China excluded from Apple Music launch; Hong Kong priced 40pc lower than US
After months of hype and contract negotiations with labels and artists, Apple has jumped into the increasingly competitive music streaming market by releasing Apple Music in 100 countries and territories. Notably, mainland China was left off the list.
The service is included in iOS 8.4, the latest version of the iPhone and iPad operating system that was rolled out to customers around the world on Tuesday night.
In addition to on-demand live music streaming, it combines Beats 1, an around-the-clock radio service. Early reports suggested some teething problems, however, with Beats 1 apparently going down for 30 minutes within eight hours of launch.
Apple Music has also taken flak from US singers like Taylor Swift over its plans related to the service.
It is available in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but Apple fans in cities from Guangzhou to Beijing, Shanghai and Dalian in northern Liaoning province may feel frustrated as mainland China was not included on the list posted on Apple's official website, despite early reports that China would be involved.
On a monthly basis, the service costs HK$48 (US$6.20) for an individual membership or HK$78 for a family deal supporting up to six devices.
This is considerably cheaper than in the United States, where the service costs US$9.99 to US$14.99 per month. In the Philippines, it is even cheaper, starting at US$2.99.
The differing charges likely relate to the prices offered by one of Apple’s top competitors in this field. Spotify's premium service costs HK$48 per month in Hong Kong.
The Swedish streaming service, launched in 2008, is currently available in 58 markets, including Hong Kong and Taiwan. It boasts more than 20 million paying subscribers worldwide, compared to an active user base of over 75 million.
As well as Spotify, Apple will compete with Google Play Music, Rdio, Pandora and Soundcloud, all of which have significant user bases, mainly in Western countries.
In China, Apple will have to take on internet giants Tencent and Baidu, who both operate music streaming services.
"China remains a music market of enormous untapped potential, with an online user base of 650 million people and a growing number of licensed digital services," the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a record industry lobby group, said in a recent report.
Unlike Spotify and other competitors, Apple's service is confined to its own smartphones and tablets. It is not clear whether the service will ever roll out to devices running Google's Android operating system.
As of the first quarter of this year, Android powers around 78 per cent of smartphones around the world, compared to 18 per cent running iOS.