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Apple Releases iOS 8.4

Apple's new Music app.

Apple's new Music app.

Apple has released iOS 8.4 today, bringing a redesigned Music app with Apple Music support, audiobook listening features for iBooks and CarPlay, and iBooks Author textbook support on iPhone.

The headline feature of iOS 8.4 is a new Music app designed with integration with the company's new streaming service in mind. By default, the new Music app has Apple Music support turned off and sports a new interface with a persistent search button at the top and three tabs along the bottom: My Music, Playlists, and Radio. In the main view, Music displays recently added songs and albums at the top; navigation between artists, albums, genres, and other categories is now handled by a contextual menu that can be accessed underneath the Recently Added section (or in the title bar on iPad).

Search enables users to look for any item in their media library and iTunes Radio, with the ability to access recent searches as well. Notably, each item presented in the app now offers a contextual menu (represented by three dots on the right side) to manage a listening queue (called Up Next as on OS X), start a radio station, make media available offline, or delete.

The new features in the new Music app tie into Apple Music, set to go live later today in over 100 countries. Built on top of the Beats Music acquisition from last year, Apple Music enhances the Music app with an online library of songs that can be streamed and saved for offline listening, plus curated recommendations for new and relevant music, a Connect area to follow artists, and Beats 1, a 24/7 radio channel hosted by Apple DJs and other celebrities.

Apple is offering a three-month free trial of Apple Music, as well as a transition for existing Beats Music customers, who will be able to keep their libraries and playlists in the move to Apple Music. We'll cover Apple Music in detail in the coming weeks.

Also new in iOS 8.4, Audiobooks have been moved to iBooks following the Music redesign. With a distinct collection in their iBooks libraries, users will now be able to start listening to audiobooks in iBooks through a new media player that offers gesture support, a sleep timer, and speed controls. A button in the top right gives access to chapters, while swipe gestures on the audiobook's artwork allow for skipping backward and forward in 15-second increments. For CarPlay users, a new Audiobooks app (with the same iBooks icon) will be added to their CarPlay screens today to start listening to audiobooks in the car.

iOS 8.4 is available now through Apple's software update. Beats 1 will debut today in Apple Music for all users today at 9 AM PT.

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