Spotify is clearly the Godzilla of the streaming world. With almost 150-160 million Premium subscribers, the streaming titan has a sizable percentage of the digital music streaming category. With plans to expand to an additional 85 new markets and launch Spotify HiFi, there is no chance for any rival to overtake them. Except perhaps for the folks in Cupertino. Is Apple about to finally do the unthinkable and launch a 16-bit/44.1kHz lossless streaming service? Apple Music Hi-Fi might be coming sooner than you think.
The Apple community loves rumors. Will it be called Apple Music Hi-Fi or Apple Hi-Fi or HiFi Apple Music?
Nobody seems to know if the rumors are nothing more than speculation or wishful thinking but MacRumors seems to know something that most of the Apple community is unaware of.
“Earlier today, a report claimed that Apple will announce a new $9.99 per month Apple Music tier that offers HiFi music streaming in the “coming weeks. Now, code within the first beta of iOS 14.6 discovered by MacRumors contributor Steve Moser confirms that Apple is exploring the option and preparing for a possible release.
Within the code for the first beta of the upcoming update, references to “lossless audio,” “high-quality stereo streaming,” and “HiFi” are found within the Apple Music app. Accompanying code within the beta suggests that HiFi streaming could be limited to only certain AirPods such as the AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and newer.
Presumably, HiFi support would also be available to customers without AirPods, although it’s unknown if Apple will have certain hardware requirements for speakers, headphones, etc.. to support HiFi Apple Music streaming.
Wording such as “Route Incompatible” and “Route Unknown Compatibility” suggests that much like how Spatial Audio is limited to only the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, HiFi Apple Music streaming could be exclusive to certain generation AirPods and other compatible devices.
Additional code within the beta suggests that Apple could incorporate a dynamic way for Apple Music to switch between standard, compressed audio streaming and high-fidelity streaming. On the iPhone 12 with 5G, Apple has a “Smart Data Mode,” which automatically switches between a 5G and 4G/LTE connection depending on the user’s current needs, connection strength, and battery life.”MacRumors
Apple have had the ability to launch a lossless streaming service for many years but with almost no competition except for Spotify who don’t even offer lossless streaming yet, there was no incentive to do so and they clearly viewed Tidal, Deezer, and Qobuz as small competitors not worth paying attention to.
With hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads being used around the world, it’s not like Apple didn’t have a captive audience to sell lossless streaming to.
Apple have actually sold more than 2.2 billion iPhones since inception. Not a typo.
Name one high-end audio product that ever sold 1% of that total.
So why the sudden change?
Spotify HiFi and Amazon Music HD.
Apple clearly understands that while they don’t have to offer Hi-Res digital streaming (anything 16-bit/48kHz or higher), they can’t be the last man standing on the platform offering lossy 320 kbps streams.
Not with 70+ million Apple Music subscribers. It’s like handing over the second largest slice of the streaming pie to Spotify for free if they do nothing.
Another piece of evidence that suggests that this is going to happen sooner rather than later are the most recent product launches from Apple.
The new Apple TV 4K will clearly support such a service.
Apple spent almost 3 minutes during their press event a few weeks back describing all of the changes they made to the speaker system on the new iMac range with the M1 chip.
When was the last time Apple cared about the sound quality of their iMac range?
So where does that leave Tidal and Qobuz?
Qobuz and Tidal are audiophile streaming platforms that appeal to a different audience than Spotify. Tidal just announced some significant price changes this week starting in Australia; those who have zero interest in MQA or Hi-Res can select a new lossless tier that caps out at 16-bit/44.1kHz. Hi-Res support is going to cost $6 more per month.
Qobuz just announced a new partnership with Sonos which will help expand their reach into the mainstream market.
But we all know the real clash of the titans is coming. Apple Music Hi-Fi versus Spotify HiFi.
Hopefully, it’s the consumer who wins in the end.