So, about Apple Music

That experiment is now over.

Some could argue I’ve been an Apple fanboy for a solid 8 years, even before I could afford to purchase more than an iPod. In reality, I’m just drawn to really well designed and implemented products, though, I agree, there is a natural bias toward’s anything Apple creates.

For me a good design is a mix of the aesthetic and the functional. Putting the right features and actions in my path at the right time. Apple has always done a good job of building those streamlined experiences. They’ve always been the company that ‘builds to perfection’, favouring a big release over iteration.

So it was really no surprise to my co-workers and friends that I jumped ship from Spotify (it wasn’t you, it was me) to Apple Music on June 30th when it released here in Canada. Ever since, I’ve been battling through interface woes, and Apple’s awful streaming capabilities. I was holding onto a glimmer of hope that it would become the streaming music player I imagined Apple could create.

It’s now almost exactly 10 months later, and I’ve officially made the switch back to Spotify — and life is good again! When it came down to it, it’s the small things that eat away at the quality of a product experience. These are some of those irritations.

Experience Integration

Apple and Spotify have very different approaches. Spotify is a third party app, built from the ground up around streaming and discovering music.

Apple Music was built into an existing (and rather cumbersome) UI of iTunes. Apple has tried many attempts at tying in social with their music, trying cloud syncing solutions in iTunes Match, and more. All of those attempts and changes in the product have breadcrumbs of that confusing past, making for an even more cumbersome UI.

The UI

Spotify wins big time on the UI. The dark UI draws attention to the content, making album art pop. For the most part it’s arranged in a logical order, and when you open the app, music is literally a click away.

Home Screen on Spotify — One click away from hearing those tunes :)

Apple on the other hand has continued their very ‘perfected’ and ‘designed’ aesthetic, with a white background, and lots of curated images. It looks alright, but it feels old, being stuffed into iTunes like a chubby kid in spandex. It just doesn’t fit. To get to it you click on “New”. But it opens to the iTunes Store sometimes, and instead of play buttons it’s buy buttons.

Apple Music — It’s not easy to jump in and just start listening. The play button top left doesn’t even do anything half the time.

Playlists

One of the biggest losses you have moving from Spotify to Apple Music is the lack of GOOD curated content. Understandably, Spotify has been at it for a while, but this is where it was most obvious Apple rushed the release of Music. Playlists were (and in many cases, still are) a measly 10–11 songs long. Good for about a half hour of listening. Spotify on the other hand is rocking playlists 50–60 songs long, and they pretty well rock.

I just want to play all…

When it really comes down to it, the largest irritation with using Apple Music was the inability to search an artist and listen to their music. Every search presented me with a battle to decide on an album, or add several tracks to the ‘Up Next’ so I can somehow squeeze out more than 4 minutes of uninterrupted listening time. Apple required labour.

With Spotify, I just search an artist, and in one click I’m listening to the discography of any artist I want. Except for T-swizzy.

After a search for artist “Girl Talk” Spotify brings me right to the artist page with a bright green PLAY button :)

The Apple alternative — after a search I had to select the artist page, and then land here. I still don’t have an option to play all.. I have to select a track :(

It was a good experiment, spending a few months away from Spotify, living with a bad user experience for a while, and really learning to understand why and how an interface can make you physically frustrated.

Using Apple Music can teach you valuable lessons on the value of the little things, like being able to “Play All” on an artist. It also shows you, sadly, the value of having a gigantic distribution network. Bad products can do well because they’re simply easier to get access to.

Watching Spotify Grow

I’m more than happy now to be back on Spotify premium, supporting a company who is doing some great things (royalties aside). They’re approach to product development is intriguing, and they clearly care about the product.


This was just the beginning of a shift away from Apple’s products like Calendar, Photos, and Music. Besides Spotify, Google is doing some awesome things, and are frankly creating some more exciting products than Apple these days.