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Tidal and Apple face off as music streaming gets more crowded

There’s a battle brewing between Apple and Tidal, and it looks like (no surprise) Apple is winning.

 First, Jay Z’s recently-acquired streaming music service, Tidal, fell out of the top 700 iPhone apps in Apple’s App Store. In a related allegation, Tidal claims Apple “deliberately took longer than usual to approve Tidal iOS app updates.” In addition, Tidal’s monthly subscription price for users who sign up through an iOS device is 30 percent higher “due to fees paid to Apple,” although, as The Verge reports, Apple users can pay the regular price if they simply sign up on Tidal’s website. Still, it seems tensions between the two are high, and they’re only likely to increase as Apple gets ready to roll out its own Beats-based music streaming service into the crowding music streaming marketplace this June.

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For Apple users who aren’t savvy enough to sign up on the web, Tidal’s monthly subscription fee is $13/month for Tidal Premium (the standard audio quality version) and $26/month for Tidal HiFi (the lossless high-quality audio version). Tidal confirmed the price difference yesterday via Twitter, explaining that “the price for users subscribing to Tidal on iOS is higher than the usual price by about 30 percent.” The monthly subscription price remains at $10/$20 for those who signup on Android and Google Chrome (for Mac and PC).

In a follow-up interview with DigitalTrends, Tidal COO Vania Schlogel explained that the 30 percent increase in price for iOS users is to compensate for Apple’s distribution costs.

“We can not unilaterally mandate that. For example, if you go on the Apple App Store and download the app … not just Tidal but Spotify, Rdio, all streaming subscription players for the life of that subscription have to pay a 30 percent distribution fee for distributing it through Apple’s App Store.”

Tidal’s decision to place the distribution cost burden on iOS customers is a unique one in the streaming music sphere, though. Spotify, Rdio, Google Play Music, and similar streaming services all offer the same price points across operating systems. Furthermore, Tidal’s $10/20 price points remain for Android users, even though Google Play also has the same 30 percent distribution fee.

It’s difficult to believe that there isn’t a relationship between Tidal’s higher price on the platform and the streaming service’s struggles on the Apple App Store. At the same time, it’s also worth noting that Apple does have a history of making life difficult for competing apps on their App Store ecosystem. In 2009, for example, Apple kept the Google Voice app from being accepted for over 16 months according to BGR.

Whether or not Apple and Tidal are intentionally battling, the higher per-month subscription price will certainly hinder iOS users from subscribing to Tidal Premium or Tidal HiFi. And for Apple, whose Beats Music-based streaming service is looking to make a big splash in June, this is good news.