The best Apple Watch headphones and earphones

Up until now, Bluetooth wireless audio was purely optional for Apple’s devices: every iPad, iPhone, and iPod has shipped with a 3.5mm audio port to connect with wired earbuds and headphones. The Apple Watch is different: it’s Apple’s first fully wireless device, with no user-accessible ports to connect accessories, even though it can work as a standalone music player during workouts. The lack of a headphone port is actually a positive, since tethering your wrist to your head with a cable would look silly, and isn’t ergonomically ideal. Thankfully, Bluetooth headphones have come a long way over the past few years, shrinking from gangly and boxy earmuffs into earphones comfortable enough to exercise with.

Since one of the Apple Watch’s major selling points is fitness functionality, this quick guide to the best Apple Watch headphones and earphones focuses mostly on accessories that can work anywhere, rather than options you can’t wear while exercising. But I’ll include some larger options, too, just in case you’re picking a pair for non-athletic use, or to share with your iPad, iPhone, iPod, or Mac…

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Hands-on: Apple’s all-new Music app in iOS 8.4

With the release of the first developer beta of iOS 8.4 this evening, Apple gave us the first look at the oft-rumored redesign of the Music app. With the expected announcement of Apple’s streaming music service happening in June, the Music app redesign has been expected for several months now. The newly introduced Music app offers a handful of new features in the first beta of iOS 8.4, as well as a redesigned interface that’s similar to iTunes on the Mac. Let’s take a brief look…

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Apple previews revamped Music app with iOS 8.4 beta ahead of WWDC streaming service launch

Apple has just released the first iOS 8.4 beta, which includes Apple’s upcoming revamped Music app. The seed for developers is available via the Apple Developer Center website.

As we reported earlier this year, iOS 8.4 includes an all new Music application. The new software design is present in this beta, while Apple is expected to announce the streaming service component in June at WWDC.

Here are the release notes from Apple for the new app:

– All-New Design. Music app has a beautiful new design that makes exploring your music collection easier and more fun. Personalize playlists by adding your own image and description. Enjoy stunning pictures of your favorite artists in the Artists view. Start playing an album right from the album list. The music you love is never more than a tap away.

– Recently Added. Albums and playlists you’ve recently added are now at the top of your library, making it effortless to find something new to play. Simply tap play on the artwork to listen.

– Streamlined iTunes Radio. Discovering music with iTunes Radio is easier than ever. You can now quickly return to your favorite stations in Recently Played. Choose from a selection of hand-curated stations in Featured Stations, or start a new one from your favorite artist or song.

– New MiniPlayer. With the new MiniPlayer, you can see what’s playing and control playback while browsing your music collection. To open Now Playing, just tap on the MiniPlayer.

– Improved Now Playing. Now Playing has a stunning new design that showcases your album artwork the way it was meant to be. In addition, you can begin wirelessly streaming your music using AirPlay without leaving Now Playing.

– Up Next. It’s now simple to find out which songs from your library will play next — just tap the Up Next icon in Now Playing. You can even reorder, add, or skip songs whenever you like.

– Global Search. You can now search from anywhere in the Music app — just tap the magnifying glass. Search results are conveniently organized to help you quickly find that perfect song. You can even start an iTunes Radio station right from Search.

iOS 8.4’s Music application includes revamped search, the UpNext and MiniPlayer features from iTunes on the desktop, improved iTunes Radio functionality, a new Recently Added page, and more on top of the new design. On the iPad, there’s a new split-screen interface on the iPad, as seen in the screenshots below. On the iPhone, the landscape interface has been removed entirely. The icon for the app remains the same, however. We have a hands-on gallery of several more screenshots below:

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Report: Apple plans $10-$15 tiers for new music service, approaching artists incl. Taylor Swift for exclusives

iPhone 6 Beats Music

A new report from Bloomberg today claims that Apple is considering $10-$15 month plans for its upcoming music streaming service while the company approaches high-profile artists to get exclusive content.

The report today follows our own report last month that Apple was planning to relaunch its Beats Music streaming service at its WWDC event in June. At the time we noted that Apple was considering a $7.99 price point, but today’s report suggests Apple could go with paid tiers ranging from $9.99/month for a single user to $14.99/month for a family account. Read more

Opinion: The pros & cons of existing streaming music services & what Apple’s needs to succeed

Beats Music iTunes Festival

Apple’s upcoming music streaming service comes at an interesting time in the industry. Jay-Z recently relaunched his own streaming music service dubbed Tidal, recruiting help from other A-list artists like Rhianna, Alicia Keys, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, and Kanye West. There are existing services from Spotify, Beats, Google, and others. All of these offerings have their own pros and cons, but I’ve used them all and none of them accomplish streaming music perfectly. Apple now has the opportunity to take the best features of each service and offer its own competitive service.

Last week, Ben Lovejoy broke down exactly what Apple’s streaming music service would need for him to stop buying music. Even without Apple’s new service, I’ve already done that. Most of my music is streamed from Spotify. Rarely do I actually buy albums on iTunes, and I almost never buy physical CDs. The problem with this approach is no streaming music service gets it 100 percent right for me.

I’m hoping that Apple incorporates the best of each existing subscription music service into its own upcoming music service. What are those key points? Let’s discuss…

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HBO CEO reached out to his old boss Jimmy Iovine to land Apple’s HBO Now launch

Eddy Cue and Jimmy Iovine at Code Conference via Re/code

Eddy Cue and Jimmy Iovine at Code Conference via Re/code

As HBO’s new standalone streaming service launches today exclusively on Apple TV and iOS devices, FastCompany has a story profiling HBO CEO Richard Plepler and the motivation behind the new service and partnership with Apple.

In the story, Plepler denies that an $80 billion bid to buy Time Warner encouraged the launch of HBO Now and explains that he had already reached out to Apple executive Jimmy Iovine, who he had worked for previously at Warner Music: Read more

Upcoming refreshed Apple TV reportedly will not feature support for 4K video

Apple TV home screen

BuzzFeed reports today that Apple’s next-generation Apple TV will not support 4K video streaming. Citing “sources in position to know,” the report claims that due to the lack of TVs that support the latest video standard, as well as the lack of streaming 4K content, Apple has no plans to implement it into its upcoming refreshed set-top box.

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Opinion: Will Apple’s streaming music service mean I finally stop buying music?

music

I was an early adopter of digital music (you hide your surprise well). I bought my first mp3 player in 1998, some three years before the first iPod. It cost a silly amount of money and stored exactly one album at a time in its 64MB (not GB) of flash memory.

Me being me, I went through a few different generations of mp3 player before Apple completely changed the game with the iPod. Ironically, by adopting a less sophisticated technology–a hard drive in place of flash memory–Apple created a far better product. One that allowed us to carry around 80 albums at a time. I bought one the day it went on sale, having by then finished ripping all my CDs to mp3.

When the 160GB iPod came out in 2007, I again bought one immediately. That was large enough to hold my entire music collection at the time. I not only carried it everywhere with me, I also plugged it into my hifi at home and to the AUX socket of my car stereo. At which point, I started wondering why I still had a wall full of CDs …  Read more

Apple hires Dolby’s technology chief to bolster audio and display technologies

rockwell

Continuing its high-level executive hiring spree, Apple has recruited Dolby Executive Vice President Mike Rockwell to become an executive in its hardware division, 9to5Mac has learned. According to a source, Rockwell has likely been hired to bolster the audio and display performance of future Apple products, which could include anything from next-generation Apple monitors to professional audio/video editing tools to speakers. Rockwell’s LinkedIn profile confirms he joined Apple in February but does not specify his role.

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Jay-Z’s new Tidal music service respects the artist, but rips off Spotify’s UI

Tidal-vs-Spotify-UI

In case you hadn’t heard, Jay-Z is this week launching (relaunching) the Tidal music service he recently acquired along with a lot of help from industry friends. The company is hoping its model is innovative and helps artists earn more, but its UI for the web app appears to be a shameless copy of Spotify, as you can see in the comparison screenshot: Tidal above, Spotify below. Read more

Jimmy Iovine tried to lure key Tidal artists away to Apple, but no hard feelings, says Jay Z

Jay Z Performs At O2 Arena In London

Jay Z suggested in an interview with Billboard that Jimmy Iovine had tried to lure away top-selling artists from his newly-relaunched streaming music service, Tidal, but that he wasn’t angry about it. Iovine had reputedly offered more up-front cash to Tidal artists who agreed to do a deal with Apple.

I think that’s just his competitive nature, and I don’t know if he’s looking at the bigger picture: That it’s not about me and it’s not about him; it’s about the future of the music business.

The rap and hip-hop star said that he had initially hoped to work in cooperation with Iovine, having “talked to every single service,” but had apparently been rebuffed …  Read more