Internet users increasingly rely on streaming services for their everyday music consumption, accessing their favorite albums instead of owning them. So Apple Music, the latest entrant to the music streaming scene, has generated a lot of interest from users wondering whether they should switch to the service. That can be a tough call to make, since users seem to be delighted and disappointed by the new streaming service in equal numbers. But it’s difficult to ignore that while there are lots of things to love about Apple Music, many of its features have been genuinely disappointing.
Buzzfeed’s Reggie Ugwu reported recently that while Apple Music’s main challenge is to reach music consumers who haven’t yet tried a streaming service, the app also seems to court high-volume music consumers “with a stockpile of existing songs and an even bigger appetite for new ones.” But that sets a higher bar for the service — a bar that it doesn’t quite live up to, at least not yet, and not in comparison to more established services like Spotify.
While Ugwu reports that beautification and streamlining go a long way in many of Apple Music’s features, one place where Apple Music doesn’t improve on what’s offered by competitors is Connect, a largely superfluous section of the app where users can follow their favorite artists. Apple Music also lacks the sense of community that Spotify, for instance, has created for users, since there’s no way to connect with other users in Apple Music. (If nothing else, Ugwu notes, it would be ideal if a future version of the app enables users to interact and share music with their friends and like-minded strangers.)
CNET’s Sarah Mitroff and Xiomara Blanco, in turn, report that while Apple Music does have some benefits, Spotify is a better choice for users who love music, since it does a better job of “cultivating a community amongst your music listening friends and showing you a greater range of new music from artists you won’t hear on Top 40 radio.” Apple Music uses the Beats Music recommendation engine to learn what you like and surface new suggestions, but in Mitroff and Blanco’s experience, “the paltry recommendations lack imagination and feed you what you already like, instead of offering you something fresh, like Spotify does with its Discovery feature.”
Mitroff and Blanco also note that “Apple Music’s sharing selections reflect those of a miser,” echoing the common criticism that Apple Music lacks any real social component by limiting your sharing of an artist, playlist, album, or track to text, email, Twitter, Facebook, or AirDrop. Unlike Spotify, Apple Music doesn’t even let you send music to another user of the app. And further inspection reveals that Apple Music’s slick interface isn’t as functional as Spotify’s, with disjointed navigation and a fragmented user experience that contrasts with Spotify’s fluid experience.
Some reviewers who were disappointed by the features that Apple did choose to include have begun suggesting features that future versions of the service could add, imagining what’s possible beyond fixes to existing features. Travis Bernard reports for TechCrunch that while Apple Music is considerably better than the options that were available before its launch, the software doesn’t live up to the expectations of power users. “It’s a mainstream service, with mainstream goals for mainstream listeners,” Bernard writes. “It should be more. And it can be more.”
Bernard thinks that there are a number of features that Apple Music could add to appeal to users who need more than just features for casual listening. Alerts for new releases from the artists you follow on Connect, plus a way to follow record labels, would enable users to easily stay on top of new music that’s being released. Adding a way for users to publicly share playlists would build a community and enable power users “to become playlist superstars.”
Expanded music publisher partnerships for curation would enable the streaming service to offer something for every kind of listener, while a better interface and fixes to Apple Music’s iCloud integration would make the app less clunky and less confusing to use. A better recommendations engine and a premium tier with advance releases would appeal to heavy music consumers, and Bernard even thinks that providing users with an easy way to buy vinyl from the app would be valuable both to Apple and to music fans.
Aside from Apple Music’s technical issues, and the problems that arose for some users with extensive music libraries, the main problem with Apple Music is bigger than the features it’s missing or the interfaces it should have streamlined. The problem is that Apple Music doesn’t live up to Apple’s promise of making products that just work for a wide range of users, in this case, from the super casual listener to the power user whose entertainment choices and social circles revolve around music. While Apple is known for its track record of redefining product categories with imaginative new iterations of an idea, that’s simply not a game that Apple Music is able to play, especially for users who are used to a more powerful streaming service.
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