Since Apple introduced the very first iPod digital music player more than a decade ago, it’s been possible to purchase and download music from the iTunes Store, store those digital music files on your mobile device, and then play the audio content whenever and as often as you’d like.
With digital music downloads, you can acquire individual songs or entire albums from your favorite music groups, recording artists, or bands, and then create personalized playlists so you can hear the combination of songs you want at any time.
All of the functionality of an iPod is now built into the iPhone and iPad. Plus, with the introduction of features like AirPlay for Macs and iOS mobile devices, and the Apple TV device, for example, it’s possible to wirelessly play your favorite music that’s stored within your mobile device or computer through wireless speakers or the stereo surround sound system that’s connected to your television set.
Of course, you can also connect corded or wireless headphones to your computer or mobile device and privately listen to your favorite music.
It’s also now possible to wirelessly link your mobile device to your car’s stereo system via Bluetooth, and then play the music or playlists stored within your iPhone or iPad through your car’s speakers. In some cases, you can control the music from your vehicle’s in-dash infotainment system or use voice commands in conjunction with Siri (or Siri Eyes Free, if your vehicle is compatible with this iOS feature).
Instead of Downloading Music, Consider Streaming It
If you’re willing to purchase your favorite music from the iTunes Store, that content can be enjoyed when and where you want. However, thanks to the Internet, you also have another option.
When your iOS mobile device or computer has Internet access, it’s possible to stream traditional radio stations or Internet-based radio stations directly to your iPhone, iPad, or computer, and listen to that programming using a specific app or software. To facilitate this, online-based streaming music services like Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and more recently, iTunes Radio are available.
Launched in September 2013, in conjunction with iOS 7, iTunes Radio is a free music streaming service operated by Apple. It’s accessible from the Music app that comes bundled with iOS 7 on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. You can also access iTunes Radio from the iTunes software installed on a Mac or PC, as well as through Apple TV. The service is currently used by more than 20 million people worldwide, and within its first month of operation, streamed more than 1 billion songs.
Streaming Music from iTunes Radio Offers Many Advantages
What’s great about iTunes Radio is that in addition to the many pre-created stations you can access and enjoy, it’s possible to create an unlimited number of personalized stations that feature the music groups, recording artists, or music genres you personally enjoy. This allows you to hear specific music to fit your activity or mood.
In conjunction with the recent release of iOS 7.1.1, Apple once again tweaked the Music app, giving iTunes Radio more features. At the same time, Apple also began offering non-music programming and will soon introduce on-demand audio programming.
Unlike music purchased from the iTunes Store, when you access iTunes Radio to stream music from the Internet, that music is not stored on your mobile device. It’s simply retrieved from the Internet and played. Thus, a continuous Internet connection is required. From your iOS mobile device, unless you have an unlimited cellular data plan, using a Wi-Fi Internet connection is advisable, since streaming audio from the Internet will quickly use up your monthly 3G/4G (LTE) cellular data allocation.
Once you’ve installed iOS 7.1.1 onto your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, to listen to iTunes Radio, launch the Music app from the Home screen. Assuming your mobile device has Internet access, next tap on the Radio icon that’s displayed near the bottom-left corner of the screen.
Then, near the top-center of the main iTunes Radio screen, just above the Featured Stations heading, you’ll discover a new Search field that says, “Enter an Artist, Genre, or Song” (shown in Figure 1). This field offers a quick way to input the type of music you want to hear right away, and can also be used to quickly create a custom station.
Figure 1 From the Music app on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you can access the iTunes Radio streaming music service
Alternatively, you can tap on an icon for a Featured Station to listen to a pre-created station’s programming, or create and listen to a personalized station. One way to create a custom station is to tap on the New option that’s displayed directly to the right of the My Stations heading. Then, when prompted, enter the name of a song, artist, or music genre.
Originally, iTunes Radio offered free streaming music with no disc jockeys and minimal advertising. However, if you subscribe to the optional iTunes Match service for $24.95 per year, programming available through iTunes Radio is commercial-free.
iTunes Radio Had Expanded Its Programming
As of late March 2014, Apple has begun expanding its streaming programming lineup, starting with National Public Radio (shown in Figure 2). The NPR app, which is free, allows iPhone or iPad users to stream NPR programming that originates from the NPR radio station of their choosing, and then listen to that programming from their mobile device or computer via the Internet. It also includes plus access on-demand NPR programming. However, now, instead of downloading the free NPR app, it’s possible to listen to a national stream of NPR’s programming live via iTunes Radio.
Figure 2 NPR is the first radio network that’s begun streaming its own programming through iTunes Radio
Later this spring, individual NPR affiliate radio stations from around the country will also begin streaming their programming lineup through iTunes Radio, offering yet another way to use a computer or iOS mobile device to hear this programming, for free, from anywhere in the world.
Beyond the licensing deal between Apple and NPR, the iTunes Radio service will continue to evolve in the future as additional content deals with other programming services are finalized.
It’s also believed that iTunes Radio will soon begin offering on-demand streaming audio programming that will allow listeners to hear exactly what they want, when they want it, including specific radio programs or a specific lineup of songs.
In other words, instead of choosing an artist or music genre, for example, and then hearing a randomized selection of songs that fit your criteria as you listen to a custom iTunes Radio station, in the near future, it may be possible to create virtual playlists that spell out exactly what songs you want to hear, and in what order.
Streaming music and radio services allow people to enjoy the programming they want to hear without needing a traditional AM, FM, or Sirius/XM satellite radio receiver. Beyond what’s offered by iTunes Radio and the popular streaming music services, most terrestrial (AM and FM) radio stations now stream their content over the Internet and have their own proprietary app or website for listening to that content from a computer or mobile device.
The benefit to this streaming technology is that as long as your computer or device has Internet access, the audio content you want to hear is typically available for free. This makes storing hundreds or thousands of individual music files on your computer or device unnecessary.