So, it’s been two days since I cancelled my Spotify Premium subscription in order to try out Apple Music.
There were actually two main reasons why I felt like making the switch: I would be able to use Family Sharing to use Apple Music for myself, mom and dad for just 15₺, and I would also be able to listen to my music from the music app on my iPhone and iPad, and on iTunes on my Mac - all native applications that I would imagine would work really well.
Now, in the two days since I made the switch, I haven’t had the chance to try out too many of the features of Apple Music, and perhaps to some of the problems below, there are solutions. However, I could not figure these out at my first impression - and from my perspective (and also Apple’s should-be perspective, for a company that cares so much about user experience) if these things aren’t visible at first sight - then they could as well not be there at all.
Anyway, a friend of mine summarized the situation very well today - if it ain’t a problem, don’t fix it. I realize now that there is no problem with Spotify, and there is absolutely zero reason to leave it to switch to Apple Music. If you’re in for the family subscription - trust me, the extra dough you’ll spend on Spotify is definitely worth it.
Thankfully, it’s free for three months - after which I will promptly be returning to Spotify.
Here are the ten reasons:
It does not synchronize well
I used to use Spotify on a number of devices, all of which synced almost momentarily. My playlists, my music, the song I’m currently playing - it all used to sync as fast as possible.
With Apple Music, the problem isn’t that it doesn’t sync well - it’s that sometimes it just does not sync at all. Similarly to Notes and Contacts and pretty much every other Apple app, the Music app tries to hide the synchronization process by moving it behind the curtains and doing it in the background. However, my iPad doesn’t get updated playlists at all, while my iPhone and Mac are half in-sync, with some playlists working and some not. The heart icon, which is used to like songs for similar suggestions, does not synchronize between devices at all.
At the heart of this problem lies the fact that Apple Music adds cloud-based playlists and content selections like Spotify, while still keeping local playlists and settings. As a result, a rift between the two types of content appears - where nothing syncs well, everything is confusing, and you end up not getting the intended result half the time.
iTunes and the Music app also house your MP3 music library, and your purchases from the iTunes Store. Apple decided to put all your music together by placing everything in the Music app. However, since there is no clear distinction between these three types of content, a number of problems arise. Some songs cannot be added because MP3 copies are already on the device, but the MP3 copies do not synchronize between devices, and a number of other problems that really confuse me when it comes to the types of content I have on the Music app.
Spotify has two ways in which you can mark your music - either add them to “My Music” or add them to a playlist. On Apple Music, however, there are three options - the “heart”, which “likes” the song/album/artist so that you get similar suggestions, and the My Music and Playlist options just like Spotify. I don’t get why there needs to be a separate like button when suggestions can be based on My Music directly. It just adds an extra button I have to press for all content.
The UI isn’t as good as it has to be - yet
On iTunes, right-clicking a song and clicking on the … icon next to it produce entirely different menus, which is completely against simple UX design principles. The icon opens up a menu where Apple Music - related actions such as adding to cloud playlists, adding to “my music”, etc. while right-clicking opens a menu that shows “local” options like adding to “local playlists” (which should not exist altogether) - again underlining the rift between the apps and the Music service, while they should be integrated and one piece together.
It’s not like Apple is going to take my advice on this, but really, local content and cloud-based content need to be combined somehow to make the user experience seamless. It’s impossible due to the previous nature and history of iTunes to remove local content entirely - however, either a clear distinction needs to be made, or local content needs to be synced to the cloud, too.
Many devices aren’t even supported
While Android phones are arguably the most important type of device that isn’t supported, what pains me the most is that Apple Music does not support Chromecast. I have one at home that I use very frequently for streaming music through our home theatre system - and now it’s impossible to do that. Our Smart TV also supports Spotify - but again, not Apple Music. It’s very unlikely for Apple to support anything but the Apple TV - so for me that’s a big turn-off.
Remote playing doesn’t work
Unlike Spotify, where you can play through any device currently logged in, and also control the music from any other device; Apple Music does not offer a centralized service that allows you to play remotely. While AirPlay and the Apple Remote app are both useful for this, I still like better the way Spotify allows for its users to control any device remotely through any other device - a feature I frequently use to change the music on my computer using my phone.
Apple Music’s solutions depend on mutual network connections, which are not as flexible as Spotify’s method.
There is no integrated lyrics service
My single favorite feature in Spotify is the presence of the Musixmatch service. The fact that I can sing along with live lyrics, and skip to any line I want, is very valuable for me - since I spent hours everyday singing along to my music. Apple Music misses this feature entirely - and while it is easily provided by other apps, it’s not as useful and as flexible as the one Spotify provides.
The song collection is organized ridiculously
Apple Music has these weird albums that I’m sure weren’t released physically but were made available by record companies to them. For example, alongside Bon Jovi’s separate albums, an album titled “All Albums” containing every single track from all of the other albums exists. As a result, tens of duplicates exist for almost any track, mostly from repetitive, and even identical, albums.
There is no public API (as far as I know)
One of the things I like as a developer is that Spotify provides a public, accessible API which numerous applications hook up to. These range from party playlist organizers like QCast to playlist import/export apps like STAMP. As a result, it’s easy to do automated work with Spotify, and it’s not with Apple Music - it probably will never be.
I exported a previous playlist in CSV format and imported in Spotify before, easily getting my playlist there. I tried the same when moving from Spotify to Apple Music - it was not possible. The STAMP app tries to work around the problem by using stolen cookies from iTunes to communicate with the Apple Music server to add the songs, but as a result the process is very slow and completely unreliable.
It’s not social
I’m not the type of guy that tries new songs & bands everyday to find new songs. As a result, my discovery of new music depends directly on my friends. On Spotify, I have practically all of my best friends added, and I usually stalk all the songs they listen. I’ve actually found out about a lot of new things this way.
As a result, the lack of a social system with friends on Apple Music is a deal-breaker for me. And I don’t see Apple adding this feature anytime soon. I definitely want to be able to suggest songs through direct messages, take suggestions the same way, and try out the songs other people are publicly listening.