After using it for a whole week, I was going to write a review of Apple Music for you all to read. Instead, I’ve come undone. The biggest problem with Apple Music isn’t the catalogue, it isn’t the sound, it isn’t even the everything-old-is-new-again radio station Beats 1. It’s the menus.
It started last week when my Apple Music use kicked into high gear. I’ve had Spotify since it launched in Australia, and as a result I’ve got a whole mess of playlists set up and ready to go. In my quest to accurately test and review Apple Music, I’d have to duplicate my playlists over to the new service.
As others have pointed out, there’s no easy way to do this. I experimented with exporting Spotify playlists into all sorts of formats, as well as a few different web apps to port playlists from one service into another. No dice.
On Saturday I sat down for about an hour and transferred the songs I liked into a new Apple Music playlist from my Spotify account by hand. Drag.
But that’s not the biggest issue with the service. Sure, it’s annoying and will turn a lot of people off, but it’s the gateway to the menu issue that will drive you absolutely ballistic.
Let’s say we search for “Shake It Off”, by Taylor Swift. A great song from a great album.
For some reason, Apple has persisted with a tiled design for iTunes and Apple Music. Every music service on the planet organises songs in a list, but because Apple has an obsession with album art, your search results all look like this:
Apple Music breaks search results down into Top Results (that is, what it thought you wanted), and then filters by Songs, Albums, Playlists and Music Videos based on where else it found your search string.
Playing the song is as easy as clicking the play icon on the album art. It kicks the song into your Now Playing queue and the sweet T-Swizzle tunes start filling your headphones.
However, things get a bit annoying when you want to do something else with the tune other than listen to it right now. Common sense dictates that you right click to expose a context menu that will contain the common iTunes actions of Add To Library, Love (to tell the algorithm to play more like it in the Radio app) or Add To Playlist. That’s a fool’s errand: there’s no right-click action menu available in search results. You’re made to click a three-dot action icon next to the track to do other stuff with it. It’s a pain, but something you can learn to live with. What comes next is where the real annoyance rears its ugly head.
I really like the “1989” album “Shake It Off” came from, so I want to add that to its own special playlist like I can do on Spotify and any other music streaming service I can name. No right-click action menu to speak of, so you left-click the three-button action icon and are presented with this:
Access to a Share Sheet for the song. *deep sigh*.
I’d argue that the last thing I’d want to do with an album is share it out to my friends. The absolute first thing I’d want to do with it is add it to an existing playlist or create a new one full of songs from that particular album.
It even makes sense for that menu to be filled with iTunes Radio options like “Make a new Station based on this album”, but that’s not even a choice in the hopelessly empty menu.
These little menu irritations are all littered all over Apple Music.
Say you want to add a song to a playlist once you’ve heard it on the Beats 1 radio station. You go to the Recently Played window at the top-right and instead of getting a three-dot menu that lets you add it to a playlist, you’re presented with a simple Buy button that will charge you money for the song on top of the Apple Music subscription you’re already paying. There actually is a right-click menu for these songs, but it doesn’t look like any of the other menus on the service.
So to add that song to a playlist, you’ll have to use the search box in the top-right to find it, and then you’ll have to make sure you’re looking in the Apple Music library and not your own to actually return a result:
Apple Music is a great service that fits into my life really nicely, but the dream was that it would make music streaming easy again. The mismatched UI lets the whole thing down, and makes it feel like an uphill battle to actually stream something. Fix that, and you’ll have me forever.