yet, though. Cupertino still needs to snag the support of Sony/ATV, Sony's music publishing department, ATD said.

Neither Apple nor Sony Music Entertainment immediately responded to PCMag's request for comment.

Excited iFanatics may want to keep an eye on next week's Apple Worldwide Developer Conference, where details about the aptly named iRadio service could surface. ATD described the service as "an enhanced version of Pandora" with more control over songs, but not as full-featured as something like Spotify.



May 30, 2013

Apple Unveils 16GB iPod Touch for $229, Drops Rear Camera

16GB iPod touch

Although the iPhone is still the one of the most coveted Apple gadgets, the device generally comes with a contract, making it difficult to give to someone as a gift. As a result, the iPod touch is often a good alternative, and Apple has now quietly introduced an update to its popular device.

The new iPod touch offers 16GB for $229, a 4-inch Retina display, and is only offered in black with a grey backing. What's new? The device does not come with the standard iSight camera, a design decision that not only explains the lower price, but also indicates that this model of the iPod touch may be specifically geared toward music lovers and gamers. Not to worry - there is still a 1.2-megapixel front-facing cam for selfies and video chats.

Also missing, however, is the iPod touch loop, a hardware design feature that allowed users to connect a carrying strap to the device.

The full-featured iPod touches with Retina display sell for $299 (32GB) or $399 (64GB).



May 15, 2013

Google Launches All Access Music Service in Play Store

Google Music subscription

SAN FRANCISCO—Google on Wednesday launched a new music service called Google Play All Access here at the Google I/O developer conference.

For $9.99 a month, users of All Access will be able to listen to "millions of tracks" in the Google Play Store in addition to their own personal music libraries, said Google engineering director Chris Yerga.

"We set out to build a music service that doesn't just give you access to great music, but guides you to the music you want to hear. Google Play All Access is a uniquely Google approach to a subscription music service," he said.

All Access features expert-curated playlists that subscribers can access and add to their own libraries or create "radio stations" within Google Play's music service. The idea behind the service was to add a better discovery process for music lovers seeking to find new tracks, Yerga said.

"Anything you see, you can play. You can turn All Access into a radio station and this is radio without rules. It's as lean back as you want or as interactive as you want it to be," he said.

Google made the new service available in the U.S. immediately with All Access set to roll out in other countries in the "coming months," he said. U.S. subscribers will get a 30-day free trial—if you sign up for the free trial before July 30, the monthly subscription price drops to $7.99, Yerga said.



May 12, 2013

Apple’s ‘iRadio’ Streaming Service Reportedly Stalls with Sony Music

iTunes

Waiting on iRadio, Apple's rumored streaming service that's likely to make executives at Pandora and Spotify, among others, a wee bit nervous?

Keep waiting.

The latest rumors surrounding Apple's to-be-announced service are a mix of good and bad. Unfortunately, it's the latter that's allegedly keeping the service stalled at the moment, with Apple and music industry representatives still working out the contentious issue of licensing fees.

According to Apple Insider, Apple initially offered the record labels all of 6.5 cents for every one hundred tracks streamed on Apple's service. The labels balked, as that figure is just a tad over half of what Pandora allegedly pays for the right to stream its songs. Apple eventually ended up boosting its offer to 12.5 cents per 100 songs — matching Pandora's alleged rate — which helped the company convince Universal Music to enter into a licensing agreement.

While that's a feather in Apple's cap, given that Universal Music is the world's largest record company, it still leaves Sony Music and Warner Music Group to convince. Apple Insider also reports that Apple's apparently close to getting Warner to sign on board. However, Sony continues to balk at Apple's terms in the hopes that company will sweeten the deal.



April 16, 2013

A Decade Later, iTunes Still Dominates Music Downloads

How to Back Up an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch Using iTunes

Nearly 10 years after it first launched, Apple's iTunes Store continues to dominate the market for digital music downloads, according to a new report from the NPD Group.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, iTunes grabbed 63 percent share of the paid music download market, followed by Amazon MP3 with 22 percent. Moreover, eight out of 10 digital music buyers downloaded their tracks and albums from iTunes during that period.

Overall, some 44 million Americans bought at least one track or album download last year. That figure has remained "relatively stable" over the past three years, even with the rise of music streaming options like Pandora and Spotify.

"Since the launch of Apple's iTunes store, digital music downloads have become the dominant revenue source for the recorded music industry and iTunes continues to be the dominant retailer," Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at NPD, said in a statement. "There's a belief that consumers don't need to buy music because of streaming options, when in fact streamers are much more likely than the average consumer to buy music downloads."

The firm estimated that spending on music downloads increased 6 percent year over year, largely due to an increase in purchasing by teens. Data in the report comes from two separate surveys of 5,400 and 7,600 consumers.