Apple might have left music off the menu of its Spring Loaded event, but a new report says Apple Music updates are on the way. According to music enthusiast site Hits Daily Double, which cited “label sources,” Apple will debut a new high-fidelity audio streaming tier “in the coming weeks” alongside the long-expected launch of the third-generation AirPods.
The site says the new service will cost the same price as its standard plan, putting pressure on Spotify and others to keep prices low. Apple Music currently streams at a bitrate of 256kbps, lower than Spotify Premium’s 320kbps, but most listeners likely wouldn’t notice a difference. However, HiFi services up the quality by a factor of 4, with Tidal offering 1411kbps for lossless audio quality. Tidal describes its HiFi tier, which costs $20 a month, as “a more robust and crisp streaming format.”
Apple doesn’t offer lossless audio files through the iTunes Music Store. Back in 2009, it upped the encoding to a higher-quality 256kbps AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) and raised the prices from $0.99 to $1.29 but it hasn’t changed the bitrate since then.
MacRumors contributor Steve Mosser also spotted code references to “lossless audio,” “high-quality stereo streaming,” and “HiFi” with the Music app in the iOS 14.6 beta. The new higher-quality songs would presumably be available to all listeners but will be a huge selling point for the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max with spatial audio, as well as the HomePod mini. It’s also a clue that Apple might be bringing the high-end audio feature to the third-generation AirPods.
After a jam-packed iOS 14.5 that landed last week, iOS 14.6 doesn’t include any obvious front-facing features, so it could be a simple update targeted at the new AirPods.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.