It’s been almost a year since we first heard reports that Apple was planning to allow users to choose to use third-party apps as default browsers, email clients, and music players, and while it fulfilled that promise for web browsers and email with iOS 14.0 last fall, the ability to do so with music apps has remained mostly missing in action.
To be fair, the capability did come to the HomePod mini in November, however it’s seen a slightly slower uptake among third-party music services, as unlike simply streaming from an app on your iPhone or iPad, the app-less HomePod requires that services offer direct playback from the cloud to the smart speaker.
However, it looks like iOS 14.5 has some good news packed in for users who prefer to call up music on their iPhone using Siri, in that Apple appears to have taken the first steps to allowing a different default music player to be used.
This change was first discovered by users on Reddit playing around with the iOS 14.5 public beta, and while it’s still clearly a work in progress (it is only beta 1, after all), it does appear to be mostly functional.
How It Works
At this point, there don’t seem to be any actual settings for this within the iOS user interface, however it looks like it’s actually going to be as simple as asking Siri to play something.
The first time you make a request to play a song after installing the iOS 14.5 public beta, Siri will come up and ask you which of the installed music apps you want to use.
It looks like it’s not just limited to the big players like Spotify, either — any music app that supports Apple’s standard playback frameworks should appear here, and even podcast apps and apps like Apple Books show up, with the latter presumably there to offer audiobook playback.
Once you’ve chosen an option from this initial prompt, every subsequent request will use the selected music service by default. This will also happen if you simply ask Siri to use that service right off the bat (e.g. “Siri, play Faded using Spotify.”), which has previously been the only way to choose a specific music player when using Siri.
Unfortunately, once you’ve chosen a default music player after the initial request, there doesn’t yet appear to be any way to switch to using an alternative player as your default; although you can still fall back to the “using” requests to choose another player on demand, that won’t make it your default.
At this point, however, it’s also fair to say that the feature is a bit half-baked, which isn’t all that surprising in an early beta. For instance, during our testing, even with Apple Music by default, we found that any songs that we had previously requested “using Spotify” would play in Spotify again the next time we called up those songs. For example (with Apple Music as the default):
- “Hey Siri, play Nowhere Man.” — plays in Apple Music.
- “Hey Siri, play Nowhere Man using Spotify.” — plays in Spotify.
- “Hey Siri, play Alone in Spotify.” — new song plays in Spotify.
- “Hey Siri, play Faded.” — new song plays in Apple Music.
- “Hey Siri, play Nowhere Man.” — plays in Spotify.
After enough back-and-forth like the above, it looks like Siri will eventually ask you to select a default player again, perhaps because it assumes you can’t make up your mind as to which one you really want to use.
Of course, Apple will undoubtedly take steps to improve this user experience by the time iOS 14.5 is released, and will likely also provide some explanations as to how it’s supposed to work. Either way, however, it’s a promising development, and those who want to jump in and give it a try can do so right now by installing the iOS 14.5 public beta.