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A closer look: The iOS 7 Music app

updated 07:39 am EDT, Thu June 13, 2013

The new iOS 7 Music app looks set to continue Apple's digital music lead

Yesterday I took a first look at the iOS 7 beta following its unveiling during the Apple WWDC keynote. As we noted, the changes to the design of the iOS UI are widespread and also include all of the standard iOS apps. While iOS 7 is still a work in progress, it is certainly pointing very firmly towards a new flatter, but attractive and vibrant user experience. As a music lover the new Music app immediately piqued my interest, especially with the introduction of the long-rumored iTunes Radio streaming music service.

The headlining feature enhancement to the iOS 7 Music app is of course the new iTunes Radio, which is currently a US-only service. It is very much like the Pandora's automated music recommendation and discovery service. The beauty of the iTunes Radio service, though, is that in signing into the iTunes and App Stores, users are automatically signed into iTunes Radio. There is no requirement to set up a new account. Users can listen to unlimited full songs for free, punctuated by the occasional iAd. Better still, iTunes Match users can enjoy the service ad-free at no additional charge.

If you enjoy shuffled music you will love iTunes Radio. Having pre-curated stations in genres is also a great way to dive in and discover new artists. You can also create your own stations based on the music from a favorite artist, while the stations will gradually better learn your preferences based on tagged tracks. In addition, Apple says that iTunes Radio will be a portal through which users will get access to exclusive content, including 'first listens' including songs and the occasional pre-release album in full. Siri is also fully integrated into the app allowing users to give voice commands including "Play more like this" and "Who plays that song?" Songs can be purchased directly with one click, while they can also be added to a wish list.

For me, the biggest disappointment in iTunes Radio in its current form is the inability to download entire albums and play them offline like other services such as Spotify, Sony Music Unlimited and Xbox Live Music. However, that would have entailed additional cost and an annual ongoing subscription fee over and above the $25 iTunes Match fee - something that I would have been happy to pay for. It is, however, quite possible that Apple will eventually add such a service -- unless the terms of its agreement with the labels precludes this. As it is, iTunes Radio is an excellent extension of the Music app and its streaming AAC 256kbps audio makes for great listening experience. However, it is best enjoyed over a Wi-Fi connection unless you have a large mobile data plan as streaming high quality audio will quickly start to chew through your data allowance.

The rest of the Music app has all of the now signature minimalistic and flat design touches that are seen throughout iOS 7. Like its new red app icon, there is a red design theme running through the new Music app. Cover Flow fans may be disappointed to learn that it has been replaced by a new flat scrolling wall of album art with a black space where iTunes has not been able to match the artwork. The new look is attractive, although while it might have been the time to retire Cover Flow, it was one aspect of the iOS UI that always looked good. The rest of the app, however, functions in much the same way that iOS users have become accustomed to.

The revamped iOS 7 iTunes Store UI also looks clean and easy to navigate, rounding out a comprehensive music package. iTunes Radio is, however, where most of Apple's attention has been placed. Although much of this is powered at the backend by iCloud, its addition to the iOS 7 Music app as a standard feature helps to justify Apple's claim that the Music app in iOS 7 is their best yet.

By Sanjiv Sathiah

by MacNN Staff



  1. Gazoobee

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 02-27-09

    Indeed. I only buy albums, so this is a useless service for me. Also, if your favourite genre is "alternative" genius (presumably the "suggestion engine" of this service as well), fails pretty much 100% of the time because of the eclectic nature of the category.

    This is closer to AM radio than anything for music lovers.

  1. pairof9s

    Senior User

    Joined: 01-03-08

    @Gazoobee: That seems a bit presumptuous for a service you've never tried and at the very least, is not finalized.

  1. revco

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 05-10-05

    I loathe that translucent effect. It looks grubby.

  1. HowardG

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-21-01

    Not to state the blatantly obvious, but you're talking about something that is: 1. Unfinished 2. Under NDA

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Gazoobee: While it's true that "alternative" is a nebulous and pretty much meaningless label (hey, it meant something in the 80s!), the service has a method of fine-tuning what you like and don't like, so it can become whatever you make it. Also, while you may only buy albums, how on earth do you find out about new bands prior to purchase? I think there's more to iTunes Radio than you're giving it credit for, but even if you don't use it it's just a portion of the app. iTunes desktop has had radio for YEARS, maybe you've never used it, and if not that's fine.

  1. sccaldwell

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-05-13

    Not working.

  1. sccaldwell

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-05-13

    The new app is a disaster. Let's say I want to play Dream Theater's most recent album. Because the new Music app shows every track, not just album listings, this means that I have to scroll through over a list of over **600** items in order to get to their latest CD (since it stupidly puts newer stuff at the bottom).

    In a more moderate case (5 albums by a band), you're still searching through a list of 50+ items. Horrible design choice.

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