Apple has already once changed the music industry once with iTunes and we way we consume music with the iPod. Over ten years ago while Napster was being sued left and right by record labels Apple debuted their music downloading service not unlike Napster itself but with one main difference. Users could pay and legally download content to use without doing anything illegal. This model turned out to be a hit and helped propel Apple into the company that is it today. Apple is attempting to do it again and this time it is with their newest creation, Apple Music.
Apple Music has different competitors than iTunes did and the name of the game they are playing is content streaming. Spotify is probably Apple’s main competitor as for years it has had time to establish it’s foothold into the industry but there are other newcomers as well. Jay-Z and his newly released streaming service Tidal hope to take a chunk of the streaming users as well although initial reviews are not very good looking for the company.
Apple Music comes with a free 3 month trial period with a reoccurring cost of $9.99 for a single user or $14.99 for up to 6 “family members.” We spend a day setting up and using Apple Music to see if it is all it’s hyped up to be and if it really can become the dominate streaming service that so many think it will be in the coming future.
Once downloaded you will find an app simply named “Music” on your home screen with a music note as it’s icon.
Once inside the app you will be greeted by a type of landing page to help you activate your free trial or if you really wish, skip that step and go straight to your music. Starting your free trial is recommended to unlock all the features of the Apple Music app and if you already have a credit card attached to your Apple account a simple touch id scan will do the trick. Afterwords you’ll be taken inside the app where you can access the five main features of Apple Music.
The first section you will want to further investigate is the “For You” page which will require some setting up to get it going properly.
“For You” Tab
This part of Apple Music will help suggest music that Apple thinks you will like based on some choices you pick at the beginning. First you will be asked to pick three genres of music that appear in red floating bubbles that are somewhat reminiscent of the Apple Watch layout screen.
From these selections bands and artists will appear in new red bubbles helping you further narrow down your taste in music. If none of the artists appeal to you there is an option to refresh the artists to new ones which we had to do more than once.
Once you have all your choices selected Apple Music will be able to start suggesting you music that it thinks you might like based on what you chose. The app automatically builds you a few playlists to get started with various artists including those you did not select on setup as well as entire albums by artists that were included in the genres that you selected.
If you don’t fancy any of the suggestions a quick swipe down to refresh gesture will change whats on the screen giving you a new list to look over increasing you chances of finding something that meets your interests better.
It seems that a lot of rap music showed up in our list while that genre was not one of the ones we selected during set up nor did you pick an artist of that type. Hopefully the more we listen to other things the list will become tailored further to our likings not unlike Pandora when you start a new station.
Taping on any album or play list will bring you to a new screen with a brief description along with a list of all the songs included. To listen to one just tap it and your off. There is also an option to shuffle at the top if that’s what your into.
To the right of a song you will find an ellipsis that you can tap for a whole host of options including the option to “start station” from that song. “Add to Playlist” and “Show in iTunes Store” are some of the other options available.
The New tab gathers everything that is new and trending on Apple Music and puts it all in your place to help you find fresh and exciting content that maybe you have not heard before. The content includes both music and music videos.
By default Apple Music will give you a list that includes all genres it thinks you may like. If you wish to further narrow down the results you bring up the drop down menu that is located at the top of the tab and select a specific genre to view.
Songs are categorized into sections such as “Hot Tracks”, “Hot Albums”, “New Music”, “Top Songs”, “Recent Releases”and more.
This section looks to be a great place for people who truly enjoy music and want to expand on what they already know and discover new things. It does a good job of putting a lot of different things in front of you and Apple has done a good job here. Once again the ellipsis are present to allow you to add the song to a list or add to “Your Music” and more.
You may also notice in the picture that we are currently listening to Nine Inch Nails newest album Hesitation Marks and tapping the bar allows you to control things such as pause, forward a track or go back one along with other options. This feature is present across all of Apple Music no matter what what tab you might be on. It makes for a convenient experience and allows you to stay focused on what you are doing.
The Radio tab houses Apple’s first radio station which is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as advertised by the company. Since most radio stations play 24 hours a day as well we are not sure were Apple was going with that sales pitch.
The first thing you will notice when you open the radio tab is front and center is Beats One, Apple’s first party station. If you scroll down though you will see a list of recently played stations followed by “Featured Stations” which are probably paid spots. If you continue past that you will find the bulk of the stations sorted be genre.
Since you are agreeing to pay a monthly fee the radio stations are ad-free which makes listening to them a pleasure but at $9.99 you need to listen to them a lot to make it worth it.
The line up of songs for the stations we listened to were appropriate with a good mix of songs we were familiar with along with new artists and songs that we had not heard before using Apple Music.
The Radio tab seems to be almost as useful as the “New” tab for finding music you may have not heard before and if you hear something that you like you can touch the ellipsis and add the song to a playlist or whatever else you wish to do.
The radio stations as a whole are pretty typical of internet radio in this day and age. The ad free experience and the ability to manipulate the song currently playing are probably the bests parts of the radio stations.
The Connect tab is a place where fans can connect with artists in sort of a social media type fashion. This feature is where Apple really gets a leg up on it’s competition as it has the potential for an entire social media competitor to emerge from within. This means even Facebook and Twitter will have to watch Apple Music as well as Spotify and Tidal.
The idea behind this tab is that you can “Follow” your favorite artists and see content and posts that are posting to their page. You can even comment on them and share them to your favorite social network. The connect tab also has a news feed like page that aggregates all your liked artists and allows you to view all the posts in the same place.
This is the part of Apple Music that really sets it apart from the rest of it’s competitors and really helps the fans feel a connection to the artists. It also lets the artists give the fans a behind the scenes look into what it takes to create their favorite music as well as possibly the daily lives of the members of the bands if they so wish.
Sure other social media websites already offered that kind of glimpse but never before has it been so intertwined with the music itself. It really helps Apple Music become the ultimate one stop shop for a music experience that is currently not available in any other service or website.
“My Music” Tab
The My Music tab is the place to go for all your music you’ve saved while using Apple Music and also includes your music stored in your iCloud Music Library. Think of this tab as your virtual library of saved streams.
There are two tabs within the my music tab, Library and Playlists. The library tab contains all of the songs you have saved or have in iCloud and is sorted by artist. Recently added content appears at the top in large squares for easy playback although you can also find it again down below with the rest. From the Playlists tab shows all your saved playlists from Apple Music but you can also create new playlists from the songs you have saved which will then also appear here.
All in all the My Music tab is pretty straight forward and simple. There is no feature bloat here just the tools you need to listen to or watch your content. Apple seems to have felt that less is more in the case and we tend to agree with them here.
The fact that Apple designed Apple Music to be completely controllable from the lock screen certainly shows the power that is the first party app. Clip art even appears full screen to match the song or album you are currently listening to making it very easy to identify a song. You can even favorite it without unlocking.
One issue that seems to be present is if you listen to a lot of music your battery is going to be draining pretty fast using Apple Music. Now this could be said about other streaming apps but it is something to be aware of. Just because Apple makes both the app and the device doesn’t seem to affect battery usage.
Apple seems to have a strong competitor to the streaming market with Apple Music and plans to use it to regain the digital music crown it helped create over a decade ago. The coming months will allow this music app to really stretch it’s legs and show what it can do but with any app of this kind, user engagement is the key to success and that won’t truly be revealed until peoples free trials start running out. Then we will really see who is still standing by Apple’s side in this saga of music warfare.