Along with iPads, AirTags, and a whole bunch of other gadgets expected to be announced, Apple might also be gearing up to launch a podcast subscription service at tomorrow’s “Spring Loaded” event. Rumour has it that the service will be called — wait for it — Podcast+.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this rumour. Back in January, the Information reported that Apple was in talks to launch a paid subscription podcast service. Around that time, Loup Ventures analysts (via MacRumors) noted that Apple saw 16% growth in services in 2020, adding that 2021 was a prime time for Apple to offer a paid tier as it was losing “tier-one” podcasts to exclusive Spotify deals. The big thing this time around is that Vox’s Peter Kafka tweeted it’s likely the service will drop tomorrow.
There are a few reasons why the timing looks ripe. For starters, after eight betas, it’s expected that the Release Candidate build of iOS 14.5 will drop after tomorrow’s event, with the public release to soon follow. And what is in the iOS 14.5 beta? Snippets of code that heavily imply a paid subscription podcast service is happening. In particular, the Podcast app redesign in the iOS 14.5 beta replaces the notification bell with an account button in the Listen Now tab, as well as a change in phrasing from “Subscribe to Podcast” to “Follow Podcast.”
More evidence of paid podcasts coming: the Podcast app redesign in 14.5 beta include an account button on the Listen Now tab. Show notifications were moved there and I imagine unsubscribing from paid notifications will move there too. pic.twitter.com/oC3i4jyQLV
— Steve Moser (@SteveMoser) March 22, 2021
Apple also recently launched a new nonfiction podcast, “The Line,” as an accompaniment to an upcoming docuseries with the same name. This corroborates a Bloomberg report from last year that suggested Apple was snapping up original podcasts to promote its Apple TV+ service. Adding another podcast service — especially if it’s lumped into the Apple One bundle or with Apple Music — would be just another way to cross-promote its services and hook users further into its ecosystem.
Apple first went all-in on services at its spring event in 2019, launching News+, the Apple Card, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV+. It followed up by launching Fitness+ late last year, along with the Apple One bundle. Considering Apple’s Podcast app is already widely used by iPhone users — and honestly, one of the things that helped launch this podcast craze in the first place — it’s actually sort of odd that Apple hasn’t tried capitalising on them in the same way Spotify has. (Though, there’s likely a compelling antitrust reason for that.) Speaking of Spotify, the streaming service also appears to be mulling launching a paid subscription for podcasts as well, for a fee of somewhere between $4-10 a month. Apple making its own service might also just be an attempt to keep up with the competition.
While the signs point to it, even if Podcast+ is announced tomorrow, it likely won’t be the star of the show. There are also plenty of instances of features or products in beta code that take ages to officially launch — like AirTags. In any case, it’s probably a good idea to accept that Podcast+, or something like it, is on the way.