Thoughts on Music in iOS 10: Audio Fingerprints and New UI

Music App iOS 10_1

On the surface, Apple Music seems like such a promising service. It’s baked right into the music app I was already using, and because it’s part of the OS, I don’t need to wait for developers to integrate it with Siri. It already works. I tried Apple Music out for a good half a year, but decided to return to Spotify earlier this year.

One of the biggest reasons for doing so was how cavalier Apple was about replacing the album versions of my songs with the live versions from concerts. I really hated this, because I often vastly prefer the cleaner sound in album versions, and there was seemingly no way to get my old music back without quitting the service. However, I heard some good news from The Loop this week that this might be changing for the better, thanks to audio fingerprints.

It turns out that the reason Apple Music was getting all of these songs wrong was that the matching algorithm was only based on metadata: things like the album name, song title, and the year of release. There’s another better way of identifying the contents of a song by its audio fingerprint — the actual content of the audio file. This is what Apple will be slowly rolling out to Apple Music subscribers, and if it works correctly, it should solve one of my largest issues with the service.

The other issue I had with the service was that its interface just sucked. iOS 9 had a labyrinthian music app, and Apple Music only made the experience more confusing because there were a lot broken links. You could tap on the Barenaked Ladies and not see any albums, but selecting another artist and then going back to BNL would suddenly display all of their music. It was also difficult to do basic things like shuffle all songs, or browse by Album instead of Artist.

Music App iOS 10_3

iOS 10 has made the Music app a lot louder and bolder. But the more exciting change to me is that major controls require far fewer taps to reach. iOS 9 made the music library a drop-down list, whereas iOS 10 features gigantic buttons for Artist, Albums, Songs right on the Library tab.

The Up Next feature, which made its way to iOS from the desktop version of iTunes, also used to be a separate menu. You had to go to the Now Playing screen of iOS 9 and then tap a button to see the list. In iOS 10, all you have to do is view the Now Playing screen and scroll down.

Music App iOS 10_2

It’s little tweaks like this that have me feeling a little more optimistic about the built-in music app, and Apple Music as a service. I’ll probably wait until b4 or b5 before signing up, but I will be giving Apple Music another shot this summer. So you’ll be hearing more about whether or not the upgrade is worth it in the next few months.

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