Apr 14, 2015 · 2 minutes

Apple has made an updated version of its Music application available to developers as part of the iOS 8.4 beta release. It boasts a new design, new playback options, and other refinements over the current version of the app.

The app remains limited to music purchased via iTunes or streamed through the Pandora-like iTunes Radio service that made its debut in September 2013. But, thanks to Beats Music, those restrictions might not be in place forever.

9to5Mac's Mark Gurman previously reported that the final version of this Music update could include a streaming service based on Beats Music. (Apple acquired the service, along with its parent company, for $3 billion in 2014.)

If that happens -- and it's hard to imagine Apple choosing not to bundle the service with its Music app, barring any regulatory concerns -- the company will have a good chance of retaking the musical throne from Spotify and its ilk.

Think about it: Would you rather sign up for a service that requires you to download a new application, or use one bundled with an app that can't be removed from your iPhone, your iPad, or your Mac computer of choice?

Besides, it's not like it would be hard for Apple to create a better experience than Spotify or Rdio or other popular services. Those apps are frustrating, buggy, and enough to make you think about turning back to cassette tapes.

Just look at Rdio. It seems like there isn't a day that goes by without the app freezing -- and, worse, making it so I can't get to the home screen without frantically pressing the iPhone's home and lock buttons until it all goes dark. I've also had issues with syncing, music playback, and other basic features.

Assuming whatever service Apple introduces costs the same as Rdio, has a similar music catalog, and is accessed through a better application, I would abandon Rdio's service in a heartbeat. Others would do the same with Spotify, particularly those who pay for a monthly subscription to avoid ads and to have full mobile functionality. Convincing the users of Spotify's free tier, however, to pony up cold hard cash every month for Apple's offering -- which will likely not include a free, ad-supported version -- is no easy proposition.

But with only a fraction of the global population accessing music through Spotify or other on-demand streaming services, Apple doesn't need to "steal" these consumers to build a strong user base.

Of course, Apple could just leave Music as the app fuddy-duddies use to access the music they bought through iTunes. (Apparently that's a thing some people still do? And here I thought we all listened to music via Spotify and YouTube.)

But that seems unlikely. Acquiring Beats Music was the first step towards reclaiming the music market after streaming services overthrew iTunes. This new Music app is the next step; the only thing left to do is bundle everything, release the service to consumers, and see if Apple can relive its glory days as the biggest name in digital music.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]