LOS ANGELES (AP) — Apple’s new music service is a valiant effort to catch up in the emerging business of offering unlimited music on demand for a monthly price. It does so while acknowledging the legacy of iTunes, the world’s most popular store for buying individual songs to own.
But Apple Music feels like an attempt to take on every competitive app from Pandora to Spotify to YouTube and advance the idea of online radio at the same time.
As a result, Apple Music feels crowded with features and buttons — unusual for a company known for promoting simplicity and ease of use. And as much as Apple Music tries to suit my personal tastes, I find many of its recommendations off-base.
Apple Music is several services in one.
— The core is an on-demand music streaming service like Spotify with a similar price tag — $10 a month. You can pick any of millions of songs to play over Wi-Fi or your cellular connection. You don’t own the songs, though. Although you can download them for offline playback, access disappears once you stop paying (of course, after the generous 90-day trial period ends). It’s like renting rather than owning music.
— Apple Music is also a giant song recommendation machine. A “For You” section offers playlists created by staff acquired when Apple bought Beats last year for $3 billion. It’s meant to reflect your iTunes purchases and preferences you make using animated bouncing bubbles, though I found the choices limiting. A “New” tab features new music, videos and yet more playlists.
— Then there’s the “Radio” tab, which debuts not only Apple’s new 24/7 online radio station, Beats1, but contains several stations specializing in various genres. These are like playlists, but you can’t see all the songs that are up next.
— A “Connect” channel offers a running stream of photos, videos and other content provided by artists for fans. The area feels empty, probably because not many musicians have participated yet.
Amid all this, two innovations stand out:
— One is Beats1. The concept of a radio station taken online and delivered to mobile devices in 100 countries around the world is refreshingly simple. Hosted by Zane Lowe in Los Angeles, Julie Adenuga in London and Ebro Darden in New York, Apple is presenting three tastemakers whom I’m just getting to know. They play music and conduct interviews. Live listening is fun, and I can switch when I want more control over listening.
— Siri, Apple’s ever-evolving digital assistant, can now take voice commands and launch music immediately, even responding to relatively complex commands. Ask it to “Play the top songs from 1973,” and you’ll get that year’s top 25, including “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.”
In fact, if Apple Music had only these two features, I’d feel satisfied.
Recommendations sound great, but they get overwhelming. Presented with dozens of options, the app turns back into a record store. I just want the app to say, “You like this? Then listen to this.” Pandora does this well.
There’s value to a playlist like “Bruce Springsteen: Deep Cuts,” compiled of worthwhile Boss songs that somehow never get played on the radio. But the human compilers are presented as faceless entities like “Apple Music Rock.” This feels impersonal and, to me, gets in the way of connecting with the artists.
Apple Music launched June 30 on iPhones and iPads as part of the free iOS 8.4 update. It ships with the new iPod Touch released Wednesday, though the previous model can get the update. A new Music app replaces Apple’s online radio service, iTunes Radio. Apple Music is on Mac and Windows computers through the iTunes app. An Android version and integration with Sonos wireless speakers are coming this year.
The service benefits from being featured prominently on Apple’s mobile devices, but I’m not sure that will be enough for people to switch from another service. If you’ve already spent time creating playlists on Spotify, for instance, you’re not going to want to start over on Apple Music.
Apple has a better chance at luring people new to music streaming, especially those who regularly buy songs on iTunes.
Apple Music is now the default organizer of all tunes people have saved to iPhones. When people venture away from their personal purchases in “My Music” and explore playlists and other offerings, they might save some songs to personal libraries, where subscription-only music is commingled with purchased downloads. Keeping up with the subscription could be worth it to keep what’s in one’s personal library intact.
Apple Music is mainly a deal for people who spend more than $120 on music annually, which is about double the average. However, there are also plenty of things Apple Music offers for free such as Beats1, genre-based radio stations and the ability to follow artists on Connect.
It’s no doubt difficult to encapsulate the world of music in a product that aims to mold itself to millions of different tastes. But we’ve come to rely on Apple to address these very vexing problems. Usually it does so in a way that feels less cluttered.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pittsburgh-area man has been ordered to stand trial on charges that he killed and dismembered his mother and stepfather before putting their body parts into plastic bags.
Penn Hills police discovered the remains of 73-year-old Olivia Gilbert and her 76-year-old husband, Lamar, in their garage. Police checked on the couple because the sister of suspect Frederick Harris III hadn’t seen their mother and stepfather for a few days.
The 47-year-old suspect was found in a locked bedroom when police burst into the home, where officers also found blood-soaked carpet, and five bloody kitchen knives.
Harris, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, has received various mental health treatments since 2001.
Police linked him to the crimes with surveillance video of him purchasing the new garbage containers in which the bagged remains were found.
BERLIN (AP) — Angela Merkel has come under criticism for her awkward treatment of a young refugee girl brought to tears by the German chancellor’s comments on asylum.
A video of the encounter Wednesday afternoon shows the Palestinian girl telling Merkel that her family has been waiting four years for permanent leave to remain in Germany.
Merkel tells the teenager she is “an incredibly likable person” but Germany can’t accommodate all migrants — “some will have to go home,” and the government can only promise to speed up decisions.
As the girl burst into tears Merkel walks over to comfort her, saying she wants to “give her a pat.”
Katrin Goering-Eckardt, a senior lawmaker with the opposition Green party, tweeted Thursday that “the mistakes in the government’s refugee policies can’t be patted away.”
BEIJING (AP) — China’s top diplomat met Thursday with the head of Japan’s National Security Council for talks expected to touch on a possible summit between the leaders of the countries later this year in Beijing.
The meeting between Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Shotaro Yachi, a career diplomat and a close aide to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, comes at a delicate time for relations between the neighboring Asian powers.
The two governments are at odds in a sovereignty dispute over potentially resource-rich islands in the Pacific, though there have been some halting steps toward easing tensions over the past year, with at least two brief encounters between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Adding to the animosity is what the Chinese see as Japan’s failure to sufficiently atone for the suffering it caused during World War II, a major theme in China as the 70th anniversary of the end of the war nears.
During the meeting, Yang told Yachi that the bilateral relationship remains complex and sensitive and that Beijing hopes the two countries can learn from history and prepare for the future.
“The two sides should properly handle issues on security, history and Taiwan,” Yang said.
Yachi commented that the relationship has been improving and that Thursday’s meeting would “play as an important channel” between Beijing and Tokyo.
China has invited Abe to a military parade on Sept. 3 to mark the Japanese surrender in the Pacific. Abe has said that he is considering a visit either before or after the parade day.
Associated Press video journalist Aritz Parra contributed to this report.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Caitlyn Jenner accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs on Wednesday night while urging acceptance for others who are transgender.
She received a standing ovation from some of the sporting world’s biggest stars after her 10-minute speech during the annual awards honoring the year’s top athletes and moments.
“This transition has been harder on me than anything I can imagine,” said Jenner, who revealed she was in the process of becoming a woman in a televised interview with Diane Sawyer in April on ABC.
From the stage, Jenner thanked Sawyer, whom she called a friend.
Noting her powerful celebrity platform, the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion and current reality TV star vowed “to do whatever I can to reshape the landscape of how transgender people are viewed and treated.”
Abby Wambach of the U.S. soccer team that won the Women’s World Cup presented the trophy to Jenner, whose voice broke as she thanked members of her famous family, including stepdaughters Kim and Khloe Kardashian. Tears welled in the eyes of Jenner’s younger daughter, Kylie, whose sister, Kendall, wiped a tear from her eye.
“I never wanted to hurt anyone else, most of all my family and my kids,” said Jenner, wiping her eye.
She admitted that until earlier this year she had never met another transgender person.
The 65-year-old told the audience about trans teenagers who are bullied, beaten up, murdered or kill themselves. Jenner mentioned two people by name whose deaths particularly touched her.
“Trans people deserve something vital, they deserve your respect,” she said. “From that respect comes a more compassionate community.”
Jenner urged the crowd that included football, basketball, baseball and hockey superstars to remember what they say and do is “absorbed and observed by millions of people, especially young people.”
“My plea for you tonight is one join me in making this one of your issues as well,” she said.
Many in the crowd watched intently as Jenner spoke with little reaction on their faces.
“If you want to call me names, make jokes and doubt my intentions, go ahead because the reality is I can take it,” she said. “But for thousands of kids out there coming to terms with the reality of who they are they shouldn’t have to take it.”
A video narrated by “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm traced Jenner’s life from the time when she was known as Bruce Jenner to her current transition. She mentioned she once considered ending her own life with a gun she owned.
She was shown applying makeup, buttoning her blouse in her closet and fastening the strap on her heeled shoes.
With her trembling hands clasped in front of her, Jenner joked with the audience about her struggle to select the cream gown she wore.
“OK girls, I get it,” she said, as the audience laughed. “You’ve got to get the shoes, the hair, the makeup, it was exhausting. And the fashion police, please be kind on me. I’m new at this.”
Jenner didn’t walk the red carpet outside the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, and she didn’t appear backstage to talk with reporters, as most of the previous Ashe award recipients have done. ESPN said Jenner wanted her onstage comments to stand.
Reaction among Jenner’s sporting peers on the red carpet was mixed.
Little League baseball pitcher Mo’ne Davis called Jenner “brave.”
“She’s really brave to have the courage to get through a lot of those things,” said the 14-year-old who won best breakthrough athlete. “I know a lot of people give her a hard time about it, but just for her family to give her that support is amazing.”
Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield said, “I just know that’s Bruce Jenner and I’ll leave it at that.”
RadarOnline.com reported Wednesday that Jenner’s representatives approached ESPN suggesting the network give her the Ashe award in exchange for plugs on her upcoming E! docuseries. ESPN and ABC are owned by Disney.
“That rumor is completely false,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said. “The Arthur Ashe Courage Award and ABC interview were never connected.”
Jenner’s publicist Alan Nierob called the report “utterly false” and had no further comment.
Jenner’s selection to receive the Ashe award named for the late tennis player who died in 1993 after contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion generated strong debate online.
“I met Arthur Ashe a few times. I know how important education was to him,” Jenner said. “Learn as much as you can about another person to understand them as well as you can.”
Online critics said college basketball player Lauren Hill, who died of brain cancer in April, was deserving of the Ashe honor.
But Hill’s mother, Lisa, attended the show and said her daughter would not have welcomed the controversy and made no judgment of others.
Jenner’s series called “I Am Cait” debuts July 26.
AP Entertainment Writer Ryan Pearson contributed to this report.
ALMOLOYA, Mexico (AP) — Mexico’s most prized prisoner paced his cell, first to the latrine, then the shower, then the bed. At every turn around the tiny room, drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman checked the shower floor hidden by a half wall, because even jailed criminals get their privacy.
In his final sweep, Guzman sat on his bed and took off his shoes. Then he walked back to the shower, stooped behind the wall and disappeared.
It was the beginning of an escape odyssey straight out of the pages of fiction, and the media were given a peek Tuesday at the deep and sophisticated tunnel that led the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, whose illicit drug trafficking reach includes Europe and Asia, swiftly to freedom late Saturday.
On Wednesday, government officials gave media access to Guzman’s cell. He was housed in cell No. 20 in the Altiplano prison’s highest security wing below ground level. Twenty-two steel doors, most opening only when the previous one is closed, stood between Guzman and the outside. So he chose another exit.
The square of concrete in his shower appeared to have been punched out, rather than cut or chiseled. It was relatively thin, just three or four inches in thickness. It did not include rebar, but rather some thin wire.
Speaking to reporters outside the warehouse where the tunnel exited, leftist Sen. Alejandro Encinas criticized the prison’s construction standards.
“I was in charge of the construction of two prisons in the Federal District and that is not how you do it,” he said.
Government officials have maintained that the prison meets the highest international security standards.
Video released by the authorities showing Guzman’s final moments in his cell and journalists’ climb into the tunnel put real dimensions to a high-tech engineering feat three stories underground, where planners and builders managed to burrow through dirt and rock right to the one spot in Guzman’s cell that surveillance cameras couldn’t see.
Mexico’s security commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said Tuesday that up to the moment Guzman disappeared, his pacing was considered normal for someone who lives in about 5 square meters (60 square feet) with only an hour a day outside for exercise. But there was nothing usual after he lifted a slab of concrete shower floor and descended into a warm and humid man-made underworld, where a motorcycle rigged to two carts on rails waited to whisk him away.
Guzman either rode on the bike or in one of the carts for a mile (1.5 kilometers) in the dirt tunnel built just high enough for a man called “Shorty” to stand without hitting his head. When he reached the other end, he climbed a wooden ladder through a large, wood-framed shaft with a winch overhead that had been used to drop construction supplies into the tunnel. After pulling himself up 17 rungs, he reached a small basement, where a blue power generator the size of a compact car provided the electricity to illuminate and pump oxygen into the underground escape route.
From there, Guzman walked to a shorter ladder and climbed one, two, three steps as the air thinned and the temperature dropped 10 degrees. As Guzman’s head poked above the dirt floor, he climbed three more rungs to stand inside the unfinished bodega built to hide the elaborate scheme.
Digging crews had discarded 4-by 4-inch wooden beams, 8-foot-tall coils of steel mesh, gallons of hydraulic fluid, 10-foot lengths of PVC pipe and an electric disc saw. A battered wheel barrow full of fine gray soil sat just above the opening in the floor. A couple of improvised wooden tables and a wooden bench rounded out the bodega’s furniture, along with shelves of assorted drill bits, a circular wood saw blade, a jar of liquid cement for pipe joining and a bottle of motor oil.
Seven more strides and the man who Mexico’s government said could not possibly repeat his 2001 prison escape stepped through a sliding steel door into the chilly night on a high plain west of the capital.
For the first time since his latest capture on Feb. 22, 2014, Guzman was free.
It was no slapdash project. It appeared no expense was spared, though working quickly was the priority.
A tunnel of such sophistication would normally take 18 months to two years to complete, said Jim Dinkins, former head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. But Guzman was behind bars barely 16 months.
“When it’s for the boss, you probably put that on high speed,” Dinkins said.
Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman reported this story in Almoloya and E. Eduardo Castillo reported from Mexico City. AP writer Mark Stevenson in Almoloya contributed to this report.