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Posts tagged with "Apple Music"

MusicSmart 2.0: Dig Into Music Discovery

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Marcos Tanaka’s music apps at MacStories. MusicHarbor makes keeping up with new and upcoming releases a breeze, and MusicBox ensures you won’t lose track of music that you don’t have time to enjoy until later. The apps are indispensable for music fans who follow a long list of artists.

MusicSmart, which is available for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV, is a little different than Tanaka’s other apps. Instead of casting a broad net to track the entire range of your musical tastes, the app is about digging deeper into individual songs, albums, or artists’ catalogs. But follow the threads offered by MusicSmart, and the narrow focus that sets it apart from Tanaka’s other apps will paradoxically lead to new musical discoveries and, ultimately, broaden your tastes.

As Federico explained in his review of MusicSmart’s debut:

Whether by design or as a byproduct of our new habits, metadata and credits don’t play a big role in modern music streaming services. We’re frustrated when a service gets the title of a song wrong or reports the incorrect track sequence in an album, but we don’t consider the fact that there’s a world of context and additional information hidden behind the songs and albums we listen to every day. That context is entirely invisible to us because it’s not mass-market enough for a music streaming service. There have been small updates on this front lately, but by and large, credits and additional track information are still very much ignored by the streaming industry. And if you ask me, that’s a shame.

Despite stiff competition among music streaming services, the state of liner notes hasn’t improved since Federico wrote that. Fortunately, though, MusicSmart has only gotten better, adding new data sources, better organization, and more polish with each release. However, version 2.0 of the app combines its existing strengths with new features and an improved design in a way that transcends earlier versions, making this version 2.0 of MusicSmart feel more fully realized than ever before.

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Kirk McElhearn’s Review of Apple Music Classical

Kirk McElhearn has been writing about classical music on Apple platforms for nearly 20 years, which makes his Apple Music Classical review on TidBITS a must read for classical listeners.

As McElhearn explains, searching for classical works is more complex than pop music:

You may want to listen to a specific work by a given composer, but also by one of your favorite performers. And, as you can see with the example of the Schubert sonata, work names are not always as simple as Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Metadata is the key to managing classical music.

Although McElhearn discovered some metadata oddities when browsing the Apple Music tracks from his library that showed up in Apple Music Classical, the company seems to have done a good job overall with curating the metadata for its new app.

Also, although the UI and experience of using Apple Music Classical is similar to Apple Music, there are important differences, including:

One useful feature is the ability to search within search results. After you’ve searched for something, pull down on the screen to reveal a search field. You can enter keywords in this field to further narrow your search. You can also access this search field in other lists. For example, go to Browse, tap Instruments, then tap Violin. Tap one of the options—Latest Releases, Popular Artists, or Popular Works—and you’ll see a list of results. Pull down, and you can search within that list.

If you’re just starting out with Apple Music Classical, I recommend reading McElhearn’s entire story, which does a fantastic job covering what works well and what doesn’t. Like a lot of people, though, McElhearn is left wondering why the app is iPhone-only:

The most perplexing thing about the Apple Music Classical app is how completely it is siloed. It’s only available for the iPhone, though you can install it on an iPad and zoom it to 2x. Not only is it not available on the Mac—the iPhone app isn’t even available for M-series Macs—but the enhanced metadata, using work and movement tags, is not visible in Apple Music on the Mac nor in the Apple Music app on the iPhone and iPad. It seems Apple is using two separate databases, which makes no sense. If the metadata is available—and work and movement tags are available on many albums in Apple Music already—why not let the other apps access them?

All this makes the Apple Music Classical app seem like an experiment. It’s quite polished for a 1.0 release, and, despite the issues that I’ve mentioned above that will irritate classical music fans, it’s a generally successful attempt to provide a better way to access classical music. Apple should be praised for paying so much attention to a genre that represents only 2–3% of the overall music market.

The unique needs of classical music listeners have never been well-served by the biggest streaming services. I’m with McElhearn in wondering about the limited roll-out of Apple Music Classical, and there are rough edges that are noticeable even for people who aren’t classical music fans. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Apple Music Classical is a step in the right direction. I hope Apple listens to the feedback from McElhearn and other classical music lovers and continues to improve the app.

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Apple Music Classical to Launch on March 28th

Source: App Store.

Source: App Store.

On March 28th, Apple will launch Apple Music Classical, a free app that’s already available for pre-order that will offer a catalog of over 5 million classical recordings to Apple Music subscribers at no additional cost.

The app, which will be iPhone-only at launch, has been anticipated for months. Apple acquired Primephonic, a classical music streaming service in August 2021, and said at the time that it would release an Apple-branded classical music streaming service the following year. 2022 came and went without a new app, but references to the new service began appearing in iOS beta releases, leading observers to believe that a release was imminent.

Apple says that Classical’s 5 million tracks, which include thousands of exclusives, is the largest in the world and has “complete and accurate” metadata. The company also says in the app’s release notes:

Apple Music Classical also makes it easy for beginners to get acquainted with the genre thanks to hundreds of Essentials playlists, insightful composer biographies, deep-dive guides for many key works, and intuitive browsing features.

Classical’s search will also be optimized for the genre, include editorial content, and be streamed at up to 192 kHz/24-bit Hi-Res Lossless, with thousands of tracks supporting spatial audio with Dolby Atmos.

Users can pre-order the free app today from the App Store, which will be downloaded to their iPhones on March 28th when the app goes live.


Hands-On with Apple Music for Windows

Apple Music for Windows.

Apple Music for Windows.

Last week, Apple released native versions of Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Devices for Windows. The apps, which are available on the Microsoft Store, are labeled as “previews”, and they’re meant to eventually serve as replacements for iTunes for Windows, which is the only flavor of iTunes Apple still distributes after they transitioned to standalone media apps a few years ago. I suppose the apps are also part of a broader strategy from Apple to establish a stronger presence of their services on Windows, as we saw last year with the launch of Apple Music on Xbox and iCloud Photos on Windows (which joined the existing iCloud configuration panel for Windows devices).

As an Apple Music subscriber and owner of a Windows gaming laptop, I thought it’d be fun to take Apple Music for a spin and see how it compares to Spotify on Windows as well as the existing Apple Music experience for Apple’s platforms, which I know very well and enjoy on a daily basis.

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Apple Announces Second-Generation HomePod

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Over the weekend, Mark Gurman said that Apple would be releasing a new HomePod soon. As it turns out, he was correct because today, Apple released a new second-generation HomePod. According to Apple’s press release,

With convenient new ways to manage everyday tasks and control the smart home, users can now create smart home automations using Siri, get notified when a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm is detected in their home, and check temperature and humidity in a room — all hands-free.

The HomePod is powered by an S7 chip and appears to feature a sound system similar to the first-gen model.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

The new HomePod also adds a temperature and humidity sensor, which can be used as a trigger for home automations, and supports the Matter home automation standard.

The second-generation HomePod is available to order today, with deliveries beginning Friday, February 3rd for $299, which is $50 less than the original HomePod’s price.

Update: Thanks to the Wayback Machine, I’ve gone back and checked the second-generation HomePod’s tech specs against the original model, and there are some interesting differences. The new model weighs less at 5.16 pounds (2.3 kg) versus 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg). The new model is a little shorter, too, at 6.6 inches (168 mm) compared to the original’s 6.8 inches (172 mm), but the same width.

The new HomePod has two fewer tweeters at five compared to the original’s seven. No mention is made of direct and ambient audio beamforming in the tech specs for the new HomePod, although it does support Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos, which is a nice addition. The latest HomePod has four far-field microphones compared to the original’s six too.

In addition to the temperature and humidity sensor, the new HomePod also features an accelerometer and will support Sound Recognition later this spring with a software update. It’s not clear whether that software update will work with the original HomePod or not.

The new HomePod is also getting a WiFi upgrade with 802.11n support. The new model also includes a Thread radio and Ultra Wideband chip, which the original did not.

Last but not least, the new HomePod’s tech specs appear to suggest that the power cable may be detachable, unlike the original model, because it’s listed as an item ‘in the box,’ whereas that wasn’t the case when the HomePod debuted.


Apple Music Replay Expanded with New Highlights Reel

Apple Music’s Replay 2022 playlist has been available since early this year, updating every week as subscribers listen to the service throughout the year. However, today, Apple also updated the replay.music.apple.com, the website that highlights what you listened to over the past year.

Many of the statistics you’ll see as part of your latest Replay will be familiar, but there’s a new twist too. For the Replay 2022, Apple has added a Highlights Reel, which is a video of cards animating on and off-screen with highlights of the music you listened to in 2022. As the cards animate on and off your screen, the music that defined your year plays in the background. Replay’s highlights are only available on the web, and the Highlights Reel looks best on an iPhone, but it can be viewed in any web browser.

The Highlights Reel is a solid addition to this year’s Replay, although I would prefer to access it from inside the Music app. I’d also like to see Apple work on surfacing deeper insights into what I listened to over the course of the year. The top artists, albums, songs, and genres, along with minutes and other counts are excellent, but trends and recommendations of new areas to explore would be a great addition to future recaps.

To view your own Replay 2022 statistics and Highlights Reel, visit replay.music.apple.com.


Apple Music Announces Its 2022 Artist of the Year

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Today, Apple Music announced that Bad Bunny is its 2022 Artist of the Year. Un Verano Sin Ti, which Bad Bunny released in May, is the most streamed album on Apple Music and the biggest Latin album of all time.

In Apple’s press release, Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats, said:

We’re thrilled to celebrate the achievements of Bad Bunny, whose influence on every corner of culture could not be ignored in 2022. Watching Bad Bunny ascend from an Apple Music Up Next artist in 2018 to our Artist of the Year this year has been nothing short of extraordinary. We congratulate him on his record-breaking year and for continuing to bring Latin music to a massive global audience.

Apple Music has created a dedicated section of the Music app celebrating Bad Bunny’s achievement and music. Bad Bunny has also taken over the La Fórmula playlist to spotlight some of his favorite Latin tracks. Plus, Apple Music 1 is dedicating today to Bad Bunny’s music, interviews with the artist, and more.

Apple’s Artist of the Year is celebrated with a unique award featuring a 12-inch silicon wafer suspended between a sheet of glass and anodized aluminum. Last year and in prior years, Apple announced additional awards like the Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, and more. This year, though, only an Artist of the Year was named.


Music Remote: A Beautiful Retro Utility for Controlling Playback of Apple’s Music App

Music Remote by Mario Guzman is a fun, retro remote control for Apple’s Music app. You may have come across Mario’s work on MacStories before. We interviewed him for MacStories Weekly last spring and covered his Music MiniPlayer on MacStories.

Music Remote is Mario’s third remote app for the Mac version of Apple’s Music app. The first was Music Widget, which is styled after the Tiger-era iTunes Dashboard widget. Next came Music MiniPlayer, which adopted the style of iTunes 10’s mini player. Music Remote reaches further back in time to the Mac OS X Public Beta, recreating the look of Music Player, an app that didn’t last long.

Music Remote up close.

Music Remote up close.

The compact remote requires Apple’s Music app to be running, but once it is, you can minimize Music and use Music Remote instead. The app includes buttons to play/pause and skip forward and back, as well as a couple of unique buttons above and below the play/pause button. Above play/pause is a button that opens a separate window that lets you pick from your playlists. Below is a stop button. It works the same as pause, except that when you resume playback, it will start with the next song in an album or playlist instead of picking up mid-song.

Music Remote's playlist picker.

Music Remote’s playlist picker.

The display above the controls cycles among the song title, artist, and album name. If a text string is too long to fit into Music Remote’s tiny screen, it scrolls horizontally. You can also cycle through the information displayed in Music Remote more quickly by clicking on its screen. The screen shows elapsed song time by default but can be switched to the remaining time in the app’s preferences. At the bottom of the screen is a progress bar. There’s a volume slider at the bottom of the app’s UI, and the app can playback Apple Music radio stations using a slightly different UI, too.

What makes Music Remote such a fun utility, though, is its design. The bubble-like play/pause button and blue LED-inspired screen are from a very different era of Mac design but still look great today. I also appreciate that the app is small. It looks fantastic on my desktop, which is why I immediately turned on the option to float it above my other windows. Because the app is small, though, there’s always a spot for it out of the way. It works perfectly in app sidebars that have a little blank space or the margin of a text editor, for example.

I have all three of Mario’s remote apps installed on my Mac Studio. that may seem like overkill, but I listen to music a lot as I work, so I appreciate having options depending on my mood. However, for the last week, as I put the finishing touches on my macOS Ventura review, Music Remote has been the remote that’s been sitting in the margin of the review as I write, which has been great.

I highly recommend checking out Music Remote, which can be downloaded for free from Mario Guzman’s GitHub page along with his other apps.


Apple Music Launches on Xbox and Windows Photos Adds iCloud Photo Library Support

Apple Music was released today on the Xbox Store as a free download. I’ve had a chance to test the app briefly on my Xbox Series X, and the experience is very close to that of the Music app on the Apple TV.

Upon downloading the app, new users can take advantage of a free month of Apple’s music streaming service. There are multiple ways for existing subscribers to log in, too, including by using a QR code that opens a web page and asks you to sign in with your Apple ID. Once I signed in, the app on my Xbox refreshed, and I was good to go.

If you’ve ever used the Apple Music app on the Apple TV, you’ll be right at home on the Xbox version of the app. The UI is nearly identical from the ways you can interact with the service’s catalog of music to the Now Playing screen. It is my understanding that the Music app, along with the TV app, will be coming to Windows next year too.

Some recent photos from my iCloud Photo Library in the Windows Photos app.

Some recent photos from my iCloud Photo Library in the Windows Photos app.

Your iCloud Photo Library is also available in the Windows 11 Photos app now, with support for both images and video. To connect the two, you need to install iCloud for Windows on your PC and choose to sync your iCloud photos library. I gave it a try on my AYANEO Next Pro and had no trouble linking Microsoft’s app to my iCloud Photo Library.

The number of devices on which you can access Apple’s media services has expanded significantly over the past few years, with availability expanding from Android devices to smart TVs and other platforms. With Xbox and Windows PC integration, that expansion has taken another big leap forward, making those services available to a much wider audience.