Apple has bought a startup that makes listening to podcasts like tuning in to radio stations, seeking to improve its service in the face of growing competition from Spotify.
The Cupertino, California-based tech giant has bought Scout FM, which was a popular podcast app on Amazon’s iPhones, Android devices and smart speakers, according to people with knowledge of the deal.
While podcast applications, including Apple’s, traditionally function by allowing users to choose an individual podcast to listen to, Scout FM created a kind of podcast station on various topics. For example, if a person is interested in sports, the application would create a station that mixes an appropriate selection of sports podcasts.
The app determined a person’s interests based on listening history, declared preferences, and AI-based software suggestions.
Scout FM was popular with some Apple device users and could be integrated with CarPlay, the interface that appears on compatible car displays when connected to an iPhone, and Apple’s Siri digital assistant. It was also optimized for Amazon Alexa-based devices.
An Apple spokesperson confirmed the acquisition, but declined to comment further. The company closed the application after the purchase.
Podcasts have been an increasingly important content area for Apple. The iPhone maker was one of the first tech companies to popularize podcasts 15 years ago. Since then, it has slowly added new features to its Podcast app on almost all of its devices.
Apple is developing original podcasts that tie into Apple TV +, Bloomberg reported earlier this year. That comes at a time when Spotify has quickly acquired a vast catalog of podcasts, including the exclusive rights to a show by Joe Rogan, a famous comedian and television host.
The Scout FM purchase agreement is one of several that Apple has made so far this year. It recently acquired payment company Mobeewave, Dark Sky weather app, and virtual reality content streaming company NextVR. Other purchases include Voysis, Xnor.ai and Inductiv to enhance Siri and artificial intelligence, Fleetsmith for enterprise device management, and Spaces, the virtual reality software startup.