On June 8, 2015, at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced their own in-house streaming service: Apple Music. With customized recommendations, curated radio and live feed for artists to share custom content, the concept seemed unique enough to distance it from competitors like Spotify and Google Play.
When Canadian rapper Drake was brought on stage to give the service and its artist ‘Connect’ feature a co-sign, the service seemed like it’d be a knock out of the park. However, when Apple Music formally launched three weeks later on June 30, the company’s confidence couldn’t be any more misplaced.
It didn’t even take a day before users flocked to customer service and message boards decrying the service, such as one agitated poster on the apple forums going as far to say: “WARNING: iCloud Music Library just destroyed my Mac’s iTunes Library.” And this was just the first day.
Unaware of the massive backlash, I chose to sign up for Apple Music’s three-month free trial at the beginning of this school year to test out the service, figuring it’d be the biggest convenience as I could integrate my local files with streaming content. If it wasn’t I could simply remove my subscription and continue using Spotify for streaming without any lasting effects, right? Boy was I wrong.
The service integrates their iCloud and Match features, which respectively integrates every iTunes purchase you’ve ever made (emphasis on ever) and auto-matches your pre-existing library with iCloud’s. When I first logged on, I was greeted with thousands of un-downloaded songs that spanned all the way back to when I was in third grade. Luckily, there’s an off switch available, but the catch is that if you turn off iCloud music, then you aren’t allowed to access any saved streaming content from Apple Music, including their curator playlists.
The playlists are without a doubt the best part of the service. Curators and publications create dozens of streaming playlists that cover a multitude of genres. Based on your personal picks, Apple will preselect the ones you’re most likely to enjoy. The variety is incredible, with playlists spanning from “An Experimental Electronic Afternoon,” to “Classic Hip-Hop Posse Cuts, Vol. 1.” However, this is about as good as it gets.
Apple Music has an offline listening feature for users to download content onto either their iPhone or computer. I downloaded a dozen songs from the service into a local playlist, and synced it onto my phone. When I looked on my phone, I saw two copies of my playlist, each only with the music I owned locally. Figuring it was a sync error, I tried again to no avail. And again and again with no result.
I decided to try downloading the songs onto my phone, which worked. When I synced my phone to the computer to see if they’d transfer, the computer wiped the downloaded songs and created a third version of the list, exactly the same as the previous two. After my last attempt with the computer, I received an error message telling me I couldn’t transfer them off the device. For a service designed to close the bridge between purchasing and streaming, it’s unacceptable how bad Apple dropped the ball on this one. If users can’t transfer their content between devices, then what’s the point of one even using the service?
The biggest sin on Apple’s part was assuming every user would welcome their “Match” service. Unfortunately, for those who have custom collections, Match will automatically try to connect your music with the iCloud database, changing artwork, names and in extreme cases, removing, or replacing versions of songs. Say you downloaded a out-of-print CD a while ago, Match will alter every track it can recognize. And if you try to remove what Match did, it’ll take the tracks it changed with it, rendering the songs gone forever. Every single playlist in my library was duplicated, with the original version and a copy containing songs that the service believed were in its database.
The largest disappointment about the service is that Apple had the platform to introduce an innovative streaming experience, with 24/7 live radio, curators and artist-fan connectivity. Unfortunately these enjoyable aspects of the service are drowned out by the disastrous headache of mismatched devices, incorrect data and missing music.
Apple Music is an incompetent mess that fails to live up to its main competitors. Until the company allows sync over multiple devices, disablement of iCloud Library, and removal of Match, I’ll stick with Spotify.