Apple 'planning Beats-powered streaming service'

Beats headphones were purchased by Apple in May 2014

Apple is actively working on a new streaming service designed to rival Spotify, according to reports

Apple is working on a Beats-powered streaming service to rival Spotify, according to new reports.

The as yet-unnamed service will be integrated into iOS, iTunes and Apple TV, including an overhaul of the existing Music iOS app, rather than the iOS roll-out anticipated, reports 9to5Mac.

The cloud streaming service will prioritise a user's music library, integrating personal playlists and deploying a new search function for locating tracks within the iTunes/Beats catalogue.

Existing Beats Music accounts will be able to merge with iTunes or Apple ID accounts, though this only applies to US users and Beats Music is currently still unavailable to those based in the UK.

Apple is reportedly in charge of the aesthetics, bypassing Beats' signature red and black colour scheme to fit better with iOS design.

The Californian company purchased the music streaming service and headphones arm of Beats Electronics in May last year for $3.2bn (£1.8bn) - Apple's largest ever acquisition.

Though sizable the acquisition has yet to bear fruit. Beats announced the Solo2 wireless headphones in November, thefirst product since the lucrative deal, but they were largely identical to their previously released non-wireless Solo2 counterparts.

Consumers are increasingly opting to pay for subscription services over downloading individuals tracks or albums. Music subscription revenue increased 50 per cent to $1.1 billion in 2013, while downloads declined by 2 per cent in the same period.

Beats Music boasts around 250,000 paying customers in the US, while rival service Spotify has over 10 million subscribers worldwide.

The new service is expected to be less expensive than its current $9.99 per month price, with music industry sources claiming it will cost around $7.99.

Android and iOS are nearly tied for U.S. smartphone market share

A new report from Kantar Worldpanel tracking smartphone sales in the United States indicated that phones running Apple’s iOS operating system may have passed those running Android in terms of market share.

A Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy S5 smartphone, left, and Apple Inc. iPhone 5c are held for a photograph in Hong Kong in May.

According to Carolina Milanese, who wrote the report, iOS sales “overtook” Android sales by a tiny 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. If true, this would be the first quarter in two years in which more devices running iOS than Android sold in the United States.

The report says that iOS devices accounted for 47.7 percent of sales in the fourth quarter, while Android devices — from various manufacturers — accounted for 47.6 percent of sales.

It’s not a surprise that Apple is surging: The company said that it had sold a staggering 74.5 million iPhones worldwide at an average price of just under $700 earlier this month. Even if the breakdown between iOS and Android is near a dead heat, it’s clear that Apple has the momentum.

The iPhone is doing well in Europe and parts of Asia too. The report indicated that iOS’s percentage share in Europe was up 6.2 percent year over year as Android’s share declined by 3.8 percent. In fact, the only European market that saw Android’s market share increase was Italy, which the report notes is a “strong pre-pay market.”

Depending on where you live, you could be forgiven if you believed that iOS already had the majority of U.S. market share. The United States is a key market, and startups and more established companies use market share distribution figures to determine where to devote developer resources. Apps do tend to come out for iOS first.

There’s one major reason you might not be hearing Apple CEO Tim Cook cite this Kantar Worldpanel study in his next iOS reveal, though: 0.1 percent is a tiny margin, and could easily be negated by the study’s margin of error, which Kantar doesn’t share. It’s much safer to say based on this report that it looks as if Android and iOS are nearly tied in terms of United States market share than to say iOS has taken the lead. Plus, the report doesn’t take into account devices sold in previous quarters that may still be in use.

If you want to dig deeper into the trends, which include Windows Phone figures as well, Kantar Worldpanel has a nifty interactive map using its data and conclusions. 

This article was written by Kif Leswing from GigaOm and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.