3 months with Apple Music: Great for music discovery, but otherwise stick with Spotify

Reuters / Robert Galbraith


Today marks three months since the launch of Apple Music. For anyone who signed up the first day the service became available, it’s also the end of the free trial period.

Tomorrow Apple will begin charging a monthly fee of $10 to get access to its unlimited music streaming service (unless of course you turn off the automatic renewal function).

I’ve been experimenting with the app for three months now, and I’m still impressed. That said, I won’t be solely extolling the virtues of Apple Music. While Apple will introduce you to some awesome new music, it has more than a few flaws. With that let me air some frustrations.

Say goodbye to your iTunes library

In those three months, I had to take an hour and half ride upstate, during which I tried to listen to music I had uploaded to my phone through iTunes. Those albums now reside in Apple Music under a tab called “My Music.”


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I opened the tab and clicked on an album. When I went to play a specific song on the album, I found I could not. I could only play the album from the beginning and listen straight through (I also couldn’t always play the album all the way through, though I’ve had trouble replicating this predicament).

The reason for this is that rather than storing music on your device, Apple Music streams even the albums you own. In order to stream your own music, you have to either connect to Wi-Fi or allow Apple Music to burn up data on your wireless plan. Alternatively, you can download all your albums to your phone for offline use, but I hadn’t done this yet.

One gigabyte of data will get you 18 hours of streaming on Apple Music, according to a report from Yahoo News. Perhaps most of the time a person listening to a streaming service will be able to connect to Wi-Fi, but I know for myself, I spend a good amount of my listening hours while I’m traveling. Neither the subway nor the streets of New York City nor my car has Wi-Fi. The other time I listen to music is while running, which I’ve noted before. There again, no Wi-Fi, so I personally am looking at spending a fair amount of data on Apple Music. That wouldn’t bother me so much if I didn’t have music that I’ve already purchased that I should be able to listen to on my iPhone without touching my data (subtext: WHAT THE HELL).

Why would Apple make its user experience unnecessarily complex? Well, because it wanted to house all music within one app. That means having to find a way for users to seamlessly listen to music they already own and music they can only stream. Though Apple achieves it, the experience isn’t good. Rather, it’s by far the most annoying thing about Apple Music.

Curation

Where Apple Music succeeds is in curation. Within the menu bar, Apple has a tab called “For You.” This is Apple Music’s suggestion vehicle. It takes music you’ve listened to and genres you’ve indicated your interest in to make recommendations. Apple uses humans to curate, and as others have noted, the service is actually really good.

At first the app will introduce you to musicians and albums you already know. But over time, the suggestions get much, much better. Of course, that’s only if you’re regularly using the app.

It’s important to note this because discovery is really, really difficult. Spotify, despite its best efforts, hasn’t quite cracked the code in this area. But Apple, ever the tastemaker, nails it, turning up relevant new music for those in search of it. That alone may be a reason to subscribe.

New music and Connect

There are two sections that I didn’t use all that much: “New” and “Connect.” New is as it sounds: a section for new music that gives listeners access to recent releases as well as fresh content. This comes in the form of videos and song clips.

I was less interested in what was new on Apple Music and more interested in what the app could tell me I’d like, so this section isn’t particularly compelling to me, though I understand its necessity.

Connect is Apple Music’s attempt at social, and it’s not a particularly good one. This section of the app allows musicians to connect directly with listeners and post upcoming show information as well as original content, clips of songs, videos, and so on. However, there just doesn’t appear to be much engagement happening there.

When Apple Music launched, I noted that it didn’t appear that many artists were on the platform. Now three months later, the results are mixed. Apple hasn’t released any numbers regarding artists using the Connect platform, but the ones that are on it don’t seem to post consistently.

For instance, singers Sam Smith and Demi Lovato post to their Connect page fairly regularly — every four days or so. Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus has posted six times in three months and half of her posts are advertisements (one for MTV’s Video Music Awards, which she hosted, and another for lipstick that she launched through MAC). Meanwhile, singer Jenny Lewis and rapper Common only posted once. And FKA twigs, the musician that Apple used to make an example of original content on its platform, has posted a total of twice. It’s this sort of irregularity that makes Connect a somewhat useless product. Though not a super fan myself, I’m sure that those who follow a musician want to do so on a platform that delivers news and fresh content frequently — not a place musicians drop an update once a month.

This is especially true because there are so many other platforms that artists already flock to in order to connect with fans.

Overall

The bottom line is, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between Spotify and Apple Music. The two have roughly comparable music libraries (Apple may have a few exclusive albums, but truly a few), and they both offer the ability to create playlists and play music offline. The individual social aspects and other gimmicky products are really just noise. However, where Apple Music differs is in discovery.

In this category Apple bests Spotify, so if you’re looking for someone to introduce you to new music, Apple Music may be your new best friend.

That said, if you’re just interested in having streaming access to all albums ever, and you already have Spotify tailored to your specific likes, and you have a ton of playlists there, then obviously stay put with Spotify.

If you’re still unsure, check out Apple Radio, also located within the Music app. It doesn’t require a subscription plan, and it may be enough to help you discover a few new things. Also, check out Mark Sullivan’s full Apple Music review.

Google launches Android Studio 1.4 with Nexus 5X and 6P emulators, Firebase integration, theme editor

The new Theme Editor in Android Studio version 1.4.


Google today said that it has pushed version 1.4 of its Android Studio integrated development environment (IDE) into the stable release channel. This release comes with several new tools to accelerate the development of Android apps.

Android Studio 1.4 is coming out exactly two months after version 1.3 came out.

In version 1.4, there’s a new Vector Asset Studio for easily selecting existing Material Design icons or uploading custom icons into projects, and a new Theme Editor simplifies the process of tweaking colors for app user interfaces, as Android product manager Jamal Eason explained in a blog post on the release today.

Emulators for Huawei’s new Nexus 6P and LG’s new Nexus 5X are included in the release.

This update also ships with a tight integration of the Google-owned Firebase backend as a service. Rather than make Firebase a dependency with Gradle, now in Android Studio developers only need to hit File, select Project Structure, and navigate to the new Cloud section, Eason wrote.

You can download Android Studio here. You can get the latest version by checking for updates using the drop down menu or the pop-up box in the IDE.

With 3.1M monthly users on Wishbone, Science touts its success reaching the teen market

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 10.41.06 AM


More than a year ago, Santa Monica, Calif.-based technology incubator Science launched a mobile publishing studio dedicated towards creating applications we’d use in our daily lives. Its first product was social entertainment app Wishbone and today has more than 3.1 million monthly active users, creating more than 200,000 cards daily.

FullSizeRender-5Having more than 3 million MAUs isn’t anywhere near the size of Twitter’s 316 million MAUs or even coming close to Facebook’s 1.49 billion, but it’s worth noting that the company is finding in-roads to tap into the highly sought-after teenage demographic. The 3 million-plus users are not Generation X or Baby Boomers, but rather are teenagers. So that’s saying something.

Science chief executive Mike Jones told VentureBeat that his firm was looking to focus on social entertainment, namely areas “where we could capture times where [teenagers] could get experiences throughout their day that’s social and [provides] content.” He continued saying: “Teenagers have a large block of time each day spent on entertainment, but weren’t consuming or spending a lot of time on apps.” Teenagers wanted more.

Instead of watching television or going on Facebook, teenagers are doing other things on their mobile device but it seems that they want to remain

Wishbone is an application that’s targeted towards teenage girls that provides them pop culture content on a scheduled basis — none of this on-demand stuff. The user is shown a card, which displays two choices and votes for which is their preference. Topics covered include things like fashion, celebrities, and more.

FullSizeRender-7So instead of asking them to comment about a particular world issue, it’s more akin to things like which do they like better? Doughnuts or Cupcakes? Taylor Swift or Katy Perry? They get about a dozen cards in one sitting and then have to wait for another set to be released on timed intervals — just like watching an episodic television series (e.g. “Mr. Robot” or “Days of Our Lives”).

While originally the displayed cards were curated by Science’s editorial team, users can now also create their own. As mentioned earlier, this resulted in more than 200,000 being created daily, garnering more than 40 million votes — certainly engagement.

Jones claims that the usage growth of Wishbone is “skyrocketing”, but he believes that he’s found a way to tap into the teenage demographic: “There’s a belonging, fun aspect to it.”


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“We looked really heavily at television and wondered about the formats that worked with audiences and that was appointment viewing,” Jones said. “We tell the audience and notify them when a new set arrives. It’s predictable and it can be completed. Applications on the phone need to be single-fast and single-focused. Teenagers in America respond well when they know that this app does this and this app does that. Wishbone does one thing. The specificity of action is important.”

Not one to leave out the male teenage demographic, Science also has an app called Slingshot. However, Jones says it’s too early to talk about that app, but did tell us that “it is showing really strong promise.”

Wishbone is a product of Science’s Mobile Labs, which is another entity the incubator created. Science tends to not only invest in companies but also create them, such as Littlebee, EventUp, and others, many with an e-commerce or marketplace spin to it but haven’t really met expectations and wound up shuttering. But it seems its investment strategy seems to be fairing better as it has a stake in the likes of Dollar Shave Club, DogVacay, HelloSociety, and others.

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The creative burndown chart: How Agile is energizing marketing and creative teams (webinar)

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Join us for this live webinar on Thursday, October 8 at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. Register here for free. 


For years now, Agile has been relied upon by dev teams to pile through work with greater efficiency and speed — and now it’s crossing the aisle and penetrating marketing and creative teams who are reaping its benefits. But what does that mean and how does it really work?

For Workfront’s creative director, Dave Lesué, and his team of graphic designers and video production specialists, it all starts on Monday morning with the sprint planning meeting. That’s when they review the backlog of everything that’s been assigned to the team and create a prioritized list. Any item, or story, that’s too big is broken down into smaller chunks. They then plug in rough time estimates, and based on the number of people working that week, they’ll bite off a week’s worth of work.

“I shoot for 30 hours of planned work per person per week,” says Lesué. “There’s always going to be meetings and last-minute drive-by requests, so we leave time open for that. When we first started Agile, I’d aim for 20 hours of planned work and 20 unplanned, but as the whole organization matured around us, we’ve been able to increase that, and at some point, we may be able to increase that even more.”

Once in execution mode, the burn-down chart becomes everyone’s bible. It’s a detailed accounting of each item that the team is working on and what stage it’s at in development, from waiting to be started to waiting for verification all the way through to completion. And it’s displayed on a large monitor for everyone in the organization to see.

“I try to be uncomfortably transparent,” says Lesué. “That way anyone can see the priorities and who’s assigned to what, and what stage it’s at.” Certainly, it’s a way for an organization to get a true reality check on the number of items any marketing team has on their plate at one time — and appreciate all that’s vying for their attention.

It also pushes the team forward throughout the week. “It’s surprisingly motivating for team members to be able to see if we’re ahead of schedule. The burn-down chart will turn green if we’re ahead of schedule and red if we’re behind. It’s a really good motivator,” says Lesué.

Lesué has also created custom charts that show him the split of work assigned to everyone. He reviews these throughout the week to ensure no one’s overloaded. And if he sees someone is struggling and hasn’t identified any roadblocks, he can go to them proactively to figure out the issue and get back on track before there’s any kind of serious meltdown.

His advice to those wanting to adopt Agile into a marketing or creative environment? “Roll out Agile agily,” he says. “Don’t try to make this one giant change all at once, but start with a small pilot team of people and siphon off a portion of the work and assign it to this team — and don’t roll out every aspect of Agile at once!”

Of course, there’s lot more to it, and in this webinar you’ll hear a lot more detail from Lesué on the ins, outs, ups, and downs of integrating Agile — and perhaps most rewarding, how it’s increased morale and reduced churn on his team by 100 percent.


Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.


In this webinar, you’ll:

  • Hear first-hand experiences from current creative teams using tried and true methods to build faster and respond to industry trends quickly
  • Learn ways to increase the number of great ideas and proof of concepts
  • Use data to analyze and capitalize on changes in projects, marketing and industry trends… before your competitors know what hit ‘em.
  • Capture the lightning in a bottle that ensures amazing customer experiences.

Speakers:

David Lesué, creative director, Workfront

Samir Patel, CEO, Growth Machines

Jim Ewel, CEO, InDemand Interpreting

Stewart Rogers, director of marketing technology, VentureBeat

 


This webinar is sponsored by Workfront.