I wrote about the Musixmatch widget last year, noting how its integration with the iOS media player and Notification Center was “too good to pass up”:
Here’s how it works: start playing a song in Apple’s Music app, open Notification Center, and Musixmatch will show you synced lyrics that follow the song you’re listening to. If you’re used to the traditional Musixmatch experience (in the iOS app or one of their desktop integrations, such as Spotify), you’ll recognize the service’s display of lyrics and timeliness – only as a widget on iOS.
I was listening to some playlists on Apple Music today and, to my surprise, the widget is already compatible with any song streamed from the service without an update required. Simply install Musixmatch, put its widget in Notification Center, and play a song in the new Music app. Musixmatch will match the song with its large database of officially licensed song lyrics, and upon opening Notification Center you’ll have to wait a second for the lyrics to load and be displayed in real time alongside the currently playing song. No setup, no search or music ID required.
If you care about song lyrics like I do, this is a great user experience, especially because it works out of the box. I wonder if Apple will eventually add built-in lyrics to Apple Music, but, until that time, the Musixmatch widget is a handy addition to the service.
Popular music streaming service Spotify and Musixmatch, the world’s largest catalogue of officially licensed song lyrics (not new to MacStories readers), have announced that Spotify for desktop will soon get the ability to natively display lyrics from Musixmatch in the media player.
I’ve talked about musiXmatch, an app to find lyrics for songs playing on your device, before here on MacStories. Earlier this year, I covered the app’s new version for iOS 7, noting how an officially-licensed database of lyrics with a polished interface makes it a superior choice for anyone who wants to read song lyrics on iOS:
Overall, musiXmatch is impressive and accurate. I’ve discovered lyrics for hundreds of songs and finally learned some of my favorite ones thanks to musiXmatch. The app can listen to songs playing on the same device, and its integration with iOS’ local music library means it can display lyrics for songs you already have without having to use the microphone at all. I mostly find myself trying to find lyrics for songs that are playing on my computer or iPad, and the app’s on-time, licensed lyrics provide a great experience for those interested in knowing the lyrics of songs they like.
musiXmatch rarely fails to find lyrics for me, and I like its design and integration with Apple’s Music app. And last week, they released an iOS 8 update with one of the most impressive widgets I’ve seen to date.
Here’s how it works: start playing a song in Apple’s Music app, open Notification Center, and musiXmatch will show you synced lyrics that follow the song you’re listening to. If you’re used to the traditional musiXmatch experience (in the iOS app or one of their desktop integrations, such as Spotify), you’ll recognize the service’s display of lyrics and timeliness – only as a widget on iOS.
From both technical and user experience perspectives, this is excellent work from the musiXmatch team. Over the weekend, I tested the widget with music I had in iTunes Match, albums I synced locally, and, today, Taylor Swift’s new album, and musiXmatch always found lyrics and displayed them at the right time in the widget, which needs less than a second to appear (tested on an iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6; obviously, musiXmatch needs an Internet connection to work). The widget also has buttons to open the Trending, Music ID, and Search sections in the musiXmatch app as well as playback controls, but synced lyrics with artwork preview in Notification Center were the highlight of this update.
Unfortunately, due to iOS limitations, musiXmatch can’t display lyrics in the widget for third-party music streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio, or Apple’s Beats Music, but it’ll work for apps that use Apple’s Music as the background player. The widget can’t access the device microphone to identify a song without launching the app, and, for now, musiXmatch can’t display lyrics in the widget for iTunes Radio streams either. These limitations narrow the potential user base (people who only use Spotify or Beats won’t see lyrics in Notification Center), but hopefully musiXmatch will be able to develop some kind of integration with third-parties.
With an update released over the weekend, musiXmatch – my favorite lyrics discovery tool for iOS – added support for video playback on iPhone, faster performance for older devices (iPhone 4 and 4S), as well as a new way to quickly get lyrics for the song that’s currently playing in the Music app. Read more
When I collected my must-have apps at the end of last year, I included musiXmatch in the iPhone and iPad roundups, but never got around publishing a proper review of the app. I’ve been using musiXmatch on a daily basis for the past six months, and I think it offers a solid song lyric-matching experience for iOS.
Following years of a judicious union between platforms, it’s time for iPad to embark on its own journey.
In looking back at major iOS releases from the recent past, it’s easy to see how building and positioning these annual updates has become a careful balancing act for Apple.
In last year’s iOS 12, we saw the company focus on improving performance, providing users with tools to understand their device usage habits, and adapting Workflow to the modern era of Siri and proactive suggestions. The strategy was largely successful: iOS 12 was regarded as Apple’s most reliable iOS release of late – a reputation that has resulted in a 90% adoption rate a year later; and the Shortcuts app – the highlight of last year from a user feature perspective – is becoming a built-in (and thus more powerful) app in iOS 13.
For all that Apple accomplished in iOS 12, however, some areas of the experience inevitably had to be put on the back-burner. Besides improvements to Reminders and Files, iOS 12 lacked a long-awaited dark mode (which was rolled out on macOS instead) as well as more substantial tweaks to the ever-evolving iOS 7 design language; chief among iOS 12’s absentee list, of course, was iPad. Even though Apple had trained users to expect major additions to the tablet platform on a biennial schedule (see iOS 9 and iOS 11), the lack of meaningful iPad features in iOS 12 spurred a contentious discussion when it became apparent that new iPad Pro hardware was so far ahead of its software, it legitimized asking whether investing in that hardware was even worth it.
The annual debate that surrounds which features make it into each major iOS release is symptomatic of a complicated truth: iOS isn’t just the operating system that runs on iPhones anymore, and these annual releases are more than a mere collection of updated apps. iOS is the platform for an ecosystem of devices – from our wrists and speakers to cars and TV sets – and its changes have repercussions that ripple far beyond an updated Reminders app or a new icon set.
This, of course, has been the case for a few years at this point, but the nature of iOS as an all-encompassing platform has never been as evident as it is today in iOS 13. For the first time since I started reviewing Apple’s annual iOS updates, it feels like the company is now keenly aware that a new iOS version has to cover an array of themes that can’t be pushed back for scheduling reasons. A single area of attention isn’t enough anymore – not for the Apple of 2019 as an economic, political, and social force, and not for iOS, the engine powering devices that aren’t just screens for apps, but bona fide lifestyle computers.
As a result, there’s something for everyone in iOS 13 and all the recurring themes of Tim Cook’s Apple are touched upon this time around. iOS 13 improves Face ID recognition and promises improvements to app download sizes and performance. Apple is sending strong signals on its commitment to privacy as a feature with a new sign-in framework for apps and enhancements to location tracking controls and HomeKit cameras. iOS’ design language is getting its biggest update in years with dark mode, new tools for developers to express colors and embed glyphs in their user interfaces, updated context menus, and redesigns aimed at facilitating one-handed interactions. We have notable improvements to built-in apps, including the rebuilt Reminders and Health, an overhauled Files app, and hundreds of quality-of-life tweaks that, in big and small ways, make iOS more capable and efficient.
No stone is left unturned in iOS 13 – and that includes iPad too.
The iPad experience has always been largely consistent with the iPhone – particularly since Apple unified core iOS interactions around a screen without a Home button – but also distinct from it. iOS 13 makes this distinction official by splitting itself in a second branch called iPadOS, which uses iOS as the foundation but is specifically optimized and designed for iPad.
It was clear when the new iPad Pro launched in late 2018 that it told only one part of a bigger story about the role of the tablet in Apple’s modern ecosystem. With iPadOS, Apple is ready to tell that full story: while the iPad has always been an extension of iOS, sharing key similarities with the iPhone hardware and software, it’s been evolving – arguably, a bit too slowly – into a different breed of computer that is fundamentally distinct from a phone.
We’ve been able to observe this divergence starting in iOS 9 with Split View multitasking and Apple Pencil, and the transition continued with iOS 11 and its drag and drop-infused environment. It was only natural (and well-deserved) for the iPad to begin advancing in a parallel direction to iOS – informed and inspired by it, but also capable of growing on its own and tackling problems that an iPhone doesn’t have to solve.
From this standpoint, there are two sides to iOS 13: on one hand, an underlying tide that raises all platforms, featuring a distillation of themes Apple comes back to on an annual basis; on the other, a fork in the road, opening a new path for the iPad’s next decade. And against this backdrop, a single question looms large:
Marvis is a music player that launched on iPhone just two months ago, yet in a 3.0 update today expands its usefulness immensely thanks to a major new feature: full Apple Music integration. With today’s release, Marvis joins the growing list of third-party apps that use Apple’s MusicKit API to offer access to and control of your Apple Music library.
Marvis follows in the footsteps of Soor, which Federico reviewed earlier this year, in prioritizing layout customization as one of its hallmark advantages over Apple’s first-party Music app. Pushing beyond what even Soor accomplished though, in Marvis customization is taken to a whole new level, with fine-grained design options that no other app can compare with.
With the transition to iPad Pro as my primary computer fully achieved in 2016 and not surprising anymore, in 2017 I turned my attention to three other key areas of my life: working with the MacStories team, managing my time, and finding my favorite apps among many competing alternatives.
As much as I like to write in isolation, MacStories is also a team that requires a direction and a business that begets further responsibilities. Learning how to balance the multifaceted nature of my job with my hobbies and personal life (which got busier thanks to two puppies we adopted in April) has been an interesting challenge this year, and one that taught me a lot about allocating my time and attention, as well as the kind of writer I am and aspire to be.
There has been a recurring theme that has characterized my relationship with iOS in 2017: I’ve made a conscious effort to try as many new apps and services as possible, ensuring I would have a basic knowledge of all the available options on the market for different categories.
As I was settling on a routine and set of apps that worked well for me, I realized that I didn’t want to lose the spark of excitement I used to feel when trying new apps in previous years. My job is predicated upon writing about software and having a sense of where our industry is going; while finding something that works and using it for years is great, I don’t want to become the kind of tech writer who’s stuck in his ways and doesn’t consider the possibility that better software might exist and is worth writing about. Even though my experiments didn’t always lead to switching to a different app, they made me appreciate the state of the iOS ecosystem and helped me understand my app preferences in 2017.
Thus, I’m going back to basics for my annual roundup this year. In the collection below, you’ll find the 75 apps I consider my must-haves – no web services, just apps for iPhone and iPad. Apps are organized by category and, whenever possible, include links to past coverage on MacStories.
As in previous years, you’ll find a series of personal awards at the end of the story. These include my App of the Year and Runners-Up; this year, I also picked winners for Feature, Redesign, Update, and Debut of the Year.
The first thing that may catch the eye of many looking to upgrade their Mac this year is the demise of the classic ‘OS X’ moniker. The end of OS X has been long rumored, and the expectation has often been for the Mac to move to whatever Apple chooses to name their OS 11. This would of course be a change on a massive scale, such as that between OS 9 and OS X was over a decade ago.
This year, with OS X finally seeing the end of its reign, will we be seeing another epochal change in Mac history?
After a decade of mispronounced Roman numerals, Apple is ready to let go of the name, but not the number. The full title for the 2016 iteration of the Mac operating system: macOS 10.12 Sierra. OS X may be gone, but OS 10 survives.
Since the mystical OS 11 didn’t come in the aftermath of the last big cat, didn’t come on the heels of version 10.9, and now again hasn’t come to usher out OS X, it’s starting to look like it may never come at all. Let’s all cross our fingers and hope that that’s true, because the bottom line is that OS 11 isn’t needed anymore.
These days, Apple is a very different company than it was when OS X made its debut. The Mac is no longer Apple’s darling. It was long ago pushed aside by the iPod, then the iPhone and iPad, and now even a watch and a TV box. Each of these is its own platform, running its own operating system. Each of these has its place in the new age Apple ecosystem.
With iOS, watchOS, and tvOS all around, the freshly renamed macOS no longer serves the role of scrappy upstart. Today, the Mac is the eldest platform, and macOS needs to focus on stability and productivity. Leave the epochal changes to the young guys.
With this year’s update, named after California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, macOS builds once more upon the strong base of its many predecessors. Trenchant in its restraint, 10.12 shirks sweeping changes in favor of iterative improvements. A perfect example of an update to a mature operating system done right.