Owen WilliamsFormer TNW employee
Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their word Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their words friendlier. In his spare time he codes, writes newsletters and cycles around the city.
Apple Music was released to the world in a cloud of hype, anticipation and excitement.
Early reviews — including my own — declared the service a promising competitor to Spotify, but a few weeks after the trial ended I’ve decided to go back to Spotify.
The problem for me is that Apple Music sits in a strange spot where iTunes is still king and social media doesn’t really exist.
The frustration I have is that because I spend the majority of my time in front of a computer, I have to spend most of my time interacting with Apple Music inside iTunes. It’s an awful, muddled experience, particularly because iTunes now feels like it tries to do way too much.
I constantly ended up in the wrong end of iTunes; often muddling my way through the slow search bar and ending up on the purchase page instead of the download page.
If you end up in iTunes because of a link shared on social media, you have to go all the way back to the start, switch tabs to Apple Music, find the album again, then add it to your library.
I liked Apple Music a lot, but resented being forced to use iTunes to interact with it. The mobile app has its fair share of problems, but they’re easy enough to overlook in comparison.
iTunes has been around since 2001, and it feels like it’s just becoming monolithic and unwieldy. Did you ever meet anyone who actually liked using it? It’s slow, clunky and confusing to use.
When you put Spotify next to iTunes it’s night and day. That app is nimble, simple to use and offers impressive discovery features — I’ve just caught up with the world and used Discover Weekly for the first time and it’s even better than Apple’s ‘For You’ experience.
Speaking of ‘For You,’ the recommendations dried up faster than I expected. Over the three months the playlists rarely offered anything new, often just surfacing the same sets of songs repeatedly.
It would recommend songs based on my purchase history years back — which was mostly religious music from when I was younger. There’s no clear way to tell it I don’t want to see that anymore.
The best part of Spotify is that music is inherently far more shareable, with ongoing playlist subscriptions and the ability to add friends to follow on the service.
If you really hate the Spotify app, there’s a Web version you can use instead.
What I really wish Apple Music had is a companion Web service; something that worked without installation, is native to the Web and gets sharing. The current way Apple Music works on desktop is too cumbersome and frustrating to deal with.
iTunes was built for an era where streaming music didn’t exist, and it feels like Apple Music is just shoehorned in — perhaps as a stopgap. It’s a shame, because Apple’s service offers a better way for building your own streaming library, and its music discovery mechanism is lovely to use.
Will Apple build a standalone app for its new service, so we don’t have to use iTunes? I’m sure the focus is mostly on mobile with the service, but desktop users likely make up a large percentage of activity on the service.
I’ll happily come back in a heartbeat if it does drop iTunes, but until then, I’m back on Spotify.
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