Apple Music, which, as the name suggests is a music streaming service from the iPhone maker, is one of the few such services that has been open to access by Kenyans. The people behind our favourite platform, Android, are yet to make up their minds whether we deserve the music streaming service they bundle on all Android devices out of the box, Google Play Music. Yes, I get the bit where there are licensing issues and whatnot but it’s a recurring theme. There are many other services that Google launches but restricts their access to first world markets. It’s just the other day that I was getting excited that we may finally be getting YouTube Red. Don’t get me started on the hustle involved before one can lay their hands on something as desirable as the Pixel 2 XL or the Google Home mini (and people are taking advantage of that to extort Kenyans).
With Spotify, the other popular music streaming service and also the global industry leader, being officially inaccessible in Kenya (one has to use VPN apps), users interested in paying for a premium experience have often been left with fewer options. Chase expensive gift card/voucher code options so as to use Spotify premium, use the limited SoundCloud or, better yet, go with something that works and that does not have restrictions on users from Kenya. Like Apple Music or Deezer.
The problem with the French service, Deezer, is that it lacks the name recognition that Apple has not just in Kenya but anywhere in the world. I have used Deezer and I definitely prefer its app experience on both my Android phones and on my Windows laptop where it has a nice app on the Windows store as well as a fully functional web interface but Apple is hard to ignore. I also like that Deezer is keen on offering me, as a user, the full experience instead of locking up some desirable features to devices it is hoping to sell me or a platform it is hoping that I switch to, something that the competition is often accused of doing. However, there’s more legwork that Deezer needs to do to get anywhere close to the Apple juggernaut. Furthermore, Apple does have a loyal cult-like following in the country even though not that many people can afford Apple devices. Which is why it’s exciting to note that the Cupertino-based company’s music streaming service is now accepting students from local universities to pay a small fee to access their favourite songs as part of its university subscription plan.
Traditionally, there are 3 Apple Music subscription options: individual, family and university student. While the individual and family subscriptions have been available from the first day the Apple Music app hit the Google Play Store, in November 2015, the subscription tier targeted at college-going people was limited to a few countries. Definitely, Kenya wasn’t one of them. Now, Kenya is among 110 countries that Apple is expanding availability of the subscription tier to. In fact, the country happens to be one of the 82 that were enabled on day 1 (February 12th) while the rest are to follow in coming days. Apple’s website has also been updated to reflect the same.
And it works. I attempted to access the service using my old university credentials and all was well until I got to the point where Apple needs to send a verification email to my student mailing account. I couldn’t proceed further since that account has remained locked and inactive since it’s been 2 years since I graduated and stopped being a student of Moi University. Everything else checks out and UNiDAYS, the service that Apple is using for the student verification exercise, was able to detect my university by just keying in the corresponding email address.
Apple charges $4.99, $7.99 and $2.49 respectively for the individual, family and student subscriptions in Kenya (the rates are much higher in other countries) which means that for just about Kshs 250, students in Kenyan universities will be able to access tens of millions (over 30 million, actually) of songs from their smartphones. And they’re throwing in the mix that famous 90-day trial period. That in itself presents a serious challenge to local players angling for the same market. Just 2 days ago, Songa, a new music streaming service from Safaricom, was launched. One of the first things that Safaricom has done is embark on tours of local universities promoting its new music app. From the look of things, it may have to do more than just that.