Apple will bundle the subscription music service it acquired from Beats into its iOS operating system early next year, instantly making it available on hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads – and ramping up pressure on Spotify, the market leader in music streaming.
The inclusion of the paid-for Beats service in an iOS software update could happen as early as March, according to people familiar with the situation. The move represents Apple’s first attempt to capitalise on Beats since it bought the headphone maker and streaming service from Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine for $3bn this year.
It will also be Apple’s first big push into subscription music at a time when iTunes downloads are in decline and some high-profile artists such as Taylor Swift remain skeptical about the economics of streaming.
Pre-installing apps on devices is seen as a fast track to reaching new customers. Apple could also take advantage of its new mobile payments service to enable customers to subscribe with just one touch of the iPhone’s fingerprint reader.
Apple’s installed base of active music buyers dwarfs other services, according to Midia Research, a music analysis firm, which estimates it has 200m active iTunes customers. Apple’s push to capitalise on the Beats service will start from a low base, however, as Midia estimates Beats Music has only 110,000 subscribers.