In December 2019, I published MusicBot, my all-in-one Apple Music shortcut to play music, get quick access to favorite albums and new releases, rediscover old gems in your music library, and lots more. MusicBot is one of the most complex shortcuts I’ve ever created and, along with Apple Frames, it’s among the shortcuts I use the most on a daily basis.
Over the past 11 months, MusicBot has been downloaded thousands of times from the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, and I’ve been saving a variety of ideas and user requests for features that would extend MusicBot’s capabilities and make it easier to use on iOS and iPadOS 14.
The result is MusicBot 1.1, the first substantial update to the original shortcut that introduces full support for iOS 14’s compact UI and Home Screen widgets, Shazam integration, the ability to read music news and check release dates inside MusicBot, plus other fixes and enhancements.
Let’s dive in.
Today Apple released the second major revision to iOS and iPadOS 14 since their introduction in September. The previous major update, 14.1, was largely just for iPhone 12 support and bug fixes. iOS and iPadOS 14.2 are packed with quite a few nice new additions to the operating system, and are available to the public as of this morning.
New Emoji and Wallpapers
iOS 14.2 packs over 100 new emoji, including a smiling face with a tear, a ninja, a toothbrush, and a pickup truck. Emojipedia covered the new emoji earlier in the beta cycle, and of course Federico attempted to guess all of their official names on an episode of Connected. My personal favorite is the new mousetrap emoji, which reminds me of the leprechaun traps that my sister and I used to set up the night before St. Patrick’s Day when we were growing up.
Eight new still wallpapers have also been released in today’s update. Some are photos of mountainous regions while others are scenic illustrations. Each new wallpaper includes a variation for light and dark mode.
Late last year, Apple announced that it had agreed to purchase Shazam, the music-discovery service. The acquisition was held up for a time by an investigation by the European Commission, which ultimately said the deal is not anti-competitive and could go forward. Today Apple announced that the deal had been completed.
In a press release, Apple said:
Shazam has been downloaded over 1 billion times around the world, and users identify songs using the Shazam app over 20 million times each day. With pioneering innovation in music identification, Shazam helps people discover, interact with and share video, audio or printed content across devices and mediums — and allows music fans to follow their favorite artists and share in the thrill of discovery.
Apple also announced that Shazam would soon be offered ad-free to all users.
Last December, Apple announced plans to acquire music-discovery service Shazam. The service, which makes iOS, watchOS, and macOS apps that can detect songs, TV shows, and advertisements from their sound signatures, has been on Apple’s platforms since the early days of iOS and is the engine behind Siri’s ability to recognize songs.
Since February, the deal has been on hold while the European Commission considered whether it would adversely impact competition. In a press release today, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, explained:
“Data is key in the digital economy. We must therefore carefully review transactions which lead to the acquisition of important sets of data, including potentially commercially sensitive ones, to ensure they do not restrict competition. After thoroughly analysing Shazam’s user and music data, we found that their acquisition by Apple would not reduce competition in the digital music streaming market.”
Elaborating on the Commission’s findings, Vestager said the Commission concluded that “Apple and Shazam mainly offer complementary services and do not compete with each other.”
There has been no official word from Apple on the Commission’s decision, but it should clear the way to allow that deal to be consummated soon.
Past MacStories coverage of Shazam is available here.
When Apple acquired Shazam, people wondered what would become of the popular song identification and music discovery app. It’s not unusual for an app acquired by a big company to be pulled from the App Store or for development to slow substantially. Questions were also raised about whether Shazam would continue to support Apple’s music streaming rival, Spotify.
As it turns out, Shazam has continued to be updated and support Spotify since Apple’s acquisition. In fact, there have been at least four updates to Shazam since the acquisition including one today that adds synchronized lyrics and a design refresh of the app’s results screen.
The new UI looks great. The results screen is dominated by a background image of the artist. In the foreground is a big play button, the name of the song the app recognized, and the name of the artist. If you tap on the artwork, you get an image of the artist and album in some cases, plus more details on the artist, album, song, and release date.
Along the top of the results screen is a menu you access by swiping horizontally that includes lyrics, videos, additional songs by the artist, and related artists. If you swipe over to the lyrics screen while a song is playing, they are displayed in perfect synchronization with the song that’s playing, which is perfect for impromptu karaoke moments. Adding songs to Apple Music and Spotify playlists has been streamlined too – it now takes one less tap to add a song to a playlist.
One thing to keep in mind though, is that if you’re using the iOS 11.3 beta, playback is broken throughout the app. Tapping on any play button freezes the entire UI and requires you to force quit the app. Playback works as expected if you’re not on the beta, however.
Shazam is available on the App Store.
Myke was surprised by Apple’s Shazam acquisition, Ticci is living that 4K life and Stephen is thinking about an iMac Pro.
A fun episode of Connected this week with a good variety of topics. You can listen here.
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On Friday, TechCrunch reported that Apple had agreed to acquire music discovery service and app-maker Shazam. Today, Apple made it official confirming the deal to BuzzFeed News. Shazam, which makes iOS, watchOS, and macOS apps that can detect songs, TV shows, and advertisements from their sound signatures, has been on Apple’s platforms since the early days of iOS and is the engine behind Siri’s ability to recognize songs.
The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed in the announcement, but according to TechCrunch, Shazam cost Apple somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 million. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal last year, Shazam accounts for about 1 million clicks per day and 10% of digital download sales. However, as streaming services have gained popularity over paid music downloads, Shazam’s affiliate link revenue from music sales has shrunken. To compensate, Shazam has turned increasingly to advertising. With today’s acquisition, Shazam should continue to drive traffic to Apple Music without the need to sustain itself as a standalone business.
In addition to Apple’s music services, Shazam sends significant traffic to Spotify. Shazam also has an Android app. It remains to be seen what will happen to the Spotify relationship or Android app now that Shazam is part of Apple or whether Apple plans to maintain Shazam as a separate iOS app. Deeper integration with Siri is one direction Apple may take Shazam’s technology implementing something like the Google Pixel 2’s automatic song identification feature called ‘Now Playing.’
Past MacStories coverage of Shazam is available here.
Ingrid Lunden, writing for TechCrunch:
As Spotify continues to inch towards a public listing, Apple is making a move of its own to step up its game in music services. Sources tell us that the company is close to acquiring Shazam, the popular app that lets people identify any song, TV show, film or advert in seconds, by listening to an audio clip or (in the case of, say, an ad) a visual fragment, and then takes you to content relevant to that search.
We have heard that the deal is being signed this week, and will be announced on Monday, although that could always change.
Assuming that Apple keeps Shazam’s standalone app around in the short term, I wonder if the built-in Spotify integration for streaming and saving songs will remain (I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets pulled). I’m a fan of Shazam’s iPhone and Watch apps, but it’d be great to have Shazam baked into Siri without having to ask any special song recognition command. Shazam’s discovery and recommendation features could also tie in nicely with Apple Music.
iOS 11 apps have been receiving the most attention in recent weeks, and for good reason – drag and drop, ARKit, and more make it an exciting time for the platform. But watchOS is also seeing significant improvement of late. With watchOS 4 and the Apple Watch Series 3, the Watch feels like it’s beginning to truly mature in several key ways. There’s still a long way to go, but developers are now able to build the most capable, refined Watch apps ever seen. Shazam is a great example of that.
Shazam’s new Watch app is extremely simple, and as I like to say, that’s the way all good Watch apps should be. Launching it presents the familiar blue Shazam button, which upon a tap will begin listening to whatever music is currently playing. After you hit the button, you can turn your wrist away and the app will notify you through a haptic tap when the song’s been identified. In testing on a Series 3 Watch, songs were identified very quickly, taking only 2-3 seconds on every try.
After songs have been identified, they’re stored below the Shazam button in the main app interface. By scrolling with the Digital Crown, you’ll see the last five songs presented in a style similar to watchOS’s revamped Music app: large album covers resembling cards that slide in over each other as you keep scrolling. Tapping an album cover plays a short preview of the song using the Watch’s built-in speaker.
One final thing worth noting is that unlike many other third-party watchOS apps, Shazam is built to take full advantage of the iPhone independence made possible by the new Series 3 LTE Watch. According to an official support document:
Do I need my phone to use Apple Watch Shazam features?
If you have the Watch Series 3 LTE, you can shazam phone-free! If you have an older Apple Watch device you’ll need to have your iPhone connected in order to name that song.
It will likely be a while before we see a significant number of third-party apps updated to support independence from the iPhone, but Shazam is a good start.