(Charley Gallay/Getty and Kevork Djansezian/Getty) Apple Music is shaping up to be Apple's worst received product launch since Apple Maps in 2012.
Apple Music, released in June, was supposed to be Apple's big splash into the world of subscription on-demand music and online radio. But it seems to have a lot of bugs.
Longtime Apple watcher Jim Dalrymple wrote about his experiences last week, saying that the Apple Music app on his phone deleted more than 4,000 songs after presenting a bunch of confusing options that were hard to override. (He later got most of it back.)
I haven't lost any music yet, but I have had my own share of headaches with the app, particularly when using my own music library — a bunch of commands and functions have changed or been obscured, like shuffling all songs within a single artist (possible but not intuitive). When I try to create playlists on the phone it randomly deletes songs from the playlist on the fly (really annoying). Another colleague in the office here in San Francisco has had exactly the same problem.
I've also had all kinds of problems with iTunes since upgrading to Apple Music — at one point all my songs were showing up twice. I can't figure out how to transfer a new (legal) download of Wilco's new album to my phone, and Apple seems to have removed the ability to transfer playlists to my phone.
Basically, it seems like Apple Music works fine if you stay within the subscription service — the playlists it creates based on my taste are excellent. But as soon as you try to use the music you already own, it gets buggy.
But that's not the biggest problem. There's a more general impression among many Apple watchers that Apple sacrificed the experience of users for its own business purposes. This Twitter comment by former Apple employee and current Apple Outsider blogger Matt Drance sums it up:
The new Music app isn't just bad. It's designed around a business initiative, rather than user interest or intuition. That is so worrisome.— Matt Drance (@drance) July 29, 2015
That sparked a long Twitter conversation. Apple expert and blogger Jon Gruber compared Apple Music's lack of polish to the keynote introducing it at the June WWDC conference:
Industry analyst Ben Thompson pointed to an article he wrote after the keynote that compared Apple Music to the kind of product a big company would release because it thought it had to — not a compliment:
... There is this (streaming music) and that (curated lists) and this (BeatsOne radio) and that (Ping Connect) and no cogent thread to tie them together beyond the assumption that Apple must do a music service because that is what they do. That’s what big companies do.
Others, like designer Mark Lee McDonald, argued that Apple Music is focused on discovering new music — not on organizing the library of music you already have:
That seems right to me. Which is fine if you're young and haven't built a big music collection yet. But for those of us who spent many hours over the last 10 years ripping vinyl and CDs so we could listen to tunes on the go, this is really frustrating.
More to the point, Apple Music was a high-profile launch for the company and a major change to how one of its businesses — selling music — works. It only had one chance to make a first impression. And that first impression has been pretty weak.
It also reinforces the idea that Apple may excel as a hardware company, but doesn't do very well when it comes to software and services. Apple Maps was far inferior to the Google Maps application that it replaced as the default on new Apple devices. Mobile Me, the company's first attempt to back up data to the cloud, was a disaster.
Apple Music is rapidly taking its place in this dismal line-up. Apple needs to listen to feedback and pump out an update, fast, otherwise those 10 million people who signed up for the free trial aren't going to stick around.
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