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Vision Pro App Spotlight: NowPlaying

NowPlaying by Hidde van der Ploeg has come a long way since its start. It’s always been an excellent companion to Apple Music, packed with music discovery features that fill a big gap in Apple’s system app. But, with the visionOS version, van der Ploeg has taken NowPlaying to a new level. visionOS allows users of the app to spread out, focus on the music, and absorb the rich catalog of metadata and editorial content about their music in a beautiful, relaxing atmosphere.

Album detail.

Album detail.

Artist detail.

Artist detail.

Song detail.

Song detail.

NowPlaying is comprised of a main window with four separate views:

  • Discover
  • SongDisplay
  • History
  • Unlockables

In Discover, you can search for music and browse artists, songs, and the music you’ve played in Apple Music. Discover is where you’ll find the app’s settings and a button to turn on the microphone, which allows NowPlaying to listen in on your music and offer details about it with SongDisplay, which I discuss below. Also, along the bottom of the window is an ornament that highlights whatever is currently playing.

Song detail view (left) and SongDisplay (right).

Song detail view (left) and SongDisplay (right).

SongDisplay uses ShazamKit to identify the music to which you’re listening and display it in its own window with album art. Along the top of the SongDisplay window are buttons to open NowPlaying’s main window, mark a song as a favorite, add it to your Apple Music library, view lyrics, which, unlike Apple Music’s, are static, open a detail view for the current song, and name your current session. That’s a lot of functionality built into a window whose main purpose is to show what’s currently playing, and I love it. I can sit at my desk working with NowPlaying’s relatively small SongDisplay window off to the side where it’s out of the way, but I can still easily interact with it.

NowPlaying’s History window breaks down the music you’ve listened to by session, which you can name. Finally, Unlockables offers a fun system for collecting badges and alternative icons, rewarding users for exploring the app’s features and discovering new music.

First Grammy awarded in the tech podcasting world.

First Grammy awarded in the tech podcasting world.

Another fun feature is a list of music awards that you can find in NowPlaying’s settings. There’s a little write-up about each award, and for some, there is a 3D model of the award that you can view, too.

I’m a fan of NowPlaying’s design. It takes some cues from Apple Music but has a look of its own that I enjoy. You’ll find the same design on other versions of the app, but there are a couple of things that really set NowPlaying apart on visionOS. The first is that when you look at one of its windows, your environment automatically dims. Other apps make this an option, but I like that it’s automatic in NowPlaying because it’s the kind of app that’s perfect for focused listening to music.

Being able to open multiple windows and arrange them around your environment suits NowPlaying well, too. With multiple windows, I can go down a music discovery rabbit hole, opening interesting musical finds as I go. One option I would like, though, is the ability to close all those windows at once or all but the app’s main window because it can quickly become a lot if you use SongDisplay’s ‘Info’ button a lot.

Working with multiple NowPlaying windows.

Working with multiple NowPlaying windows.

One of the Vision Pro’s strengths is as a ‘lean back’ entertainment device. NowPlaying is a fantastic companion for discovering and learning about music as you listen. What’s unique about the app is that it works equally well to the side in a work environment acting as a resource as you listen and discover something about which you want to learn more, thanks to SongDisplay. That makes it one of the most versatile music apps I’ve tried on the Vision Pro so far.

NowPlaying is available on the App Store as a free download with certain features requiring a $1.99/month or $9.99/year subscription. There is also a one-time payment option of $23.99.

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