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.
Version 14.5 is the biggest – or, at the very least, most interesting – update to iOS and iPadOS we’ve seen in the 14.0 release cycle to date. That’s not to say previous iterations of iOS and iPadOS 14 were low on new features and refinements – it’s quite the opposite, in fact. Perhaps the pandemic and Apple’s work-from-home setup played a role in the company spreading new iOS functionalities across multiple releases throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, but, regardless of the underlying reason, iOS and iPadOS 14 have evolved considerably since their public launch six months ago.
With iOS 14.2, Apple shipped the traditional “emoji update”, but was also able to include a redesigned AirPlay interface, face detection in AR, and a brand new Shazam integration in Control Center; with iOS 14.3, the company rolled out its new ProRAW photography API alongside support for the Fitness+ service, App Clip codes, and the ability to launch apps directly from Home Screen shortcuts; version 14.4, released earlier this year, saw the arrival of proximity-based music handoff for iPhone and HomePod mini alongside new options for Bluetooth settings and other performance improvements.
It’s difficult to tell whether some of these features were originally planned for a September release and got delayed because of the pandemic1, or how many of these are Apple’s response to user feedback following the release of iOS and iPadOS 14, but one thing’s for sure: Apple hasn’t stood still over the past few months, and today’s iOS and iPadOS 14.5 are continuing the trend of major iOS and iPadOS updates released ahead of WWDC.
Following the debut of Apple’s MusicKit API, which enables third parties to build apps and web experiences that directly integrate with Apple Music, 2019 was a big year for third-party Apple Music clients on the App Store. We’ve written about several of theseapps, but the earliest and highest profile debut of the year was Soor, a meticulously designed client that distinguishes itself with a fully customizable Home view for displaying only the content sections you care about – choosing from things like Recently Added, Playlists, Recently Played, New Releases, For You, and more. Federico reviewed the launch version of Soor and found a lot to like about its unique approach, but he ultimately was disappointed by the absence of certain functionality that’s readily available in Apple’s first-party Music app.
In the nearly 18 months since launch, Soor has improved in significant ways. I adore the throwback Cover Flow-inspired playback screen, where you can smoothly swipe through a horizontal row of artwork, and time-synced lyrics are now available via a tight Musixmatch integration. There are still certain functions you’ll need to pop into Apple’s Music app for, sometimes due to Apple Music API limitations that Soor’s developer can do nothing about, and other times because the app simply doesn’t offer certain features yet – AirPlay 2, for example, is still unsupported. Overall though, for my uses at least, Soor covers enough core Apple Music functionality that there’s very little I need the first-party client for. The biggest absent feature on my wishlist is an iPad app, which I’m glad to see is on the roadmap, especially since iPadOS 14 will soon offer a much-improved first-party Music app.
Soor’s improvements have made it a truly compelling alternative to the first-party Music app, and today’s 2.0 update continues that trend by offering two big new features: magic mixes and release alerts. The latter is a nice addition, but the real pillar of this update is magic mixes.
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.