Recently I had the pleasure of watching a ZOL Connect on the streaming wars between Apple Music and Spotify in Zimbabwe in which my esteemed colleague took part in. It was quite revealing and educational but in a sign of how things are in the tech world, barely a week later some of the nuggets revealed in there now need qualification.
First, we learnt that YouTube Music now seems to be working in Zimbabwe for some people at least. If that’s confirmed officially that would be a massive shift in conversation. There is a real chance based on the familiarity that suggests YouTube Music will probably end up being the most popular platform of the three. Apple Music has always been a niche service and Spotify only just became available. For now, though the YouTube Music roll-out doesn’t appear universal, it works for some and not others and for me, it works only on some devices.
The lossless gut punch
The second massive change from what we had last week is Apple’s latest gut-punch in the form of a free lossless audio upgrade which will be coming next month. Apple Music users will also get a free spatial audio upgrade at the same time. Lossless audio is something audiophiles have always craved it means you get to hear the original studio sound quality. Spatial audio will be brought to you courtesy of Dolby Atmos.
Currently, the best Spotify can do is deliver your audio at 320 Kilobits. It sounds awesome to most ears be better something Spotify is keenly aware of. Earlier this year they promised us HiFi or CD-quality audio but never gave us a specific date only the vague “later this year” promise. Apple’s announcement will likely jostle them into action as they would want to restore parity.
Something for the snobs
Ordinary users like me are unlikely to be impressed by these changes, to be honest. While I can definitely hear the difference between low-quality audio and high-quality audio on Spotify I have never been able to distinguish between high-quality audio and FLAC files on my computer.
This could have something to do with my off-the-shelf audio setup consisting of a 5 channel home theatre that I bought for less than US$100 on a trip to South Africa. You would probably need US$400 headphones or audio equipment to really appreciate the audio boost. That’s assuming you have a device that supports Dolby Atmos, to begin with.
This is where Apple has a distinct advantage over Spotify. They control every aspect of the bulk of devices on which their music service will be used. iPhones and most modern Apple devices support Dolby Atmos. Their headphones also support Dolby Atmos. So the push makes sense as it will be appreciated.
This is something for the snobs who can afford Apple devices. They are in for a treat. Spotify’s HiFi when it does come will not have the same universal appreciation from its users. I know for a fact I will stick with 320 kbits audio. The sound boost of HiFi will not justify the surge in data consumption.