Apple Music was released out into the wild on Tuesday to mixed, but mostly positive reaction.
The streaming music service has many competitors but none more rigid than Spotify, which has gained influence as the leader in this realm over the past year or so.
I’ve used many different services, and since they all have the same core functionality, I’ve found it’s the user interface and general ideology of presentation that sets each one apart from the other. My favourite among them has been Spotify.
I’ve started playing with Apple Music and I like it a lot. I like the basic user interface (it’s very pretty), the way your music integrates with the app, and the new music discovery tab (which is far better than Spotify’s options). But it’s all in the presentation and the ideology. And the main reason I have loved being a Spotify subscriber is playlists.
Wonderfully curated, perfectly timed, and intelligently divided depending on what mood you may be in or what you’re doing. Spotify is the king of curated playlists.
This just doesn’t work well in Apple Music right now. And since I believe this is Spotify’s best feature, Apple’s really going to have to do some convincing.
Here’s how they work in both apps:
In Spotify, you can tap on “Browse” and get two awesome ways to choose what kind of playlist you want to listen to (curated by Spotify).
First, there is a carousel on top (pictured left) that gives you a number of suggestions tailored to the time of day and the mood you may be in. For example, an “Evening Commute” playlist, or “Smooth Morning,” or maybe “Rock to Work.”
Then, if you scroll down, you see a number of different categories all of which, when you tap them, reveal playlists.
So, for example, you can tap “Mood,” and see tons of awesome Spotify curated playlists geared towards making you happy, or songs that identify with your deep sorrows, etc. There’s also “Workout,” “Chill,” “Party,” and many others. They are certainly not confined to genres, but focused more on your state of mind. That’s a feature I really appreciate to the point that it’s almost the only way I use Spotify.
Apple Music, however, doesn’t give you all of that on a silver platter. And I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me a bit concerned that Apple Music isn’t going to work for me.
The “For You” tab is where Apple puts the focus of the music app. Here you will see suggestions, based on selections you made initially, on what to listen to. These are often genre playlists, or playlists for specific artists.
These playlists are also mixed in with whole album suggestions. So I may have to scroll through 4-6 album cover suggestions before I get to the next playlist selection which really could be anything. And often it’s not a playlist that is focusing on my state of mind or situation, but rather based on music I’ve previously identified as stuff I’ve liked.
Now, Apple, says this “For You” tab is supposed to get better over time. In theory, it notices your behaviour on the app and starts giving you better and better selections. Time will tell how well that happens.
However, mood or activity based playlists do in fact exist on Apple Music. But you have to go digging.
For example, I can search for “morning” and then after some scrolling and tapping, get myself to an entire lists of Apple curated playlists that could easily suit one of my many morning moods (or a mood I want to be in).
Once you find that playlist, you can then add it to your music so it’s saved and ready for you the next time you’re interested (It’s notable, however, that as of right now these playlists only have 12-15 songs or so on them, while Spotify often has dozens).
But the idea here is not to browse in a relaxing way for the playlists that may stick out to you at any given time. Spotify goes out of its way to spoon feed you stuff you might very well love at whatever time of the day you’re in.
I want to relax into my music experience, not aggressively attack it.
I don’t always know what I want to listen to, and that should be an opportunity rather than a hindrance.
Of course, this could all change, I’ve only spent a few short hours with Apple Music so far and there’s a lot to like outside of this playlist issue. It’s also something Apple could easily fix in the future. But it’s notable that as of right now, the best thing about Spotify, to me, is not really a part of Apple Music.