DISCLAIMER: This post is older than one year and maybe out of date.

Apple Music The Highs and Very Lows of Day 1 Usability

So like a lot of other people I installed the iOS 8.4 update today and it was super smooth and very fast, well done Apple.

Then off we go to Apple Music in the new music app on my iPad. As always I start with one device to ensure my phone remains in safe working order.

I signed up for Apple Music and away we go! I went through the setup making choices excited to discover the treasures awaiting me.

So many interface buttons, anyone for Whack a Music?

First of all everything disappeared from my music so I went to check usage in settings and sure enough all my music was still on the device. I plugged into iTunes and that also showed the music was still there but I just could not get to it. Strike 1!

So I decided to embrace the service and removed the files via the storage management settings on my iPad. At this point I realized my laptop that I plugged the iPad into was telling me I needed to update iTunes, off I go only to discover that the new version was not available yet (10am Central us)… seriously Apple? You had months to prepare this roll out! (Finally it became available around 7pm central and here I am at 1am with it still figuring out the library and what needs to go where).

I continue onwards with the iPad and started listening to the Beats1 radio service that was just about to start, that actually kicked off with a bang that felt just right for Apple. I decided to try adding the song to a playlist and this is where yet again the app failed to deliver since despite my best efforts it would not add to the playlist. Apparently after a lot of playing around I discovered that you actually have to do the following to add to a playlist anything that is not ‘yours’

  1. Add the track to your music
  2. NOW add it to a playlist

Seriously Apple… what happened to making things simple and obvious, all these clicks for things that should be one or two clicks. Strike 2!

At this point I decided iOS 8.4 was safe enough to install on my iPhone 6 and began the process. Once completed I tried all the above again on my iPhone with the same results.

Moving on I went ahead and looked at my profile so I click on the top left icon and notice the edit button. I click to choose a picture for my avatar and the app crashes, I try again with the same result. Then eventually it worked, but wait now I’m seeing that I follow 17 people already? I click on that and the list is empty but after several attempts I ignore it. It turns out that by default you follow anyone you add to your music, to stop that nonsense you need to turn off ‘Automatically Follow Artists’ on that screen.

Even now it still says I’m following 14 people but fails to show me the list, another bug?

Oh so many bugs, the new music app needs an exterminator!

The ‘Connect’ tab which is really the Ping service should be removable since I see it going the same way as Ping, nobody cares Apple! Just give us the music without the PR marketing for artists that will eventually never be updated for the few artists that will take part.

Onwards to the ‘For You’ screen which looks and feels like a banner advert overload. At this point I’m realizing that the UI for the entire app is so non-Apple that it’s astounding, clearly marketing is running the show!

At this point I’m seriously missing Steve Jobs. Apple is going in a direction reminiscent of Microsoft before the decline into what they are today, at least when it comes to services being released way before they are ready.

So I know what you are asking, is there anything good about Apple Music? What about Strike 3?

The answer is yes, there is promise and hope for it but currently it feels, performs and from a usability stand point is worse than Spotify and Google’s All Access music service. I hope that the app can be updated independently from iOS otherwise it will be a very rough ride, we need a v2 release of the app very quickly to fix this crazy mess that feels rushed out the door 6 months too soon. So no strike 3, it is not a complete disaster.

I am hoping a lot of this stuff can be fixed server side and that it will rapidly improve before we get a MusicGate. I have turned off auto-renew for now though, 3 months is plenty of time for them to figure out the problems and convince us to pay.

There are some things I do truly like about the new music app in iOS 8.4 though. I like the currently playing bar along the bottom of the screen above the tabs, that makes it very easy to get back to the music or quickly add something to a playlist, share or start a new station.

I also like the little indicator to the right of tracks indicating if the song is on your device or the cloud, that is a very nice touch. Also the blurred translucent background that Apple is all about these days actually works very well in the app.

I still wish we had access to an EQ though in the app? It might be in there and I’ve just not found it yet, going to the device audio settings seems ridiculous at this point.

For now, I am listening, watching and desperately trying to use the service. As the updated iTunes looks to be finishing uploading the remaining tracks in my library (who knew I had so many albums that iTunes had never heard of apparently!) I hope day 2 goes a lot better, I will be using it a lot over the coming days to give it a chance to prove to me the worth of $10 a month.

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  • Andy

    It’s a mess huh?
    I can’t stand the way it makes me jump through hoops to create playlists (of music I don’t have in my library already) – particularly if I want to download it to my phone for offline play.
    There was an old Spotify hack of sorts that I used to use (before they sorted it out and made it super easy to do) that seems to be a great workaround.
    Set up a playlist in iTunes, call it something like “downloads”.
    Add a random song to it from Apple Music (note, use something that you haven’t already downloaded to your phone).
    Find that playlist on your phone, and select “Make Available Offline”.
    Then in iTunes again, delete that one random song (this is obviously optional).
    Now, in iTunes, whenever you want to throw a new album at your phone, just add it to that playlist. It’ll automatically be downloaded to your phone.
    The interesting thing is that as this is slightly unorthodox, there’s a UI problem. If you noticed when you marked an album for offline playback before, it would get a tiny icon on the top right of the album cover, to say it’s downloaded. If you download it using the above method, you don’t get the same icon – except if you’re looking at it from the Playlist menu.

  • Andy

    Also, Connect IS removeable – if you go into settings on your phone, and go in General > Restrictions, you can turn it off.

    • Thanks for both comments Andy, really appreciate you posting a work around for the connect removal. An interesting playlist work around, I am going to try this out, it feels almost sneaky in its approach 🙂

      • Andy

        You’re welcome. So much potential – but the way Apple Music works right now, it feels like Spotify circa 2009…

        • I agree, day 2 is starting better but I have to constantly battle the app UI. Caching offline is super fast so I want to give credit for that. I’m sticking with it for the 3 months to really give it a fair hearing.

          You have to wonder if the 3 month trial is a ‘have it for free while we work out the issues we knew we already have’.