In August 2021, Apple announced it had acquired classical music service Primephonic. At the time, Apple said it planned to launch a dedicated classical music app this year, but time is starting to run out if the company wishes to fulfill this promise.
“Apple Music plans to launch a dedicated classical music app next year combining Primephonic’s classical user interface that fans have grown to love with more added features,” said an Apple Newsroom press release shared last year. Apple has not publicly addressed the plans since and did not respond to our requests for comment over the past month.
The app would serve as a replacement for Primephonic, providing users with a destination for streaming classical music from the likes of Beethoven and Mozart.
Primephonic’s website originally said it was “working on an amazing new classical music experience from Apple for early next year,” but the “early next year” wording was changed to “next year” on March 9, 2022, just one day after Apple held an event to introduce the Mac Studio, Studio Display, fifth-generation iPad Air, and third-generation iPhone SE.
Primephonic’s service shut down in September 2021, with subscribers at the time receiving six months of access to Apple Music for free. That means Primephonic subscribers were able to listen to Apple Music through February, suggesting that Apple might have planned to announce the classical music app at its March event this year, but wasn’t ready to.
In February, a code-level reference to “Open in Apple Classical” was discovered in a beta version of the Apple Music app for Android. Then, in May, similar references to “Open in Apple Classical” and “A Shortcut to Apple Classical” were uncovered in the iOS 15.5 beta. These references were never made visible to the public, but it could reveal that Apple is or at least was planning to name the app Apple Classical instead of Apple Music Classical.
Even more references to the classical music app were discovered in an XML file on Apple’s servers in late September as backend preparations continued. It’s unclear if the app would be built into iOS or released separately on the App Store.
Apple said it would incorporate the best features of Primephonic, including “better browsing and search capabilities by composer and by repertoire” and “detailed displays of classical music metadata,” and it’s possible that the company simply needs more time to finish working on the task. Primephonic also operated with a unique pay-per-second-listened model instead of a pay-per-play model like Apple Music, so perhaps Apple is still trying to figure out a payout model that it finds suitable for the Apple Classical app.
At this point, the fate of Apple Classical is unclear. Apple could end up launching the app in the next week or two and meet its deadline after all, or the launch might be pushed back to 2023. A lesser possibility is that Apple decides not to release a classical music app and instead moves to incorporate more classical features into the Apple Music app in future iOS 16 or iOS 17 versions. In any case, Apple is staying quiet about its plans right now.