Hi Apple! I’m a big fan of your Music!
For the uninitiated, Apple Music is a music streaming service from, you guessed it, Apple! And it is available for Android! *Gasp* It can store music offline making it a valuable companion while driving and in places like India where we need to chase the net connection like the police after a thief, not to mention we need to pay a bomb for it. Apple Music is a natural progression to a system that I already belong to.
Just to give you a context on ‘why Apple Music’, I will tell you where I started my journey. My dad is kind of a technology freak, and we had been having portable music players for a while when I was a kid. When I say portable music players, what I mean is, either a Sony CD player or a Sony Walkman playing cassettes and similar players from other brands. The first time we got an iPod, by some luck, I got to do the unboxing of the iPod and pulled out what appeared to be a bar of soap with a Display. This one:
iTunes was the software that came with it. We used it to rip CDs and dump them in the iPod. Period. No one remembered it beyond that. Soon after the iPod, the MP3 became famous. Not many people knew what the MP3 was, but basically understood that they need not pack another suitcase for their CDs and Cassettes when they travel. With the rise of MP3, music players like Winamp, Windows Media Player, Groove Monkey and some other players which do not exist anymore came into existence. No one saw the need for iTunes. I mean, you can adjust EQs, change skins, and do a lot of other superficial stuff on the other players, so why iTunes?. iTunes ripped your CDs, transferred the files onto an iPod and now offered to organize your music for you. It got the album arts from the internet and put it into neat folders. That’s all. Anyway everyone was already using Winamp, and the others who were not using Winamp were using Windows Media Player. Then Apple announced their store and the Music eco-system from Apple just became more awesome. It is like when Merry and Pipin joined Frodo and Sam in Fellowship of the Ring. More the merrier! (At least by a bit, even with the Nazguls chasing them with a killing intent). So when Apple Music became available, the music system from Apple got upgraded to the Fellowship of the ring, 9 people of different races and with different abilities, sworn to do one thing. In this case provide music.
Apple on Android
I am on Android and downloaded the app when it was in beta stages. And just like the beginning of the universe, it was a bit rough. Things were all over the place. But, safe to say, at the end of the three months, Apple Music became my primary player. Despite my love for it, I have noticed a few things that could be made better. (Hey! Even The Fellowship had its problems.)
Below are the points that I feel seem a little redundant on the App:
1) The Extra Shuffling Option: while accessing the player screen in Apple Music, you will notice a little shuffle button. This button is relevant, and easy to use. Now there is another shuffle button on the ‘My Music’ page. It shuffles the songs in my music library, the same as what the little button in the player screen does. This button sets you up to hit the search button accidentally, pulling up the keyboard covering the player. Considering the player is one swipe away and I wonder why it is even there. Maybe you can shuffle the songs around a bit more.
2) Only for you, just this once: Apple has feature called ‘For you’ which will recommend songs based on Artists you liked when you log in (It has a few popular names that it throws up). The ‘For you’ is a feature that helps find songs that I would like. But, for me to find new songs that I would like, I need to be able to find the ‘For you’ feature on the app. The ‘For you’ screen appears when you first log into Apple Music. Once there is music in the library, it will disappear, just like a bunny rabbit in the hat. Maybe you could put it instead of the shuffle button, to make it more visible. (And… Hey! Did anyone else notice the for you and the favourite symbols are the same? Strange… Are they saying that the songs suggested by ‘For you’ will be your favourite for sure?)
On the prediction side, unfortunately, it does get a bit stuck on one single genre and artist. Other times it feels like the app wrote down 7 random artist names and keeps telling you to listen to them.
3) The Shy Playlist: Apple Music lets you create your own playlist or download pre-made playlists by Apple and a lot of other artists. It is currently that shy one hiding in that corner in the side menu. The app gives you options to be able to view your music with any kind of a sorting option you need. This includes, songs, genres, compilations, albums, the artists, colours, rainbows, etc. However, the one thing that is missing in this drop down is the playlist sorting. Whether you are the type to choose your music characteristically by the exact count of BPM, or the one who presses download on the playlist even before you actually know what songs there are on it, the songs in these playlists are in your music. So making a shy man out of the playlist makes it a tad difficult for me to find it.
4) The Accurate Search: I know there is a time and place for everything, but if we could do it less accurately, it could be easier. If Apple does remove the shuffle button, the could dedicate the top bar to search. One click on the top bar and search. Before you say it, yes it is like the other Android app, Chrome. This one little trick is enough, in my opinion, to make the search more fluent. Even when I am moving around, or tip toeing on difficult terrain, or just decide to do a quick dance number, because, hey! I am after all listening to music.
5) An easy re-collection: I reset my phone every 6 months. In my head it just helps it work better. But every time I do so, I need to re-install the app. At this time Apple music decides that I actually hated my entire music collection but I didn’t want to admit it, so I un-installed the app and moved on. It behaves like an old man, who forgot everything including his pants. So I need to make a fresh start. Every time. And that includes spending hours getting the music back, one by one. Multi-select is not a concept that is well understood by Apple. Nor is keeping a back-up on my SD card, and offering to download the latest music I had on my phone. To be honest, multi-select could help download new songs, add to playlists, or even delete them more easily.
6) Disappearing Act: Somehow songs that have been already stored offline, or downloaded to music library, seem to disappear. I don’t know if this is because there is a certain limit to the number of downloads or if there is a particular amount of time that the tracks can be listened to. But, occasionally, whole chunks of music go missing. (A perfect hiding spot for cats and humans who to go off the grid.)
7) Not Permitted: This is the James Bond of Apps. It has about 13 GB of data stored on my device without asking for or needing any permissions whatsoeva! (Uh-huh!). I am honestly not sure how the app is writing to my storage without the required permissions. But it seems to have the license to do so.
8) Air Support: Having an airplay option could be nice. I don’t have to run up to my iTunes to stream music or run to the iPad to play my music. But since I am on Android, at least give me Chrome Cast support so I don’t have to run around for AUX cables.
End of Track
TL;DR version, Apple Music has a lot of improvements to be made. For your information, we don’t have Google Music streaming services, Tidal or Spotify in this part of the world. Apple music eco-system is something that I am used to and the idea of Apple music, with their own additional content gives me freedom to listen to more music. However, they seem to forget one very important thing that this App is for Android users and the other most important thing, Android has a back button and multi-select which we are okay with using.