This week's sponsor

Affinity

super-fast, powerful, professional apps for modern creative people


Posts tagged with "music"

Apple Music’s Connect Feature Is Shutting Down

Apple Music Connect, which once had a tab to itself in Apple’s Music app, was a multimedia feed of artist-submitted posts that debuted with the company’s music streaming service. The feature never really got traction after an initial flurry of posts by artists, and in the latest versions of Apple Music and iTunes, it was buried at the bottom of the ‘For You’ section and on individual artists’ pages.

According to Zac Hall at 9to5Mac, artists were contacted by Apple today with news that the company is ending Connect, which is backed up by a support page also cited by Hall. As of today, artists can no longer post Connect content, and existing posts are no longer visible in the Music app or iTunes. However, Apple also told artists that previously-uploaded content would remain available until May 24, 2019, via search.

Connect content appears in the 'More' section of search results.

Connect content appears in the 'More' section of search results.

Based on searches of artists who I recalled having participated in Connect, it looks as though that content is included in the ‘More’ section of search results. Presented outside the context of an explanatory post, some of the material, like U2’s tour of its eXPERIENCE VR bus in the screenshots above, feels out of place. However, I’m glad Apple has chosen to preserve Connect content for the time being because it also included things like alternate versions of songs and other material that is valued by fans. Hopefully, the best of that content will surface elsewhere for fans to enjoy.

Connect wasn’t Apple’s first attempt to bring music fans and artists together. Ping, Apple’s attempt at a music-themed social network that NPR called one of the worst ideas of 2010, failed more swiftly than Connect. The third try may be the charm, however. With iOS 11, Apple introduced the ability to follow friends as a way to discover new music, which has been met with greater acceptance by users.


Djay 3.0 Debuts as a Free, Universal App with a Subscription Option for Pro Features

During the October iPad Pro event in Brooklyn, New York, Apple briefly showed off an upcoming version of djay by Algoriddim. Today, djay 3.0 was released on the App Store as a universal app that’s free to download with premium features available as a subscription.

Previously, Algoriddim offered free and paid iPhone apps as well as separate paid iPad apps. Add-ons like audio effects and skins were available separately as In-App Purchases. Algoriddim also offered a video mixing app called vjay. Today’s launch of version 3.0 consolidates all of those apps into one with a simplified pricing model.

Read more


Spotify Debuts on Apple Watch, Promising Advanced Features Still to Come

The latest version of Spotify for iOS has been released, and it includes the music player's first Apple Watch app. The App Store release notes stress this is merely a "first version" of the Watch app, which is reassuring considering how limited the app is now.

Spotify's Watch app currently serves as a way to start playback of recently played music, and control that playback via play/pause, skip, and volume controls. You can also choose a connected device to send music to, and like a song to add it to your collection. And that's it.

As a 1.0, Spotify's Watch app covers the basics well. I'm especially pleased that volume control via the Digital Crown is enabled here. Spotify has designed its own custom volume indicator, visualized as a vertical dotted line in the upper right corner of the screen, and it's especially satisfying to see each area of the line fill in sync with the haptic clicks of the Series 4 Watch's Digital Crown.

One strikingly disappointing oversight is that Spotify isn't optimized for the new 40 and 44mm Series 4 displays, as you'll notice in the framed images above. Launching two months after new devices debut, but without support for those devices, is not a good look. I'm hopeful we won't have to wait long for that issue to be remedied, though. In its announcement post for the Watch app, Spotify candidly acknowledged that there's plenty more work to be done to create the best Watch experience – "we have many exciting things coming up —including the ability to listen to your music and podcasts offline." Surely support for modern Watch displays is one of those 'exciting things.'


Apple Completes Acquisition of Shazam

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.

Permalink


Apple Updates AirPort Express Firmware with AirPlay 2 Support

Apple has released version 7.8 of the firmware for compatible AirPort Express WiFi routers to add AirPlay 2 support. Although there had been hints in iOS betas that the latest iteration of Apple’s peer-to-peer streaming technology was coming to the Express routers, its addition still came as a surprise since the routers were discontinued in April.

One of my favorite features of the AirPort Express is an audio out port that works with a 3.5mm analog or digital cable. Add an amplifier and speakers, and you’ve got a nice music streaming setup.

The Griffin 20 and first-generation Airport Express.

The Griffin 20 and first-generation Airport Express.

As soon as I heard about the new firmware, I had to try it. I have a Griffin 20 that was designed for use with the first generation AirPort Express that looked more like a MacBook power brick than an Apple TV. Unfortunately for Griffin, Apple changed the form factor of the Express in 2012, the same year its amp was released.

My outdoor AirPlay 2-connected speakers.

My outdoor AirPlay 2-connected speakers.

Still, I used the Griffin 20 and a first generation AirPort Express to drive speakers on the outside of my house for years. It was a simple way to enjoy music outside. It came with the downside that the original iteration of AirPlay had buffering issues, so I usually needed to leave my iPhone inside the house to stream. More recently, my six-year-old Express started to become flakey too.

Step one was to update a long-neglected AirPort Express.

Step one was to update a long-neglected AirPort Express.

I couldn’t update the first-generation Express to the new firmware, but I had a newer second-generation model in a box in my basement. I dusted it off, plugged it in, and updated the firmware using the Airport Utility app. I had to fiddle with my overly-complicated network setup to get it to work properly, but it didn’t take long before the Express was working.

I changed the Express' name and added it to the Home app.

I changed the Express' name and added it to the Home app.

The final step was to go into the Home app and add the Express as a new accessory. Because it predates HomeKit accessories, I couldn’t scan a code to add the Express. Instead, I added it manually using the ‘Don’t Have a Code or Can’t Scan?’ button in the Home app. Now, I have music playing perfectly synced on our back patio using the AirPort Express and in our living room using my HomePod and Apple TV. I also have the convenience of picking my outdoor speakers from the sources list in Control Center and using Siri to move music to those speakers without the buffering issues I experienced with the first version of AirPlay.

Music, everywhere.

Music, everywhere.

It’s a shame the AirPort Express was discontinued. Not every situation justifies the expense of a HomePod. Nor are those devices practical outdoors or in other environments. Fortunately, the AirPort Express remains an option for now if you already own one or can find a used or refurbished one for sale.


Doppler Enables Pain-Free Importing of Music and Podcasts from Safari on iOS

I've been an iOS-first user for nearly three years now, and during that time there have been very few tasks that required me to pull out my old MacBook Air. One remaining holdout has been downloading music or podcast files from the web and saving them somewhere I can conveniently access them on iOS. The ideal scenario would enable importing those files into iTunes, where they get added to my iCloud Music Library – unfortunately, that remains impossible on iOS today. But the next-best option I've discovered can be found in an iPhone app called Doppler.

Doppler launched a few months ago as a music app aimed at the non-streaming market. Despite the increasing popularity of services like Apple Music and Spotify, there are still plenty of users who want greater ownership of their music library, and that's where Doppler comes in. It specializes in offline playback and custom library curation. You can import your existing iTunes purchases, or import songs or podcasts saved in the Files app, and customize metadata so your library's organized exactly as you like it.

Today in version 1.2, Doppler adds a feature I've long wanted on iOS: the ability to import files directly from Safari.

My main use cases for Doppler's new feature include downloading MP3 tracks from an artist I support on Patreon, and downloading special members-only podcasts, like AppStories Unplugged from Club MacStories. In both cases, getting the audio files from Safari into a music player, or even just a cloud storage provider, has historically been way too difficult on iOS. Last year when iOS 11 introduced the Files app, I thought this problem would finally be taken care of; surely I'd be able to use Files' share extension from Safari to save the audio tracks. Unfortunately, Safari only presents the Files extension when downloading certain file types, and audio files aren't included. And that's where Doppler comes in.

Doppler now offers an action extension that can be used in two contexts: either when an audio file is already loaded in Safari, or even just when long-pressing a link to an audio file and hitting the 'Share...' option. The action extension then pulls in the file, lets you modify track metadata, and saves it to your Doppler library. The app is billed as a music player, but this same process works well for podcasts too – just know that due to their increased track size, podcasts will take longer to import.

Doppler is still a young app, so it's missing key features that will hopefully be added in the future, such as an iPad app and iCloud sync. Its design is solid though – I like how it evokes past versions of Apple's Music app with backgrounds matching the color scheme of each album. Despite being feature-light, Doppler works well as a basic music player for your non-streaming service needs. And now, thanks to its Safari import feature, it's become a crucial utility that's staying installed on my device.

Doppler is available for iPhone on the App Store.


Apple Music Gains ‘Coming Soon’ Section and Album Launch Dates, Plus Lyrics Search in iOS 12

In an update rolled out last week, Apple fixed two of my longstanding annoyances with Apple Music: there is a new screen that lists popular albums coming soon, and every upcoming album now features an actual release date.

Here's Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors:

Apple appears to be rolling out a series of updates for Apple Music today, including a small but useful new section called "Coming Soon," which allows subscribers to check out new albums about to be released over the next few weeks.
[...]
In another addition, Apple is now making it possible to easily see album launch dates on their respective pages on iOS and macOS. In the Editors' Notes section, following the traditional encouragement to add the pre-release album to your library, there's a new line that begins "Album expected..." followed by the album's specific release date. Some albums not listed in Coming Soon still have a release date specified on their pages, so this update appears to be a bit more wide-ranging.

As someone who likes to keep up with new music, I'm glad to see Apple pushing these small but needed improvements to the service.

Furthermore, as noted by AppleInsider, the iOS 12 version of Apple Music features the ability to search for songs by lyrics. I've been using the beta on my iPhone and iPad for the past week, and lyrics search has already saved me a few minutes I would have otherwise spent looking for songs on Google. Built-in lyrics differentiate Apple Music from Spotify, so it's good to see Apple expanding support throughout the app.

Permalink

AirPlay 2 Is Coming to Sonos Speakers Next Month

Dieter Bohn of The Verge reports:

Sonos just announced that AirPlay 2 is coming to “newer” Sonos speakers in July. Unlike using Apple Music on the HomePod, it will stream music from your phone instead of directly over the internet. However, unlike the HomePod you will be able to control some of the AirPlay 2 music with Alexa. You can launch music on your iOS device in all the normal ways, including with Siri.

Essentially, Sonos’ software system is able to be aware of what is playing on your speakers, no matter the source, It’s a clever way to make AirPlay 2 a little more useful. Once the music is playing via AirPlay 2, you can use Alexa to pause, go to the next track, and even ask what’s playing.

For the platform-agnostic user – the exact user Sonos has focused on pitching its products to lately – this kind of blending together of different assistants and ecosystems may carry a lot of appeal. Since Alexa is the sole voice service currently available on Sonos speakers, the ability to control AirPlay 2 playback Amazon's assistant is key. I do wonder, though, if mixing and matching different services might be overly confusing for the average user. With AirPlay 2 support, you'll be able to use Siri on your iPhone to start streaming audio to a Sonos speaker, but you can't start that playback with Alexa. Once audio's already playing, though, that's when Alexa steps in. I appreciate the variety of options, but it sounds like those options bring with them a lot of restrictions to remember.

As for hardware compatibility of AirPlay 2, it will be available on a limited number of Sonos devices:

AirPlay 2 will work with the Sonos One, (second generation) Play 5, and Playbase (and, ahem, “future products”). But if you have older speakers, owning any of those newer ones will make AirPlay 2 work with all of them.

That last line is intriguing, though unclear. Older devices can't actually become AirPlay 2 speakers, otherwise they would appear in the Home app as HomeKit devices – however, it makes sense that an existing HomeKit device that talks to older Sonos devices could serve as a translator of sorts, relaying AirPlay 2 commands over Sonos-native protocols.

We'll see how it all works when AirPlay 2 support arrives next month.

Permalink