When Apple acquired classical music streaming service Primephonic back in 2021, the company revealed plans to launch a standalone app with many of Primephonic’s best features by the end of this year. But we’re now in mid-December. iOS 16.2 was just released without any sign of the app — believed to be called Apple Classical — and it’s not present in the latest iOS 16.3 betas, either.
With many Apple employees nearing holiday vacation, it seems increasingly unlikely that Apple Classical will be a year-end surprise.
In its original press release from August of last year, Apple said Apple Music Classical would combine “Primephonic’s classical user interface that fans have grown to love with more added features.” (The Apple Classical app name has been spotted in code strings within other Apple software.)
With time quickly running out on 2022, there are now three possibilities:
- Apple will release Apple Classical as a standalone app in the App Store and (maybe) meet its target. Some Apple apps (like the new Freeform) debut as built-in software through iOS, iPadOS, and macOS software updates. But others like Clips and the defunct Music Memos arrive in the App Store and thus can pop up at any time.
- Apple Classical has been delayed until 2023. I’m not sure what’s so hard about giving Primephonic a new coat of paint and adapting it to the backend of Apple Music, but maybe this project is proving more time-consuming than Apple originally envisioned.
- The company has changed its mind about releasing a standalone app altogether. Plans are always subject to change, so there’s also the possibility that Apple has decided to just bring whatever it can from Primephonic over to Apple Music.
This was already part of the plan, according to the press release:
With the addition of Primephonic, Apple Music subscribers will get a significantly improved classical music experience beginning with Primephonic playlists and exclusive audio content. In the coming months, Apple Music Classical fans will get a dedicated experience with the best features of Primephonic, including better browsing and search capabilities by composer and by repertoire, detailed displays of classical music metadata, plus new features and benefits.
Why is a standalone Apple Classical app even necessary?
It comes down to discoverability and organization. Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, and other mainstream services with tens of millions of subscribers aren’t cut out for the level of in-depth search and meticulous metadata accuracy that classical fans want — and that Primephonic happily provided.
Apple praised that aspect of the service when announcing the acquisition, crediting Primephonic for “search and browse functionality optimized for classical, premium-quality audio, handpicked expert recommendations, and extensive contextual details on repertoire and recordings.” A standalone classical app would give Apple Music a unique perk and leg up on other paid music services. Whether that would help move the needle on overall subscriber count is less clear.
It’s easier to provide classical fans with that type of in-depth functionality in a siloed app rather than cram everything into Apple Music. But Primephonic’s service shut down in September 2021 soon after the acquisition, leaving listeners without their tailored experience. And the wait for a replacement is dragging on longer than some had hoped.
Primephonic customers received six months of free Apple Music, but that access ran out in February. Curiously, February was also when “Apple Music Classical” and “Apple Classical” started showing up in some of Apple’s code. 9to5Mac did some legwork and found that much of the Primephonic team is now at Apple Music, so the band is mostly still together — even if the new app is MIA.
The Verge reached out to Apple spokespeople Jessica Bass and Sam Citron for comment on Monday and hasn’t yet received any updates on the status of Apple Classical.