Apple first introduced the Apple Music service with iOS 8.4 update last summer. Since then, Apple Music has mustered more than 10 million paying customers worldwide, making users of other music services wonder if they should join the expanding community.
Apple Music app has also been reimagined and reconstructed from the ground up. The new update came equipped with many new features, including Beats Radio (which is a new streaming component), a personalized recommendations tab, and Connect, a music-focused social network.
As with any new update with a radical makeover, this reimagining of the Music app indubitably left a lot of iPhone users confused and at a loss for what to do, but the three-month free trial helped with the new layout.
Apple Music has come a long way since its initial release last year, when it was riddled with glitches and struggled with providing basic functionality. But, in the months that followed, especially with the release of iOS 9.2, Apple has straightened out the glitches and adjusted its user interface according to the feedback.
The question everyone’s asking is as follows: now that Apple Music has found its footing, is it the best streaming music service of the year? Let’s try to answer that one.
Courtesy of its vibrant and catchy user interface, it certainly is the best looking streaming service there is. Menus dissolve into the background as you scroll past them, and the translucent overlays are a thing of beauty, setting the app apart from the depressing blacks and greens of Spotify.
That being said, Spotify has had a few more years on the relatively infant Apple Music. Where Spotify has come up with innovative ways of distributing functionality across the app, Apple Music has stuffed a lot of options under a small three-dots menu on the right side of every track, album, and artist.
The menu does offer a lot of functionality, like managing your tracks on both cloud and devices, starting a radio station, and sharing options via iMessage or social media. So it will definitely appeal to the users who already have a vast iTunes library, but to others the congested menu becomes overwhelming.
Adding any tracks to your library from Apple Music will automatically sync them across all your Apple devices, so any playlists that you build in iTunes will seamlessly appear on your iPad or iPhone.
Apple has invested a sufficient amount of time organizing the playlists feature, which will include tracks both from your collection and those recommended by the Apple team.
The search bar located at the top of every window lets you carry out a search easily and dive into the 30 million songs available with iTunes. Despite boasting such a large database, users do complain about finding various songs that have been greyed out and are unavailable to play.
With recent updates, Siri has now been fully integrated with Apple Music, so you can ask the virtual assistant to play a particular track.
Although Apple prefers you to own all its devices across every platform for smooth integration, it isn’t ignoring those on other platforms and released an Android version of the music service at the end of the last year. It comes with three-month free trial period and utilizes the same streaming database and online radio stations. They also tweaked the app’s appearance so that it could fit in with Google’s Material Design.
Unfortunately, the Android app does lack some features, like Chromecast support or the option to manage your subscription through the app, which stills needs to be done on a computer.
The Android app does offer a great Family Streaming Plan, which lets up to six people use Apple Music on six devices, for £14.99 a month. That’s a brilliant deal, and provided that all your family members have an iPhone or an Android phone, it could give you a reason to switch to Apple Music and away from a rival service.
Another reason that could make you switch is Apple Music’s exclusives. Apple has signed various deals for Taylor Swift’s latest album 1989, unreleased Pharrell Williams’ tracks, Dr. Dre’s final studio album, and other content to be exclusively provided on its new streaming service. If the artist of album you like is only available via Apple Music, this could be a pretty convincing factor for you to make the switch.
Another user-favorite feature in the new app is the radio station Apple Beats 1. Although it isn’t exclusive to Apple Music, the ability to add tracks to your library as they are premiered on the show makes it quite worth the try.
Finally, Apple Music’s introduction of the For You recommendations tab is highly innovative. The playlists and tracks suggested aren’t generated via an automated system but are hand-picked by a dedicated team of curators. These hand-crafted playlists are also an incredible way to discover new music. The app does an extraordinary job of moving you around from a recommended playlist to similar music and then on to something else – so you usually end up adding a track or two to your favorites.
Assembling track recommendations is faster and easier if you have previously owned an Apple device and had an organized iTunes library. Based on your track history, the app will be able to recommend curated playlists and tracks much faster than other streaming services.
The recommendations tab does have a few flaws. First of all, the music app does not allow you to customize or change any of the pre-built playlists, which means that one song you abhor will annoy you every time you start the playlist. It also means you won’t be able to use one of the pre-built playlists as a starting point to add more tracks from your library, iTunes store, or other playlists.
It isn’t much different considering the playlists you’ve created. The app does have the functionality to share playlists with other people, but only the creator of the playlist is allowed to change it. This makes it impossible to collaborate with friends on a playlist, which could have been an inviting feature (that has already been available to Spotify subscribers for years).
To sum it all up
So this is where the final verdict stands. Apple Music is a remarkable streaming service. The hand-picked recommendations and playlists from the Apple team are great if you wish to discover music. Backed by a well-organized iTunes library, the service recognizes and recommends your favorite genres instantaneously.
Exclusive content from artists like Taylor Swift and Dr. Dre shows that Apple is passionate about its new on-demand service and is one of the leading services on the market. But unless it’s your favorite artist or album the service has exclusive rights to, you’ll probably be okay if you don’t switch.
Apple’s streaming service looks stunning, and the sharp bright colors make it a delight to use. It’s also of great value if everyone in your family owns an iPhone or an Android device, which they most probably will.
Since it’s still in the budding stages of development, the service lacks some features you would take for granted with its similarly-priced rivals (like playlists collaboration).
So, should you join in?
It’s a great music streaming service if you own several Apple products over different platforms. You’ll enjoy seamless integration and sync features with Siri, Apple TV, and Apple Watch. You would also be smart to opt in if you have an established iTunes library – unlike other streaming services, you wouldn’t have to build your playlists from scratch, and the curated recommendations will do most of the work for you.
But unless you are fanatical about Taylor Swift, long-time Spotify subscribers should be fine even if they don’t switch to Apple’s new service.