Apple iTunes Radio available September 18 with iOS 7

As expected, Apple's answer to Pandora will be available when its new operating system is out for mobile devices, the company said at an event launching two new iPhones.

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Joan E. Solsman
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Apple's radio service, iTunes Radio, will be part of the company's newest operating system for its mobile devices on September 18.

The computer maker made the official announcement at an event at its Cupertino, Calif., home base Tuesday. Headlining the same presentation was its introduction of a new budget smartphone, the iPhone 5C, and its new flagship iPhone 5S, as it seeks to attract more customers and revitalize interest in its devices.

iTunes Radio, the long-awaited online radio service from Apple, was unveiled in June at Apple's WWDC presentation to developers. The service was widely expected to launch Tuesday in the US as part of iOS 7.

Streaming music -- a rare corner of growth for the otherwise beleaguered music industry -- is already a field crowded by the likes of Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Rdio, Google Music All Access, et al., but Apple's base of at least 575 million iTunes customers worldwide makes up for missing out on first-mover advantage.

Pandora, by comparison, is the current king on streaming radio with about 72 million active users as of last month, and it surpassed 200 million registered users earlier this year.

Apple announces iOS 7 release date
Watch this: Apple announces iOS 7 release date

iTunes Radio is a free, ad-supported service for iPhones, iPod Touches, Apple TV and iTunes on Macs and PCs, with 200 stations built by Apple's music team to adapt to a user's listening history. Apple has said subscribers of its cloud-based music library product, iTunes Match, could access an ad-free version. Cloud Match costs $24.99 a year.

With Apple striking direct deals with the three major music labels to kickstart iTunes Radio, the service holds the promise of a greater degree of user control over what is played. Pandora, the biggest online streaming music service, operates under a blanket Internet radio licensing system that saves it from the work of sealing deals with labels but limits how often users can skip songs or select precisely which song they want to hear. Apple isn't bound by such strictures, and developer versions of iTunes Radio indicated users would be able to adjust how much playtime is given to recognizable hits versus discovery of lesser-known tracks.

But Apple provided little further detail Tuesday about the service, nor did it offer insights about several other product that were expected to get an update.

This year has been choppy for Apple, which encountered pressure from activist investors, a verdict that it led an antitrust conspiracy at its e-book store, and continuing criticism of its labor practices in China. The troubles have allowed Samsung, the world's biggest phone maker, to eat away at Apple's mobile share, a market it upended with the iPhone.

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