If you haven’t heard (assumingly living under a rock), Apple recently released their new subscription-based music streaming service, Apple Music. Apple poured an incredible amount of time, money, and resources into Apple Music in an apparent effort to overtake already-established streaming giants like Spotify, Pandora, and Rdio.
Apple Music vs. The Competitors
Like most other streaming services, Apple Music contains a huge catalog of music – roughly 30 million songs. For the most part, Apple Music offers the same music as say, Spotify or Pandora does. Apple Music does provide you with some exclusive tracks and albums, however. Dr. Dre’s hip-hop classic The Chronic is exclusive to Apple Music, as is Taylor Swift’s entire catalog. Like other streaming services, as well, the subscription to Apple Music allows users to add streaming songs to playlists, and download them for offline listening. However, Apple Music also allows you (via the iCloud Music Library) to stream tracks from your collection that may not exist on Apple Music – like any of the Beatles’ records, for example. Apple Music also does an incredible job of suggesting new music to you via the For You tab – a feature services like Pandora and Spotify have offered for years. However, Apple Music also offers a number of services that Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, or Slacker don’t – a 24-hour curated radio station in Beats 1, and a blog platform where artists can share their thoughts, audio, and video with fans in Connect.
Although upon first use, Apple Music probably won’t seem to offer anything new to those already familiar with other streaming services, there are a couple of things that Apple Music does very well. The For You tab, for example, does a better job of recommending new music than any other streaming site has done for me in the past. Pulling from a combination of your previous iTunes purchases/downloads/listens and a personalized music profile in which you select favorite genres and artists, Apple Music combines computer algorithms and human content curation to suggest artists, albums, and playlists that might interest you. I, like many others, have a wide range and somewhat eclectic range of musical tastes, and Apple Music has so far nailed it with every suggestion I’ve received.
Everything in the Radio tab is rather well done, too. Although when I initially installed Apple Music, I had no interest in Beats 1 or any of the on-demand stations, I’ve spent more time listening to them than I initially thought I would. The Beats 1 station features (mostly) live broadcasts with human Djs playing today’s hits, as well as news and interviews from the world of music. Although I’m becoming more and more of an old curmudgeon with little interest in today’s musical trends, it’s refreshing to listen to a live broadcast, showcasing plenty of new talent I would have otherwise ignored. Several on-demand stations are featured, as well, offering music in a variety of genres with Pandora-like functionality. Several branded stations, such as ESPN and NPR are available, as well, if that’s your thing.
Apple Music’s integration into iOS is solid, as well. Siri functionality works very well – asking Siri to “play more songs like this” will improve Apple Music’s future recommendations, and will add new songs to the current playlist. The more I use it, the more I’ve come to rely on Siri to control a lot of my interactions with the service. The fact that it comes bundled with iOS devices will surely be a strong selling point in the future, and may be the reason Apple Music eventually overtakes its competitors.
Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoy Apple Music. There are quite a few things that the service and app can improve upon, however. First and foremost – Apple Music is more buggy than Apple users have come to expect from an Apple product. While it’s certain that the first generation of any Apple product or service will have some kinks to work out, Apple Music is simply more buggy than it should be. Tracks are often mislabeled or misplaced, or they will contain the wrong album art. Users complain about getting locked out of their account, and certain features can sometimes lock up the app. Users who are used to an already-established service like Spotify, that has spent almost a decade working out the bugs may not put up with such glitches.
The design and navigation of the service is another area of contention for me. While Apple Music certainly looks beautiful, the organization and navigation just isn’t as intuitive as I’ve come to expect from Apple. Certain features are awkwardly nested and hard to access. Accessing an artist’s page while their song is playing is more confusing than it should be, for example. It’s almost as if Apple Music contains too many features to navigate. While I’ve gotten more used to the navigation the more I’ve used the app, the difficulty of finding what you’re looking for may turn some users off.
Some of Apple Music’s features fall flat, as well. Connect, a blogging platform where artists can interact with their fans, should be one of the more interesting areas of the service. Artists can post behind the scenes photos or videos, in-progress lyrics or snippets of songs, and really anything else the artist would like to share with their fans. It’s is a very interesting idea, and could become a powerful platform for artists. However, not only is Connect buggy, but it seems as if no one is using it. By default, Apple has selected 100 artists for me to follow on Connect based on my listening history. Only a handful of them are posting anything. In fact, one of the artists Apple originally used to push Connect, Drake, is almost absent on his page. Connect is still brand new, but it remains to be seen whether it will gain steam or not.
If I could describe Apple Music in one word, it would be “promising”. While the service does some things very well, the abundance of bugs and complicated navigation make it tough to recommend over my current favorite streaming service, Spotify. However, I have little doubt that Apple Music will perform increasingly well as time goes on, and I may see myself hesitantly making the jump over from Spotify if certain things improve. As for right now, it certainly doesn’t hurt to give it a try. Give it a run for the free three-month trial and see if you agree.