Apple Music: Our 7 biggest wants and wishes for version 2.0

Apple Music
Apple Music (Image credit: iMore)

I've used Apple Music almost every day since its launch last June. I started because we were writing a book on the subject (opens in new tab), but I genuinely like the service: Its custom-curated playlists are excellent, and even though it relies too much on drum-and-bass tracks, I often turn on Beats 1 in the car before I even consider flipping on terrestrial radio. I'm even listening to an Apple Music playlist — Best of French House, Vol 2 (opens in new tab), for those curious — as I type this.

But the service isn't without its problems — issues largely tied to the way you listen to music, via Apple's often-clunky iOS and Mac apps. And on the heels of a Bloomberg report suggesting that those very same apps might see an overhaul this June, we decided to put together our top wants and wishes for Apple Music 2.0. (Special thanks to all of you on Twitter who replied to my tweet on the matter.)

First things first: Fix the interface

The Music app and iTunes both badly need a interface overhaul. Rumor has it Music was originally much simpler, and iTunes is apparently always on the cusp of new and better redesign. Right now, though, there's a lot of stuff crammed in each app — and poor iTunes has to deal with video, podcasts, and other media, too. Apple has also focused on big, beautiful album art rather than maximum amount of information on-screen, which reduces what users can see and interact with at any one time.

The iPod was simple: Five buttons and a clickwheel. Click to go forward, menu to go back. Today's Music app has lost much of that simplicity, sending new users down endless nooks and crannies, leading to confusion and general uninterest in the app and service.

I don't think the interface is hopeless, however — just over-cluttered. And with a few simple fixes, users might find a whole lot more to like.

Shrink the album art, increase the touch targets

Apple Music's best section, and the one that most easily sells users on the service, is For You: It takes your artist and album likes and gives you a list of playlists and new/old artists alike that you might love.

But the way the Music app is currently laid out, you can really only see two playlists at a time (or four albums) on the screen — and that's if you're rocking an iPhone 6s. On an SE, the experience is even worse.

As much as I like album art, there's no reason to make these covers so prominent. I care about two things when browsing this section: The title of the playlist, and the play button.

Funny enough, there are actually sections of Apple Music that do this right: Apple's Editor and Activity playlists display their content in easily-readable lists with small thumbnails; tap on one to view the playlist, and tap on the album art or first song to begin playing. I want that interface style in For You — this will make it easier to find playlists and artists that really matter.

Rethink the "•••"

At its core, the More button ("•••") is not a bad idea: It reduces the number of buttons on the screen, making screens easier to read. But so many different options have been hidden under those three ellipses in so many different circumstances. The latest Apple Music update simplified this menu somewhat so it wasn't just a never-ending list of menu options, but the icon-based pop-up isn't great, either. To the average user, "Play Next" and "Add to Up Next" are indistinguishable — yet they both get options in the More menu.

You can also tap the album art to get to the full album a song is from, but you can't do the same with playlists. (In fact, if you start playing a playlist and leave that screen, there's no way to get back to that playlist without remembering its exact name or re-finding it in For You.)

I don't have a good proposal for a More button redesign — maybe incorporate swipe gestures a la Mail for more-obscure options that most people don't need, or realize some use cases simply can't be carrier forward? — but one thing's for sure: it needs a change.

Change the tabs interface

For You makes sense as its own tab. But New and Radio can conceivably be one tab: Rename it Explore, as some have suggested, put Beats 1 in the top carousel, and put other streaming stations below. And while I wouldn't mind if Connect faded into the background, if Apple still wants the underlying framework there, your Connect feed could live as a tab under Explore, too.

This would simplify the Music app's tabs to For You, Explore, and My Music: One is your custom-curated music suggestion area, one for exploring Apple Music's library and radio options (or, if you're Apple Music-less, it can be a direct link to Beats 1 and the iTunes Store), and the last focuses on your library.

This also allows for the return of the Playlist tab (which previously you could only access if you disabled Connect) alongside My Music. Playlists having such prominent billing could also address a longtime complaint from some folks who wish to have their local libraries and Apple Music collections separate, by offering smart playlists that contain "All Apple Music" and "Liked Songs".

Improve For You

As I mentioned from the start, For You is one of my favorite Apple Music features, and a big selling point for the service. But there are some small improvements that would elevate the service even further.

Give me a personalized playlist

Last year, Spotify launched Discover Weekly, which uses an algorithm to create a playlist of new music and artists you already know and love for your week ahead. It's brilliant, it's often spot-on in its music choices, and if Apple isn't working on something similar but better, the company should be.

Show me new releases from my favorite artists

Right now, For You suggests an assortment of albums in-between its playlist recommendations, ranging from artists you love to artists you might like. I'd love to see more awareness on the app's part: Have Radiohead songs in your personal music library? I want to see a play button for "Burn the Witch" at the top of my suggestions. Did a new album from an artist I love just drop, but it's not available on streaming? I want to see it anyway, along with a link to either buy it on iTunes or add it to a Streaming Notifications playlist ("Notify me when this artist/album is available on Apple Music...").

Because I listened to...

I currently have no idea why Apple Music suggests the albums it does. Sometimes, I take chances on them, but by and large, I stick with the playlists, and find new artists from those compilations. I might be more likely to tap on a new album, however, if the app aligns it with music I've been listening to: "Because you like Tegan and Sara, try Best Coast."

Add more Beats stations

Beats 1 is by far one of my favorite radio experiments, and their DJs are smart, witty folks with great taste. But taste is subjective, and while I don't mind being exposed to new hip-hop tracks, there are some folks who would prefer a Beats station with different genres. I trust Apple Music's playlist curators in other genres; time to hire some Beats DJs for alternative, classical music, country, kids, and international stations. (I would be fascinated to turn into a Beats K-Pop station, for instance.)

Kill Connect (or make it better)

Sorry, Apple: Ping 2.0 just isn't working. I like the concept of Connect — getting alerts from bands you love about in-progress songs, or playlist curators on their next compilation — but the Connect tab is confusing, it's difficult to figure out how to follow people, and weirder still to try and follow what's going on.

Until the company has the staff and the drive to make Connect the top music discovery social network it can be, it doesn't deserve to be a central spotlight inside the Music app or iTunes. It can still exist under the hood — you can follow artists, and have new audio or video from them pop up under the Explore tab — but it doesn't need its own section.

And while we're at it, if you're shooting for a social network, make it social: Let me follow my friends' musical tastes — heck, if I like them enough, maybe even suggest albums or playlists they've listened to recently in For You. And please, let us subscribe to their published playlists so that they auto-update when changes are made.

Improve search and play

Apple Music's search and discovery features aren't bad, but they need to be better. It still drives me crazy that you can't build smart playlists in the Music app, or even use Boolean searches — they would obliviate a lot of complaints about currently being unable to sort your tracks in any meaningful way.

There's also an issue with history: Currently, there is a history button in the search field, but it just tracks your search history; you can only find your listening history by tapping the Up Next button in Now Playing, and it only keeps track of individual songs — not the playlists they come from.

This is especially annoying if you've selected a playlist in For You or from New, explored elsewhere in the Music app, and want to get back to the playlist — unless you remember where you first found it, or its exact name, you're out of luck finding it again.

Give Siri more to do

Using Siri with Apple Music is perhaps the easiest way to actually interact with the company's subscription service right now: Siri understands a lot of Apple Music-related commands, including finding music more or less like whatever's currently playing, liking or disliking songs, and selecting playlists.

It's on that last bit where I'd like to see Siri improve in version two, however. Currently, if you know the exact name of a playlist, you can request it; unfortunately, ask Siri to play "songs for driving," and the assistant will try to find the closest playlist that matches that title. If that turns up with nothing, Siri will attempt to play the first track that includes "driving" in the title.

In an ideal world, I'd love this to work like asking Siri for "nearby gas stations" when you're navigating: Query driving songs, and Siri will pull up the top ten or fifteen activity-based playlists, then ask you if you'd like to listen to the first one, or something else. If something else, she moves on to the next item.

Improve offline access

Many things have changed since the iPod made it possible to take songs in your pocket on a cross-country flight. Wanting to listen to music while offline or otherwise without an Internet connection has not. Unfortunately, the Music app makes this exceedingly difficult due to iOS's need to cache-clear: You can add things to your library, and even save them offline, but getting them to stay that way sometimes feels like an exercise in futility. I've frequently downloaded multiple albums before a flight, only to find that three of the thirty songs don't work, or other songs I thought I'd downloaded had been cache-cleared before my trip.

The old Beats Music app actually had a pretty elegant solution to cache-clearing: Since it was already downloading bits from songs when you streamed them, it automatically saved the last 30 songs you listened to in addition to whatever you'd designated as your "offline library"; if you turned off data, you'd always have those 30 songs available to you, even if you'd forgotten to save anything else.

I'd personally love for that feature to return in Apple Music, but over that, I'd take my offline music just staying offline. I understand that iOS wants to automatically free up space to make my experience better, but there's a happy medium here: If you're going to dump my cache of offline music, maybe at least give me a pop-up warning? "Your phone has fewer than 30 percent storage remaining. Would you like to clear some of your saved music to make room?"

This would also help with Apple Music's other major data problem: The service is a big, giant cellular hog, especially when you use it in the car. I've frequently killed two-thirds of my data for the month streaming during trips — even if it's just streaming the same two or three albums I'd listen to normally.

What would you change?

I've made my list; what do you want, iMore readers? More separation between your music and Apple Music? Student plans? Better iCloud Music Library matching? Let us know below.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

21 Comments
  • As someone who still maintains their own library of music on their iPhone, I absolutely loathed the redesign of the Music app in iOS 9. I get a wasted space across the top "Showing only music on this iPhone. Show All Music." I used to be able to jump to an Artist or Album from the bottom bar, and now I have tabs that I can't remove, like "Radio" or "Connect," neither of which I care to use right now. Landscape mode is non-existent, but yet the Notes and Email can handily do everything sideways. One step forward, two steps back. Here's hoping that enough other users have lamented similar issues which will be resolved in iOS 10.
  • I'm in the same boat. Try disabling "Connect" in Settings -> General -> Restrictions. You'll at least get a "Playlists" tab instead of "Connect"
  • I'd like the Apple Music profile I activate to be completely separate to the main iCloud account on the iPhone. That's because Apple won't let us merge accounts... I mean that's crazy right? It's 2016... Sent from the iMore App
  • I don't use Apple Music, but have a good collection and use Apple Music Match, I'd love it if Apple would separate my music into a separate player that has access to the Match content and give Apple Music a different app. I've come close to throwing my phone out of the car window trying to just play my music, have a good player and just that, no more. iTunes definitely needs to break up the band and let the different media go off on its own solo career. Maybe I'm just an old fart but having a dedicated app for each, movies, music, pods casts, etc, just seems to work better, it gives each app the opportunity to excel at what it does. I've owned just about every iPod Apple ever made including the FireWire days, I want my phone to mimick that experience with my music.
  • I personally don't care about any of that. Apple Music's interface is fine for me. I would appreciate a location for just my locally stored music. My biggest thing is improve the audio quality. Both Spotify and Tidal sound better and those are the services I usually use in my car for that reason. Through standard in ear bud headphones the differences are next to impossible to detect so it doesn't matter to me in that situation. But when I'm in my car I definitely notice the difference.
  • with an Apple Music subscription on iTunes for Mac, you can select My Music then Recently Added. You can play all of the songs without selecting them individually! On the iOS Music app, if you select My Music then Recently Added, you can only play one song/artist at a time. This is a major issue for me. Most of the music I listen to are the Recently Added songs I've found on Apple Music. They certainly don't make it user-friendly. The work-around for now is to simply create a playlist (annoying).
  • I'll also add that this issue continues across Apple's devices. The desktop version of iTunes is the only one that will automatically play the next track in Recently Added. The same one artist/album/song at a time selection persists on the following devices that I've tested: iOS, tvOS, and CarPlay. The least they could do is create a Shuffle All for Recently Added. So basically, if you want to listen to your Recently Added songs while on the go, you have to manually create a Playlist. I reserve playlists for time-tested and specific stuff, not the music that may end up there eventually. One of the best features of Apple Music/Spotify is music discovery. I essentially use the service as an earmarking tool and then build my playlists later. What's the point of the Recently Added/Favorites if you have to go under each artist/album/song just to individually listen to your recent additions. Step up your UX game Apple!
  • I also hate on iOS version when you add to "Up Next" it literally plays next when I think it should just be included after the album, or whatever songs are already in the order. "Play next" should do this but "Add to Up Next" shouldn't actually play the song next just add to the already queued list (like it does in iTunes) *eye roll* Sent from the iMore App
  • I'd like Play Next and Add To Up Next to NOT act the same in the instance that you started to play an album. As it is, let's say you play an album, you want to add another album to play after it, you would think Add To Up Next would place it at the end of the queue, but no, it acts like Play Next, fitting it in before the album you're presently listening to has finished. Am I the only one that finds this counter-intuitive? Apple wants you to have the foresight of placing an album in an "Up Next" queue first. I also like Editor playlists a lot and the style-based radio stations are quite good as well. But start a radio station based on an artist or a song... not so good. Google Play does a much better job of this. It plays tracks that have definite affinities with what you've chosen. Apple's interpretation often goes waaayyyy off track. Come to think of it, Songza (now with Google) does a way better job with style or activity playlists as well. I also support better Recently Added and New Release support. New release day is frustrating when you check your favourite genre's New Music listing, only to see a mish-mash of releases from the last month.
  • Lol just made a similar comment above, didn't scroll all the way down but OMG YES THIS! Haha its so annoying how they act the same but say two entirely different things. Smh Sent from the iMore App
  • I agree with a lot of the suggestions here. I also have a few suggestions--some of which would be of particular use for classical music fans: 1. I'm middle-aged, so I have my phone in "senior citizen mode"--big text--and I listen to a lot of songs with titles like, "Beethoven: Symphony No.1 In C, Op.21 - 1. Adagio molto - Allegro con brio" These titles don't fit on the screen, they get truncated. In iOS 6 I could tap and hold on the truncated title, and the full title would appear in a bubble above my finger. (It would disappear when I let go.) Then came iOS 7, 8, and 9, and they still haven't restored this feature--bring it back! 2. I follow the releases of a number of classical labels; it would be great to be able to search by label, or for each label to have it's own page. Rdio (RIP) let users search by label to see latest releases, and it was really handy. One way or another, should give labels a way to highlight and showcase their latest releases. 3. Continue to grow the catalog! Apple Music's 2016 classical offering are not as extensive as Spotify and Rdio in 2013. This will ensure that "New Releases" don't linger around too long and keep things fresh 4. The list of Top Selling classical records is clogged with bargain-bin compilations (of the “100 most romantic classical pieces” variety), rather than newer releases from the labels. Don’t get me wrong, these bargain compilations have their place–they are great for becoming familiar with a composer or repertoire, and they sometimes have choice performances–but I think that most classical fans would not find this to be a useful discovery mechanism. (The top-sellers are what they are, but maybe Apple could refine their algorithm to de-emphasize compilations, or perhaps present an additional list of top-selling non-compilation albums.) 5. Also from iOS 6 (and before): editable Tabs, please! I am not interested in Connect or Radio, but they take up valuable thumb-accessible space on the screen of my phone. 6. I still can't listen to Apple Music on my Kindle Fire. Sorry, Apple, but if you're going to become a player in streaming, you've got to be more device-agnostic. Spotify has you beat here, by a mile. 7. Web-streaming. I can't install software on my work computer, and I can't afford broadband all day at work, so can you please put a fresh coat of paint on the old Beats web player?
  • I actually don't have as many problems with the current iteration of Apple Music as I did when it originally launched. Of course, there's always room for improvement. Personally, there are only a few things that really bug me at the moment. 1. Fix Up Next. Currently, it's useless. I tried really hard to use this feature from the beginning, but I got burned way too many times by errant taps that wipe out the whole thing with no warning, or by the list being wiped out through no action on my part. It's just way too spotty to be useful. Ideally, it would be persistent, it would sync between devices (like Rdio did) and it wouldn't be so easy to accidentally clear the whole thing. Additionally, it's just way too confusing what it's behavior will be when you try to play something or add stuff to it. 2. Fix usage over mobile data. There is the weirdest restriction when using mobile data, that I've confirmed as an intentional decision with their support. If you search for something, obviously, you'll see the album art in your search results. If you browse around their catalog, you'll see album art. But if you add something to your library, the item in your library won't display any album art until you open Apple Music while on wifi. This makes no sense. Even if you have "Use Cellular Data" enabled, you can sync the music to your device, but you won't get album art until you're on wifi. The album art was already cached in the search results! It's a relatively small PNG file, what's the problem? 3. Notify me of new albums from any artists in my library. This was a feature of Rdio that I loved. Every day I would see a little badge number on the notification icon. If I clicked that icon, I would see any new albums for any artists that were in my library. This was not only new releases, but included anything that was new to Rdio for my artists. 4. As mentioned above: web streaming. iTunes is terrible. Just give us a web UI for Apple Music.
  • I second notifications of new releases from artists I follow. Also loved Rdio for that. It could be included with Connect to make it more useful.
  • Let me purchase the song as it's playing instead of having to exit the app and go to the store and purchase. You used to be able to do that on iTunes Radio in ios8 but ios9 doesn't let you. What gives?! Sent from the iMore App
  • Personally... the single most HATED feature of the music app for me.... is when the tab bar goes away on the 'full screen' view. Don't get me wrong, I like the large album art... but I'm so tired have having to swipe down to get the tab bar back. Would it really be that horrible to keep it there? It's just one more swipe back and forth to navigate around the music app.
  • Here's what I would do:
    -Bottom row of buttons (in order): My Music | Connect | Radio
    -Make "New" a section that appears in Connect
    -Make "For You" a section that appears in My Music
    -When playing music have the album art appear small at the top left with current track info appearing to the right of it
    -Tap on the small album to enlarge it, have an icon at the top-left of the album art for shrinking it
    -Add support for free internet radio stations or offer streaming partnerships for established online radio stations to sign-up for being listed under the Radio section
    -Get rid of playlists in the radio section and move them to "My Music", only have legit streaming radio stations under Radio
    -Change price to $4.99 for a Music subscription, $9.99 for a Music+Match subscription, $14.99 for for family Music+Match
    -Make it easier/obvious how to follow artists I think Connect is important if it can provide an easy way to keep aware of what your favorite artists are up to. Ultimately, I would like to see a stand-alone Connect app that integrates across everything from music, to movies, games and the Apple Store.
  • Why are Apple playlists so short most of the time?
  • i agree with your point about connect, completely useless service that i just don't use. id love to have the old feature were i could decide what tabs appear at the bottom, apple doesn't always know what i want and id like a little bit more control over what i see down there. i live in England so a 24 hour radio station is good in theory, if you happen to be awake at the exact time the show you want to hear is on, im often not awake when interesting shows from american artists are on, so my quandary is often, do i stay awake for this show or keep a normal sleep pattern, 18 year old me would off course have stayed awake but current me, the 30 year old with a bad knee like to keep a normal sleeping pattern and a 2am elton john show just isn't something i can handle. Give me on demand shows please, i think they arent doing this because they want to justify the always on live nature of the shows and the investment they've made in them, on demand wont hurt those shows it'll just allow those people who want normal sleep pattern to listen, perhaps on their commute. more radio stations would also be a plus for me, not much to add just more variety, less hip hop more rock. i love how you didn't mention the itunes the app, can we all just agree its awful, like painfully so, i dread opening the app on my desktop. hopefully apple will fix this at WWDC and until they do i wont be subscribing, when i used Apple music they were the best for discovery but that itunes just turned me away.
  • Things had been going pretty well with Apple Music. This morning though all my music gone from my iPhone. Not a single downloaded track left. I only ever listen to downloaded tracks stored locally on my device. Initially there tracks would disappear regularly from local storage but it seemed to have been fixed. Same issue again today :(. Top priority is getting this stuff fixed. I'd love to be able to go back to the old way of syncing my phone via USB to iTunes on the computer.
  • Why not:
    Letting us making genres/artist available offline.
    Letting us pick the bit rate in which we want to stream or download.
    Curating the beats playlist's names, make them describe what songs are included. Sent from the iMore App
  • I have a 40,000 track library made up of legacy tracks from iTunes Match and newer tracks added from Apple Music. I have changed a lot of metadata across all the tracks (I will never change my view that Bruce Springsteen files under S, not B, and a lot of Apple's genre categorisation of music is frankly bizarre) and at last in the past few months Apple Music and iTunes are starting to work well together, so I'm wary of any big changes that mess everything up for those of us who have spent way too long sorting out previous mess-ups on Apple's part. For You is a waste of time in my opinion; almost everything it recommends I've already got in my library, but presumably because I've changed the metadata it doesn't recognise it. I've got no interest in Radio or Connect, and don't use playlists, just albums. My wishes may therefore seem rather left field: 1. I would like to be able to change metadata within iOS, rather than have to use iTunes to do it.
    2. I agree with an earlier suggestion that a new album by an artist already in my collection should be highlighted somehow.
    3. I would like an equaliser in Music somewhere so I can adjust the sound (particularly bass levels) for earbuds, full sized headphones and external loudspeakers.
    4. I would like to lose the "Showing only music..." banner, or at least have it scroll away; it's a real waste of screen real estate.
    5. I'd like to be able to shuffle tracks within music genre; there's no logic to a segue from Eminem to the second movement of a Schubert quintet.
    6. I'd like the album art function either not to accept a .png file or have the decency once it has accepted it not to change it back to the .jpg file that was there before after a day or two. But most of all, as I said before, don't change anything that messes with my metadata.