Last night Apple released iOS 8.4, and along with the usual bunch of fixes and improvements, the update also brought with it the much-awaited Apple Music. The streaming service has launched in 100 countries, including in India, and all eyes are on how well it will do. We have spent quite some time with Apple Music since it launched last night, and here are our first impressions.
The first thing that you notice is the UI and just how well different aspects of the app have been designed. When you fire up the app for the first time you are greeted with music app that has been overhauled. There are two tabs at the top Library and Playlists. As the name suggests, the former has all the songs that you have stored on your phone, with a handy Recently Added section on the top. The latter, on the other hand, contains all the playlists that you had created. The music playback UI too has been redesigned, and the album art gets much more prominence, with the playback buttons at the bottom. You can minimize the player until there is only the name of the current song and Play/Pause buttons visible.
But the talking point here is the music streaming service. The bottom tab now gets buttons like For You , New , Radio and Connect . The first tab offers you a bunch of music options to choose from, which is a mixture of artists and music genres to help the service determine your taste in music. Once selected, the app then comes up with playlists based on different moods, and also suggests artists that you may like.
Based on my choices, the app offered playlists like Swedish Invasion and suggested I try artists like Brian Eno. From the couple of playlists I tried, I did find the music suitable to my tastes. That being said, it also surprisingly offered me Tamil music, despite the fact I don t understand the language. This is however something that is likely to improve once Apple gets to know my tastes better.
The New tab is exactly what the name suggests, and it basically offers a wide range of music and videos, again based on your tastes. From latest songs across genres to playlists curated by Apple s Music Editors, there is a wide range of choices. While the range of music on offer is quite impressive, this is where it actually tends to get a tad confusing.
The sheer number of buttons and pages you go into can get a bit overwhelming and there is a sense of getting lost. While the bottom tab is ever-present, it can get a bit confusing for new users. Re/code s Walt Mossberg best explains the New section when he wrote, The New section is deep and rewarding, but it s also confusing, and seems to be the place where Apple jammed everything that didn t fit anywhere else. It could be a streaming music app all by itself.
For Indian users there are plenty of regional music to choose from. While we came across multiple Bollywood and Indian pop playlists, there were quite a few glaring omissions. For example, when searching for Bollywood music more often than not you look for the latest releases, but many of them were missing. While new Bollywood movies like Guddu Rangeela and Hamari Adhuri Kahani are present, others like ABCD 2, Badlapur or Roy are missing. Considering the music from these movies is currently ruling the charts, it was a slight downer for us.
Moving on, there is the Radio tab, which is quite self explanatory. The Beats 1 radio station gets the most prominence, followed by genre-specific radio stations. When playing a song, there is a heart button on the side, which is a signal to Apple that you like a song and want to hear more like it.
The last tab is Connect, which essentially lets artists connect with their fans. It is a social network of sorts and based on the songs you had in your music library, the app automatically follows artists. You can add to the list on your own as well.
In its current avatar, Apple Music is a mixed bag of sorts. While the UI, music collection, and curated playlists are quite impressive, the service still has some niggles that Apple will need to iron out. The app for one crashed a couple of times, and for someone not so technically adept, the learning curve can be a bit steep. We are digging deeper and will have more things to say before we pass our judgment on Apple s Music streaming service. Stay tuned.