Samsung's (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF ) latest initiative, Milk Music, appears to have been heavily inspired by Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) iTunes Radio. Admittedly, Apple was far from an Internet radio pioneer -- iTunes Radio itself being a virtual Pandora (NYSE: P ) clone -- but Samsung's move into the space comes just six months after its chief rival, Apple, launched its own Internet radio service.
Unlike Samsung's prior Apple-like initiatives (its retail stores and the Galaxy S5's fingerprint scanner) Samsung has one-upped Apple this time, offering a product that is almost indisputably better than Apple's alternative.
Milk Music vs. iTunes Radio vs. Pandora
Unveiled late last week, Samsung's Milk Music competes directly with Pandora and Apple's iTunes Radio. Like those other services, Milk Music allows listeners to create custom Internet radio stations based off particular artists or songs.
In fact, Samsung's service isn't exactly new -- it's just Slacker Radio, a longtime Pandora competitor, reskinned with a custom interface. But unlike Pandora and Slacker Radio itself, Milk Music isn't ad-supported -- listeners won't be forced to sit through annoying ads every few songs.
It's possible to get an ad-free version of Apple's iTunes Radio, but it costs money -- $25 per year. In that way, Samsung's initiative is objectively better than Apple's -- what Apple charges its customers for, Samsung is giving away for free.
Standing out from the pack
Samsung has given buyers of high-end Galaxy phones many free goodies in the past, including cloud storage through DropBox and subscriptions to various third-party apps and services like Hulu, but Milk Music seems a bit more substantial -- a custom app that only owners of Samsung-made devices can use.
A $25 perk is unlikely to convince many of Apple's customers to abandon their iPhones for Samsung's products, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. The companies most challenged, however, are Samsung's other competitors in the Android space -- LG, HTC and Motorola.
Unlike Apple, Samsung doesn't control the operating system it relies on to power its phones, making it more difficult to turn its customers into repeat buyers. By creating exclusive services like Milk Music, Samsung is helping its Android phones stand out from the competition.
It's also putting pressure on Pandora by offering an ad-free alternative. Not all of Pandora's listeners use Samsung-made devices, but those that do have a strong incentive to switch. As with Apple's iTunes Radio, Milk Music is objectively better than Pandora, as there are no ads to sit though. It's possible to get a Pandora experience without ads but, just like iTunes Radio, users must pay to get it -- in Pandora's case, $36 per year.
A Samsung app that's actually worth it
Samsung's Android skin, TouchWiz, has long included a number of Samsung-specific software features, including Air View, S-Beam and Smart Scroll. Unfortunately, most of these features are difficult to use, buggy, or largely useless.
But with Milk Music, Samsung is offering a service that its users are very likely to value. It won't give Samsung much of an advantage over Apple, but it could pressure on Pandora, and it should help Samsung continue to dominate the Android space.
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