In its latest move to expand its influence in the music industry, Apple has announced new radio stations. This is being billed as an improvement to the existing Apple Music platform, and will consist of three new stations: a rebranded Beats 1 station (now “Apple Music 1”), Apple Music Hits, and Apple Music Country. The new flagship station, Apple Music 1, will offer “a lineup of shows” from major artists ranging from Billie Eilish to Elton John; Apple Music Hits will feature favorite songs from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s; and Apple Music Country will showcase both foundational and contemporary country artists.
It’s a potentially major development in expanding listenership. But it’s also an indication of the company’s apparent desire to dominate consumer audio experiences. This is particularly clear when one considers some of the improvements that have been made in audio-related hardware in recent years as well.
By and large, Apple has relied on a spattering of technological upgrades to produce stronger and more impressive devices. Often these kinds of upgrades are chalked up to the processing chips driving Apple’s larger devices. But there’s a bit more to it than that. In the case of some products (like the headphones we’ll discuss below), modernized printed circuit boards have brought about new possibilities. More specifically, flex PCBs have allowed for more powerful devices by packing high-performance circuitry onto flexible and compact material that can be fitted into smaller casings. Additionally, on the audio front specifically, Apple has begun to experiment with concepts like spatial audio — essentially the use of sound filters to create an immersive, 3D listening experience even with localized speakers.
It’s these developments in part that have led to continually excellent devices for audiophiles. While you may not think of Apple first and foremost as an audio-oriented company, consider the following:
AirPods – Apple’s true wireless “AirPods” have essentially revolutionized headphones. They’ve helped to popularize the “true wireless” concept, and introduced new degrees of comfort and convenience compared to previous Apple headphones. They’re now so popular they could become the company’s third-largest product within another year.
Homepod – The Homepod is often discussed as one of a number of home “smart assistant” products. But where audio quality is concerned, it sounds better than any other speaker in its price range. The Homepod is essentially like an Alexa with superior audio quality.
iPhone 12 – While the release of the next iPhone will be delayed, early indications are that it will set another new standard in mobile audio as well. Though many will pair it with Apple’s aforementioned AirPods, rumors suggest the phone itself will feature spatial audio taken to the next level. We expect the most immersive surround sound yet out of a mobile phone.
When you think about this range of products, Apple does still seem like an audio-first company — and the launch of Apple Radio makes all the more sense. For years now the company has been revamping its suite of products in ways that improve the quality of people’s listening experiences. And now, with three new radio stations that should garner an immense amount of play, Apple is taking an important step toward supplying the listening experiences as well.