Fixing the Music App in iOS, Part 1

Apple has positioned the iPhone 6/6s Plus as a device in between a phone and a tablet but they forgot to address one core app and it’s been driving me nuts.

First, let’s list the apps that did get landscape views: Mail, Messages, Stocks, Maps, Find My Phone, Voice Memos, Reminders, Contacts and Calendar. All these apps also are given split view controllers (this usually means a list view in the left pane and a detail view in the right pane).

Home Screen, Weather, Photos, and Calculator are also given landscape orientations to make the best use of the horizontal space.

That’s a lot of apps that accomodate landscape orientation but someone is missing. Hmm. Who’s missing? Oh, it just happens to be the app I need a landscape view of the most: the Music app.

[HOLD UP: I know what you’re going to say. The Music app has many, many usability issues. MANY. My mother-in-law hates it, I hate it, it’s just not good. I will address these other issues in subsequent posts. For now, I’m just focusing on the lack of a landscape view, k? Cool.]

When I’m driving in my car I always have my iPhone 6 Plus laying sideways. When I don’t have a maps app loaded (either Waze or Apple Maps) I’m in the Music app. I also like to have my phone laying sideways when I’m working at my desk (I prop it up with my trusty Glif).

Rather than simply flop everything into a landscape view, I took this as an opportunity to fix a few other things that bother me about the Music app.

Have Respect for the Album Art

Album art is important to me. I don’t no if it’s because Steve Jobs is not around anymore, but I don’t get the impression it’s important to people at Apple.

My gut tells me he wouldn’t have been cool with junk on top of his Dylan albums.

I think Jack White and Alison Mosshart would concur with me.

Just look at how the status bar and minimize button are crapping up the album art. This is not cool.

How ‘Bout a Scrubber That Isn’t Microscopic?

The scrubber in the Music app is visibly very tiny. I say ‘visibly’ because the actual hit area of this ui element isn’t too hard to make contact with, but why not make it more inviting to tap on?

This is a touchscreen, right?

I don’t have sausage fingers, but that scrubber is tiny.

I Want to Access to All Album Tracks

Call me crazy, but when I’m listening to an album I might, I don’t know, want to access the tracks on the album. Last time I checked, musicians are still releasing those things.

The way the process works now:

  1. Tap the 3-dot icon in the bottom right of the Music Player view
  2. Tap on the album name/mini cover art view in the popover menu
  3. Select track
  4. Scratch you head on how you figured out Steps 1–3

Why not make the album tracks accessible right from the album art?

Funny thing is, Apple solved this problem prior to iOS 7 (see image below). You simple needed to double tap on the album art and it would flip around to the back, revealing the tracks.

double tap on the album art or tap the icon in the top right corner to access album tracks

Instead of opting for this approach (the interaction paradigm is outdated), I decided to steal the one Marco Arment uses in Overcast podcasting app:

Shameless plug: Listen to my Weekly Exhaust podcast on iTunes.

In the case of Overcast, sliding the episode art up reveals the details of the episode pulled from the podcast website.

The situation in the Music app is different, but the ui flow works just as well.

First let’s look at the default view when listening to a track:

Look at that. Everything in its place and a place for everything.

Now let’s swipe up on the album artwork:

Take your finger and slide up. You’re done.

I’ve just scratched the surface with what needs fixing in the Music app for iOS, but things are already improving.

Now we just need Apple to listen.

Mike Mulvey has been designing mobile applications and websites for over 15 years. You can view his portfolio at The Combustion Chamber and listen to him on his podcast, Weekly Exhaust.

He lives in San Francisco and is currently available for hire.

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