Apple iTunes Radio vs Samsung Milk: What's the difference?

If Apple announces a new feature, Samsung isn't far behind.  

That's why last week Samsung debuted its take on Apple's iTunes Radio, called Milk, to serve up new music to listeners. Samsung is calling it a "fresh take on music". 

Apple fanboys and Android fanboys alike will probably want to know if Samsung has blatantly copied Apple (and other internet radio services), or is it truly living up to its "fresh take" claim? We've explored both services and have an answer. 

Availability

Both Apple and Samsung have rolled out iTunes Radio and Milk to their respective devices. If you have an iPhone you obviously won't be able to use Milk (and vice-versa with iTunes Radio and Android).

Samsung surprisingly is only letting Galaxy device owners use Milk. Specifically, Galaxy S4 variants, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, Note 2, and Note 3. It'll also support the Galaxy S5 at launch. It's not available for every Android user, but that doesn't mean developers haven't figured out a way through rooting

Given the strictness of record labels, Apple and Samsung haven't been able to open up iTunes Radio and Milk worldwide. Currently Milk is only available in the US, while iTunes Radio is only available in the US and Australia. Apple has promised more locations soon for iTunes Radio, while Samsung is remaining quiet about expansion. 

The Milk app is available from Google Play. iTunes Radio is built into the Music app within iOS 7, iTunes desktop software, and Apple TV. 

Advertisements

Apple's iTunes Radio is seen as a way for the company to push its iAd platform. If you don't pay $25 a year for an iTunes Match account, you'll be served an advertisement every 15 minutes, with a video advertisement once an hour. 

Samsung has made its Milk app advertisement free. As long as you sign-up for a Samsung account, you're able to stream unlimited amounts of music. We assume this is a perk Samsung wanted to offer to its device owners (thus, it didn't make Milk available to the entire Android platform).

There's one caveat: Samsung's Milk website says it's ad-free "for a limited time". Exact details of how it may serve up advertisements are unknown. 

Functionality

The core of iTunes Radio and Milk don't venture too far from each other. They both take a genre, artist, or song, and serve up similar tracks that will match your taste.

Milk Music features 200 genre-based stations, and they serve up about 13 million Slacker-powered tunes thanks to a partnership. Milk Music offers nine popular genres on the dial by default, though you can change them later. Just turn the dial to select a station or tap the circle next to a station to see a list of sub-stations you can scroll through.

Milk Music allows you to skip six songs per station an hour. You can also tap "Never Play Song" if you want to ban a song from your earbuds forever.

There's further options for setting a station so that it plays music by popularity, release date, etc, and if you want to listen to a song again, Milk Music saves the last 500 songs you heard in a History section. You have to be connected to Wi-Fi or 3G to start listening, as there's no offline functionality.

Apple offers 200 stations. They can be sorted specifically by genre, artist, or song. iTunes Radio features stations at the top, with stations you've picked at the bottom. Within stations, you can favourite a song, pause and play, and skip to new tracks. You can also tune the station to play hits, variety, or tracks you wish to discover. If you like what you're hearing you can buy the track within iTunes Radio or create a new station based on the artist or song. iTunes Radio allows unlimited skips. 

iTunes Radio also serves up exclusive "First Play" music from new and popular artists before they're made available on a wider basis. In the past this has included Rick Ross' "Mastermind", Skrillex's "Recess", Pharell Williams' "Girl", and more.

Apple has integrated iTunes Radio into Siri. Say something like “Play Jazz Radio” or ask for any of your existing favorite stations and genres. You can also shape your stations by telling Siri what you like and don’t like or tell Siri to pause, stop or skip. You can also have Siri add songs to your Wish List to download later.

Conclusion

Both iTunes Radio and Milk do what they set out to do well. If you own an iPhone, use iTunes Radio. If you own a Galaxy handset, use Milk. 

They both have great interfaces that will help you find new music. While discovery and personal choice might not be as good as Pandora, it could improve over time, and iTunes Radio and Milk's design and integration into their respective platforms are a nice touch. 

Both have their trade-offs. The fact Samsung doesn't offer advertisements (at least for now) is nice. While, iTunes Radio offers some great new music before it hits stores through First Play. Also, having unlimited skips is useful too. 

Has Samsung copied Apple? Kind-of, but it's not like Apple was first to the internet radio space, after all. 

Maybe in the end Apple and Samsung are both copying Pandora.