Apple just officially released its new music streaming service, Apple Music.
It’s available for $US9.99 per month or $US14.99 if you want the family membership, but Apple is offering a free three-month trial for all users.
I’ve only been playing with the app for about two hours so far, but that was enough time to conclude two things: The app itself is very, very busy, and Apple cares about presenting music to you in every single way imagine able rather than just offering a massive library of tunes.
Here’s what I’ve come away with so far in the short time I’ve been using the app:
My favourite part of the app so far is the “For You” tab.
It basically shows the music Apple selects for you based on your taste, and I was impressed with the mix of albums and music collections the app suggested. During the setup process, Apple asks you to choose your favourite genres and your favourite artists, which are presented in pink bubbles that subtly bounce around the screen.
I chose genres such as rock, metal, indie, pop, and dance. But when Apple showed me some artists and bands to choose from, it seemed like they weighted the rock and metal choices more heavily.
That’s why I was surprised and relieved when I saw that Apple had chosen artists and collections from all categories in the For You tab. I also really like the Intro-style playlists Apple sprinkles throughout the For You tab.
The Intro playlists are essentially playlists based around a single artist or band, and Apple suggests Intro playlists to you in the For You tab based on your music tastes. There’s even short little bios so you can learn a bit about the album or artist before you dive in.
So, if there’s a specific band or singer that you are familiar with, but have only listened to one album or a few songs, you opt to listen to one of the suggested Intro playlists to hear more. Some of the playlists that were suggested for me in the For You tab are “Intro to Queens of the Stone Age” and “Intro to Interpol.”
And, it seems like Apple takes into account the music you already have stored in your phone.
I only have two Interpol songs stored in my music library, so it seems like Apple took that into account and decided to suggest a playlist for me.
There’s a lot of information to digest
When I said Apple wants to show you music in as many different ways as it can, I wasn’t exaggerating.
There are playlists designed around certain artists and genres, playlists created around activities, playlists curated by artists, playlists curated by Apple’s music editors, and then dozens of radio stations to choose from, including the Beats 1 station — which features 24/7 DJs — and radio stations based around genres. Plus, you can choose to start a radio station based around whichever artist you’re listening too.
All of these options are packaged and spread across three different sections of the app: For You, New, and Radio. The New tab is useful for browsing music by category and seeing newly released albums.
If you just want to get to the music without browsing, you can also search for any artist by tapping the search symbol in the upper right corner. But my guess is that Apple wants to get good enough at already showing you what music you want to listen to.
Since there’s so much information to absorb, it takes a bit of time to find all of the small but necessary features within the app, such as how to save a track for offline listening (You tap the song currently playing at the bottom of the screen, click “Add to My Music,” and then from “My Music” you tap the three little dots to launch a menu that includes an option for “Make Available Offline.”)
The app looks really nice
Although Apple Music takes a little bit of time to get used to and learn how to navigate, the app is very visual in its overall design when compared to Spotify. The For You Tab is like a collage of album covers, and each Intro-style collection gets its own colourful background in your feed.
Another area where you really see Apple’s attention to design is in the individual artist pages. When you search for an artist and view their page, you’ll see a photo of the band across the top of the screen. There’s usually a colourful accent that marks off the different tabs and the three little dots that launch the action menu next to each song. It’s a nice touch, and it makes the app feel more immersive than Spotify.
Overall, Apple Music seems pretty promising. The biggest setback I’ve come across in the limited time I’ve used it is that it seems a bit confusing. There’s definitely a learning curve here that I didn’t encounter when I started using Spotify.
But if Apple’s curation system is as good as it seems, it can be a great app for discovering new music. Plus, it’s convenient for iPhone and iTunes users since it integrated directly with the music already stored on your phone.
In our full review, we’ll dive more into how well the service works, how it compares to the competition, Beats 1, and what the desktop experience is like.