iTunes Radio is a part of iTunes Music that is already installed on your iPhone, except that you will need to download the latest version of iTunes 11.1 in order to enjoy it. This is where Apple loses me; why does the latest version of iTunes need to be installed on a PC or Mac in order to take advantage of functionality that should already be offered as a separate application through the App Store?
Sometimes you get what you pay for; iTunes Radio is free, and unlike paid services, such as the radio functionality of Google Play Music, iTunes Radio is a bit different. For the record, even after installing the latest iTunes and going into the music section then iTunes Radio, it wasn’t clear that I already had the functionality on the phone, merely from having installed a new iTunes on my PC and having hooked up the USB cable. There was no communication of that fact whatsoever.
Anyway, to get to iTunes Radio, after having installed the latest iTunes, open up iTunes Music on your phone, click on Music in the lower left hand corner, click on the list icon in the upper right hand corner, click on radio, click on “Listen to iTunes Radio,” then click on “Start Listening,” accept the agreement, create a station. Apple does a great job of picking interesting tunes, regardless of whether your stations are based upon an artist or a genre.
iTunes Radio is very similar to Pandora in this respect. But it is not Google Play Music, or any other service that allows you to stream entire albums online. If you want to take advantage of the cloud functionality of the service, there is always iTunes Match, which will match songs you upload to Apple’s servers (and play back songs that are not), in the interest of creating a service that works quickly and efficiently. Google Play Music is one application that does everything, and it is not an extension of the Android ecosystem, as iTunes Radio is an extension of iOS, built into the default music player. Apple users would prefer the integration, whereas Android users like more control and the ability to kill it from the task manager.
Despite the hassles, iTunes Radio is a decent service; free, and you can get access to the latest mainstream music, which is something Google Play Music charges $10 a month for. On the other hand, Google Play Music has added functionality iTunes Radio does not, and is more flexible; you get to see your entire playlist upfront, Google Play Music has intelligent playlists (based upon songs you have already uploaded to their servers), and, of course, if you must maintain your own catalog, Google Play Music stores 20,000 songs in the cloud. iTunes Radio is a good service for iPhone users, but it is a mediocre app for everyone else.