June 30, 2015 Last Updated 8:39 am

Early reviews are in as Apple gives iPhones with Apple Music app to select media outlets

Early reviews of Apple Music are generally favorable, something to be expected when Apple hand picks its critics

The new, more open Apple, seems to becoming more closed. Today, several select websites were able to publish reviews of the new Apple Music streaming service when they were given special iPhones with iOS 8.4 and the Apple Music app already installed.

applemusic-iPhone6Mashable, re/code, Rolling Stone and The Loop each were selected by Apple. Other websites may also have been on Apple’s select list, but declined, as sometimes happens, over any conditions put on their reporting.

Apple could do this by not releasing to developers the gold master for iOS 8.4 – normally released to developers at least 24 hours before it is released to consumers. The last version of the software remains beta 4, released on June 9th.

This could present Apple with some problems very soon. The release of the gold master puts in the hands of developers the final version of the operating system before consumers get it, exposing bugs and errors that might have been overlooked. For instance, if it is true that multi-touch eBooks will now come to the iPhone, will the embedded fonts work?

One reason for not releasing the gold master, in this case, may be to reward a few tech sites with a couple hours of exclusive coverage, but also avoid a rush of users to Apple Music. Beats 1, the streaming radio station is set to launch one hour after the release of iOS 8.4 at noon ET, and so it is possible that Apple didn’t a bunch of developers – and those tech reporters who hold developer licenses – trying to use Apple Music before it was ready.

Or maybe it is just another example of Apple’s press team being, well, Apple’s press team.

So, how are the early reviews of Apple Music? Positive, as you would expect when the critics are hand picked. Jim Dalrymple, who has his digital magazine constantly promoted by Apple, is the most positive. He got a sit down meeting with Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, and Beats Founder Jimmy Iovine on Monday, as well.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from Apple Music. I was not only pleasantly surprised when I started using it, I’m downright impressed,” Dalrymple writes.

ForYou-iPhone6-380Walt Mossberg was impressed, too, though he calls Apple Music somewhat complicated compared to most Apple products. He points to the part of Apple Music that I am most interested in: integrating one’s own music library with that available through streaming (I have a lot of music that still cannot be found on Spotify or other streaming services):

Mossberg writes that the Apple Music app “smoothly integrates the existing library of iTunes songs you own with the much larger catalog of music you are merely, in effect, renting. For instance, you can create mixed playlists of songs you bought from iTunes or ripped from CDs with streaming music. And you can make them all playable offline, even though they live in the cloud.”

Those with smaller music libraries will often depend on music recommendations. This is the area Christina Warren of Mashable found most useful:

“The real heart of Apple Music is the For You tab,” Warren wrote. “This is basically your music homescreen. When you open the section for the first time, you’re asked to go through a discovery exercise. This was lifted directly from Beats Music and it’s one of the best discovery tools I’ve used over the years.”

Kory Grow of Rolling Stone, though, thought that the ‘For You’ feature had discovery issues (discovery being a weakness in the entire Apple ecosystem):

“The one music discovery downside – outside of the “For You” tab – is that when you do look up an artist, connections to other musicians are not readily apparent. If you look up Trent Reznor, there is no clear link to Nine Inch Nails or How to Destroy Angels. And with David Bowie, there’s no easy way to find – if you really, really wanted to – Tin Machine.”

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