More thoughts on Music in iOS 10 (beta)

Last time I left off at the artist listing screen. Today, I want to dig into the individual artist view, album view, and the now playing screen.

One of the reasons I chose to give Music another try in iOS 10 is that Apple has finally given us a proper artist album listing, with albums that drill down into their own screens. This means we can finally choose an artist, then play a single album without it continuing on to the next album. Sounds like a small thing, but I dropped Music altogether years ago for that one reason alone.

Best iPod we’ve ever made, my ass.

Artist Album Listing

Artist Album Listing

Unfortunately, unlike iTunes on the Mac and Windows, Music on iOS still only sorts albums by name, giving us no option to sort them by date instead.

This is one of those head slap moments that makes you wonder if anyone at Apple has ever been a serious music collector. As far as I’m concerned, Apple cannot claim that it loves music ever again until it gives us the option to sort albums by date. No self-respecting music geek sorts albums by name. I don’t care if you hide the option in the Settings app, just give me the option for date, you wankers.[1]

Sorting issues aside, I like most everything else about the Artist page in Music. Album art is square and large, as it should be. There’s a quick option to shuffle all albums, in case that’s your thing. And, as I said before, choosing an album gives you a separate view with just that album’s tracks.

At the bottom of the artist page there’s also a new link “See more by…” that takes you to that artist’s other music on Apple Music. I’m not an Apple Music subscriber, but I guess it’s okay to be able to see what tracks are available without having to bounce into the iTunes app.[2] Unfortunately, any links inside here only give you the option of subscribing to Apple Music. You can’t link over to iTunes to buy any tracks you find. You can’t even preview tracks to see if they’re worth subscribing to get. It’s subscribe, or go screw yourself.

I’m sure the artists love that.

What’s so hard about offering a link, even via 3D Touch, that takes you to the iTunes store to buy a track?

Buy a track? Come on, Joe. Who buys tracks nowadays?

Oh yeah, that’s right. People who LOVE MUSIC.

Once you choose an album, you get the track listing, as you’d expect. Shuffle is right up there at the top again. Okay. Not something I ever use, but I guess a lot of people like shuffle. (More on this in a moment.)

Choose a track, and it starts playing immediately. At the bottom of the screen, just above the tab bar, you get a new bar for now playing, which stays there no matter where you go in the app. I like this a lot. I always hated how hard it was to get to the now playing screen on my old iPod and on Apple TV. This makes it one tap away at all times, which is brilliant. Music also doesn’t assume that once I’ve chosen a track I want the entire screen to be filled with now playing. This is also a good design choice. Once my music is running, I may want to select something else to play next, or keep reading the rest of the track listing, or just go exploring more through my catalog, etc.

At the bottom of the album page, there’s “More by…” again, only this time with albums and images listed. There’s also a “You Might Also Like” section with music from similar artists. Okay, now I’m getting annoyed, Apple. I switched Apple Music off in Settings. I’m clearly not interested in joining Apple Music. Fuck off , already.

Note: “Showing only music on this iPhone” is a lie in this case, Apple.

Note: “Showing only music on this iPhone” is a lie in this case, Apple.

Again, every link in these two bottom sections I didn’t ask for give me no option to even preview tracks from these suggested artists. Just subscribe now.

No thanks.[3]

The now playing toolbar has convenient buttons for pausing and skipping the current track. Another great design decision. One-tap access to pausing is essential, and sometimes you really do need to skip that one track you hate immediately.

Tap into the full-screen now playing view, and you are treated with nice big album art and some more controls in an overlay “card” type view that is reminiscent of Palm’s WebOS. I mostly like what they’ve done with this screen. But there are a few odd choices here.

The big one that others have mentioned before: Where are the shuffle and repeat buttons? For all the emphasis on shuffle being at the top of the past few screens in a row, I get to now playing, and shuffle has disappeared. Turns out, the now playing view is scrollable, and shuffle and repeat are just below the “fold.” Why? No reason I can discern. There’s plenty of room under the volume slider for more than two buttons.

Also, if you’re going to make this screen a scroll view, some indication that it can be scrolled might be a good idea. I know several people who had no idea that they can scroll this view at all. And that’s a shame, because what’s down below the fold is actually quite nice: an Up Next listing, where you can manually reorder or remove tracks from the upcoming cue.

Up Next is a pretty powerful thing. Setting up a quick one-off track listing for a party, for instance, becomes quite easy. I never use playlists, but I often will select a number of albums to listen to in a row when I’m in a certain mood, or I have people over the house, or when I’m on a road trip, etc. The “Play Next” and “Play Later” options on albums and tracks make setting up a quick cue super flexible and easy.

Overall, I actually like Music in iOS 10. The app is far from perfect, and I really want the heavy-handed Apple Music sales pitch to go away, but otherwise, for my listening style, this app is greatly improved over iOS 9 and earlier versions of Music.

And, lo and behold, since I’ve started adding tracks back to my iPhone, I have yet to experience the old issues I was having with files disappearing, doubling of tracks, tracks that simply won’t play, etc. Maybe the file system bugs I was experiencing are gone? I may just upgrade to a 128GB or even 256GB iPhone in a few weeks. I’d love to retire my old iPod again for good.


  1. They do have a “Sort Songs and Albums” option buried in the Settings app, by the way. But it’s for the songs and albums sort views. It has no effect on the album listing for individual artists. And there’s no “by Date” option, in any case.  ↩

  2. Never mind that I’ve checked the “Show Apple Music” switch off in preferences. I’m getting links to Apple Music all over the app, anyway.  ↩

  3. None of these Apple Music “features” were in the early betas, by the way. I wonder if this is a bug, or if these screens will make it into the GM for non-Apple Music subscribers.  ↩