Friday, December 17, 2021

Apple Music Feedback Made It to Cook

Dave B (previously: 1, 2, 3):

In the 6+ years since Apple Music was released in June of 2015, it has been a controversial app, to put it mildly. In those 6 years, I’ve written extensively on Apple Music’s flaws — both big and small. Some of these flaws have been resolved, many haven’t, and some new ones have been introduced. It’s been a while since my 2017 list of Apple Music’s shortcomings, so it’s time for a 2021 update.


Apple Music is trying to appeal to both crowds and in my opinion, it doesn’t get either one right. It’s stuck in the middle, doing a sort of half-hearted job at both. The result is that it provides a mediocre product to both Group A and Group B.

Most Group B people will tell you that Apple Music’s recommendations are simply not as good as Spotify’s. Whatever suggestion algorithms Apple uses just aren’t nearly as accurate as they ought to be. They’ve improved over time, but they still have a long way to go. And it’s worth noting that tapping the ‘Love’ hearts or the ‘Suggest Less Like This’ button is supposed to improve the suggestion algorithms, but it doesn’t seem to work very well in practice. The curation often feels more like advertising, where the feature is less catered around what the end user wants, and more around what the content providers (i.e. Apple and/or the record labels) wish to foist upon them. That’s a problem, as it makes the app feel like a collection of billboards, rather than a user-focused experience.

And for Group A people (of which I am one), the tools to be able to organize, sort, sift through, maintain, and play back a music library — are just sorely lacking and lead to a terrible experience.


Playlist management needs to be improved, with better folder functionality, more views, and a better use of space. Even a 5.4" and 6.1” iPhone screen only displays 5 line items at a time. By comparison, my old 2.5” iPod Classic displayed 9 line items. With only 5 lines, that means you have to scroll so much to get anywhere. And you still can’t place Apple Music playlists in folders. It also seems odd to me that the “New Playlist…” function is a line item rather than a button.

Dave B:

I sent a lengthy email to Tim Cook’s public email address all about Apple Music. I’ve been writing for years, thorough articles and analyses all about how I think the Apple Music app just isn’t very good and doesn’t meet the standards I’d expect from Apple. I’ve posted popular Medium articles, Reddit threads, countless Tweets directed at people in the Apple community (external and internal), and I’ve sent dozens of pieces of feedback to Apple via the iOS Feedback app.


I got an email and voicemail from someone in Tim Cook’s office who told me she wants to chat on the phone because Tim actually saw my email, personally read it, and forwarded it to people in engineering and on the product design team for Apple Music. She said she’d like to set up a call with me, so of course I jumped at the chance. We chatted on the phone a few days later, and she told me that Apple took my email seriously and may potentially implement some of my suggestions, although she obviously couldn’t promise anything or tell me anything about future plans, as that’s all confidential, and Apple is a super secret company, as we all know.

She did specifically point out that it was very rare to have Tim Cook send his teams product suggestions he received via email - and she had never personally seen that happen before - so she was almost congratulatory to me in the fact that my email seemed to have impact.


I can just say that between this and Apple’s recent Primephonic acquisition, I’m more excited for the future of Apple Music than I have been in a long time.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

It’s nearly 2022 and Apple Music still can’t reliably add albums to your library without duplicating things all over the place, all to prop up a legacy iTunes library compatibility system I haven’t used in six years 😪

Meanwhile, I use the legacy stuff and feel like the app is geared towards upselling me to Apple Music rather than meeting my needs. As I was writing this post, I got another notification on the home screen icon telling me that I can get a free Apple Music trial.

I wish I could use the old iPod app instead. I liked the simple lists of artist, album, and song names. The Music app now confuses that by mixing in grid views of album covers. Other apps like Cesium offer lists, but they are harder to read because (like in Music) each row has two lines of text (“Artist/n songs” or “Song Name/Artist”). Text is small because both lines have to fit within the height of the thumbnail. I end up seeing fewer list items at a time, and they’re harder to scan.

Craig Mod:

it’s an interesting “experiential skeuomorphic” decision by apple to make so slow that it feels like getting up, lifting a tonearm, putting an old record back, and pulling out a new one each time you try to navigate to a new screen in the thing


Update (2021-12-20): Marco Arment:

Since Monterey, I think, Music inexplicably scrolls Songs view to the bottom of the list a few seconds after you change the star rating of a song, which sucks when you have… a LOT of Phish.

Update (2022-03-09): Jack Wellborn:

My favorite example of how @AppleMusic is so obviously broken is stations, where you can’t even go to the previous track.

Runner up is how the entire Song menu is disabled whenever you play any song from Apple Music (as opposed to the Library).

Update (2022-03-16): Pierre Igot:

Apple’s #Music app for #macOS:

- non-customizable toolbar
- no toolbar button labels
- no tooltip when mouse hovers over toolbar buttons

Update (2022-06-09): Dave B:

I was hoping for 75% of the list, would have been happy with 50%, and would have been disappointed with under 30%. We got 0%.


Update (2023-08-22): Dave B:

Is @Apple ever going to fix the @AppleMusic backend?

How is it still such a mess?


Apple Music sees I like Song X because I have and play Song X. And then instead of putting Song X in the algorithmic playlist, it takes a different download of the exact same thing and feeds me back that alternate download. That creates so much duplication and clutter and disorganization across the service.

9 Comments RSS · Twitter

Beatrix Willius

I'll wait and see. Both iTunes and Music were made by totally incompetent people. I had a 6 month trial for AppleMusic. For the onboarding I had to contact Apple because I wasn't able to do the coupon on my own. I didn't finish the trial because I hated hated the Music app so much.

It's very troubling that it takes this kind of persistent lobbying, from people outside the company, to finally draw some light onto fundamental yet moribund apps that have degraded for so long.

Does Tim Cook not use the Music app himself? Does nobody responsible for the product have taste or influence?

The same analysis can (and should) be applied to many of Apple's other software undertakings of recent years.

Apple is so unified it is like the Eye of Sauron. It lights on a product and that product gets love and attention...then the Eye moves on and the product rots on the vine.

How come they can't just hire one person and say "your life is this product"...make it awesome. I am a software developer. I know that if I could just focus on one product year after year, it would be unbelievable... OK, OK, at least I can guarantee it would not be half assed after ten years.

We have seen this same pattern with lots of products at Apple. I remember Jon Gruber asked one Apple exec about a particular embarrassing product lapse and the guy replied "...well we only have so much bandwidth."

I felt like screaming; Haven't you ever heard of delegating???!!. I don't think you or Tim need to personally agonize over the effin' homepod mini colors. No one cares.

But we do care that the books app and the music app don't improve. We do care that there is no good monitor choice. That macs go years without upgrades...etc etc

The current Apple Music app is a UX disaster. I'd really bad on iOS, shamefully horrible of iPadOS, and progressively degrading on macOS.
It is very broken from UI's point of view, and the library of music functionality is unreliable.
Songs disappear, so I have to periodically fish them out from backups. The metadata does not display correctly, and half of the compilation albums do not show titles and artists' names. Album covers keep disappearing.
Search is pathetic.

I wish they would separate it into two apps, one for people with music collections and one for subscribers.

It's like every big company has an orphan product that seems to be maintained by a team that wants it to fail. Microsoft with Skype, Google with Image Search, and Apple with Music app.

Since the launch of Apple Music (six years ago!), the UI hasn't improved much. We've seen some nice feature additions like the lyrics view. On the Mac, I find the implementation of that… not great. Why does it have to be a panel within the main window? Safari shows an example of how you can do the best of both worlds: make it a popover, and make that draggable so you can even create a separate window if you prefer.

It does seem like there are too few people at Apple who love using the app and have the resources to improve it.

The important thing to remember is that Apple "Music" is not about helping users to manage collections of music. It is about selling "services." Period. By that measure, "Music" has been an extraordinary success.

For all the complaints about iTunes over the years, it is still miles ahead of "Music" for Dave B's "Group A" people. I am using Mojave on my main Mac at home so that I can keep using iTunes until I can migrate my iTunes library to a Windows 10 system so that I don't have to subject myself to Apple's awful Music and Podcast apps.

> The curation often feels more like advertising, where the feature is less catered around what the end user wants, and more around what the content providers (i.e. Apple and/or the record labels) wish to foist upon them. That’s a problem, as it makes the app feel like a collection of billboards, rather than a user-focused experience.

Nailed it. Same applies to TV+, News+, pretty much everything else under Eddy Cue.

I often see the same autoscrolling problem as Marco, but without rating any songs to trigger it. The unwanted scrolling just happens when Music is sitting in the background. I'll switch back to the app (because I want to look at the current song's metadata or something) but I have to hunt through the whole playlist. It's very annoying.

I stil fail to understand why there is no way to see full song name in list screen (a big issue for classic music albums, where song names are very long and the distinct part is at the end (e.g. Concerto in G Minor, Op. 10 No. 2 ("La Notte"): I. Largo - Fantasmi. Presto)

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