Why I'm cancelling my Apple Music subscription

Apple music spotifyDave Smith/Business InsiderApple Music and Spotify are the two biggest players in streaming music, but it’s not a fair fight right now.

I’ve been using Apple Music since it first became available on June 30. While I haven’t used it every day, I’ve made an effort to thoroughly test every aspect of Apple’s streaming music service — from Beats 1, its 24/7 streaming radio station, to its curated playlists that are based on my music tastes — on a consistent basis for the past three months.

Now, my free trial of Apple Music is up (it will be for you too exactly three months after you start your free trial), so if I stick with Apple’s Spotify competitor, it will cost me $US9.99 per month.

But after three months of using Apple Music, I’ve made my decision: I’m sticking with Spotify and cancelling my Apple Music subscription.

Apple could make some improvements to win me back, but until then, I see no reason for existing Spotify users like myself to switch.

That’s not to say that I didn’t want to like Apple Music. I generally like Apple’s products, although the quality of its apps and cloud services has always been a little lacking, especially compared to Google’s.

I would much rather just use the default Music app that comes with my iPhone for all of my listening needs, but sadly, the app still suffers from numerous bugs, a confusing user experience, and ultimately, a lack of appeal.

I was one of the first to detail Apple Music’s many problems: tracks randomly downloaded for offline access (a potentially huge problem for iPhone owners with little storage), album art was incorrect, the service didn’t remember songs I had liked, saved albums disappeared from my collection, and so on.

I haven’t been alone in expressing my frustrations. My colleague Dave Smith called Apple Music’s bugs “downright infuriating.” Jim Dalrymple, a veteran Apple reporter who is usually extremely positive about what the company does, wrote a scathing review of Apple Music called “Apple Music is a nightmare and I’m done with it.”

To Apple’s credit, it did release a few bug fixes for Apple Music in August that addressed some of the problems I had. But after using Apple Music for three months, I feel like the most valuable company in the world, which bought the backbone of Apple Music through its $US3 billion acquisition of Beats, should have a service that’s just as good, if not better, than Spotify.

And that’s not the case.

Apple Music and Spotify both provide access to nearly the same catalogue of music. So the services set themselves apart with features, design, and the playlists they offer.

Spotify vs Apple MusicTech InsiderSpotify’s playlist recommendations vs. Apple Music’s.

In my opinion, Spotify beats Apple on all three of those fronts.

I love that Spotify has collaborative playlists, the ability to message other Spotify users, and notifications for new music I may be interested in from artists I follow. I can also read lyrics in Spotify’s app.

Apple Music doesn’t have any of these features.

Sure, Spotify’s mobile app design may be dark and utilitarian, but I’m never confused about how to navigate through its interface. Apple Music’s design is light and airy, but many of its buttons are too small to tap comfortably, and actually listening to music or adding a song to a playlist seems to require more steps than necessary.

And don’t even get me started about trying to use the disaster that is iTunes on the Mac. Apple Music feels tacked onto the rest of iTunes, and navigating through the app is anything but intuitive.

Spotify wins on the desktop in every way.

Then there’s the playlist situation. When it debuted Apple Music, Apple focused on its curated playlists that are entirely made by humans, largely seen as a jab at Spotify, which uses algorithms to help make its playlists. Apple’s playlists are supposed to have a human touch and be tailored for how people actually want to listen to music.

I’ve found that even though it can occasionally be cool to hear a playlist of the top tracks made by one of Drake’s producers, Apple Music’s playlists are usually a little too specific for my tastes. I much prefer a Spotify playlist like “Deep Focus” that maybe has 100 similarly ambient tracks to an Apple playlist that chronicles the music influences of Justin Bieber.

That’s another thing about Apple Music I’ve found: its recommended playlists skew heavily toward hip hop and mainstream pop, even though that’s not the only kind of music I listen to on the service.

To me, the perfect playlist is Spotify’s Discover Weekly, a playlist that’s updated once a week for each Spotify user with new music it thinks they will want to hear. Discover Weekly uses a unique approach of algorithms and human discovery to deliver a mixtape that seems to be almost universally loved. Apple Music doesn’t have anything like that.

Zane Lowe Beats 1Beats 1Zane Lowe, the man in charge of Apple’s Beats 1 radio station.

The most interesting part of Apple Music is Beats 1, an internet radio station helmed by superstar DJ Zane Lowe. I’ve thought from day one of Apple Music that Beats 1 was promising — it’s a fresh take on surfacing good music and is something entirely unique to Apple.

Lowe and the rest of the station’s DJs have been using the platform to exclusively premiere new music, like Dr. Dre’s new album, which is another draw.

But Beats 1 also feels like it doesn’t necessarily belong in the Music app that comes preinstalled on my iPhone, especially in the dead center of the app’s menu. It feels tacked on to the Apple Music experience (just try adding songs you hear on Beats 1 to your music collection and see how long it takes before you start pulling your hair out).

Zane Lowe agrees with me about Beats 1’s awkwardness in the Apple Music app. When asked in a recent interview if Apple Music needed Beats 1, Lowe said, “I’m not sure that they do.” Apple has said that Beats 1 will stay free to listen to even if you’re not paying for an Apple Music subscription, so why include it in the same app?

I think Beats 1 would benefit greatly from being its own app. It would give the station more of a singular brand and make the default Music app feel less bloated. Apple probably won’t break it out like that, but maybe the company should.

We’re three months into Apple Music’s existence, and it still feels half-baked

We’re three months into Apple Music’s existence, and it still feels half-baked. If Apple can’t beat Spotify at its own game, I’m not sure there’s much hope for converting Spotify’s 75 million existing users.

Apple probably doesn’t care about converting people. One of its executives, Jimmy Iovine, has gone on the record saying that he doesn’t see Spotify as a competitor.

Plenty of people who haven’t used a streaming music service before may use Apple Music just because it comes preinstalled on their Apple products. But Apple Music isn’t good enough to make me switch from Spotify — at least not yet.

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