Shazam Gets Live Activities for Identifying Songs in the Background

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While it’s still not nearly as slick as the song identification features on Google’s Pixel phones, Apple has updated Shazam to bring it a small step closer by letting the app leverage Live Activities to identify songs in the background while you’re at the Lock Screen or doing other things on your iPhone.

Live Activities were introduced in iOS 16 two years ago as a way for apps to display real-time data on the Lock Screen or in the Dynamic Island on iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 15 models. The feature was first used by first-party apps like Apple Maps and Music but opened up in iOS 16.1 to welcome third-party apps into the fold.

Since then, it’s been used to display live sports scores, the status of Uber rides and Uber Eats deliveries, and flight tracking. Google has also been working on bringing Live Activities to Google Maps, although, as usual, it’s way behind the curve on this one.

Although Shazam has supported background listening for a while now with “Auto Shazam” mode, the Live Activities provide another way to keep tabs on what’s going on after you switch away from the app. These new capabilities land in Shazam 17.11, which is now available on the App Store, with the update notes highlighting the feature thusly:

Shazam now supports Live Activities to keep you updated when searching for music in the background. This feature is particularly handy when multitasking or identifying songs in other apps.Shazam release notes

This also works when starting a Shazam listening session from the Control Center with iOS 17.5 and the latest version of the Shazam app installed. This lets you know what Shazam is up to while it’s trying to identify your song.

Oddly, though, Live Activities don’t work with Auto Shazam. That’s the always-listening mode invoked by holding down the Shazam button in the app, which still works much like before. Once engaged, you can exit the Shazam app, and it will keep listening for new songs in the background, showing standard notifications for each new song that it identifies.

However, there’s no Live Activity to be found on the Lock Screen while Auto Shazam is running, and the Dynamic Island shows only an icon to let you know that the microphone is on. This seems like such a strange omission that we’re assuming it’s a bug that will be fixed in a future app update.

Instead, the Live Activity is only used for the standard short-term Shazam session that ends when it successfully identifies a song or fails to do so after about 30 seconds. The Live Activity will be used to show the song title, with a button to take you to the track in Apple Music, but it’s not a persistent notification; you’ll have to open the Shazam app or long-press on the Shazam button in Control Center to see the identified track in your history.

This makes the Live Activity helpful if you want to switch to another app and play a song there, but it doesn’t seem helpful for much else.

Hopefully, this is just a first step in enhancing Shazam to make it more useful for background listening. Perhaps iOS 18 will use the power of Shazam to adopt a more seamlessly integrated feature like Google’s Now Playing that works silently in the background to identify the songs around you. It’s pretty magical to pick up the Pixel 6 that I keep around for testing and see a list of songs it’s recently heard me playing around the house. Sure, there are privacy concerns around that, but even Google lets you turn the feature off, and it also uses an on-device database rather than going to the cloud. Apple could undoubtedly find a way to do even better.

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