Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 10 | iLounge Article

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Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 10

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Apple Music

Apple’s iOS Music app has followed an interesting, if somewhat rocky, path. After years of remaining stagnant, Apple made some significant changes last summer with iOS 8.4 last summer — an unusual move for a point release — adding support for its fledgling Apple Music service as well as several other long-overdue improvements. Those tweaks included support for the Up Next play queue system that had been brought to iTunes 11 almost three years prior, and the ability to add a track directly to a playlist, rather than the other way around.

When the iOS 8.4 Music app showed up, it was tempting to get caught up in these long-awaited features, but it quickly became apparent that Apple still hadn’t quite mastered the ideal Music app; many menus and options were confusingly located and difficult to find, and in its enthusiasm for Apple Music, Apple put too much emphasis on the new streaming service rather than the user’s own library. The latter took a backseat to Apple Music and actually became harder to navigate. In short, the new Music app clearly seemed geared toward those users who wanted to enjoy Apple Music almost exclusively, while leaving users with established music collections of their own feeling left out in the cold.

So with iOS 10, Apple took another long hard look at the Music app, recognizing the need for significant improvements to the Music experience. The result is a whole new app, redesigned from the ground up with the new iOS 10 design language. The new app mixes some of the best elements of both the classic pre-iOS 8.4 Music app and the version for the Apple Music generation into an entirely new user interface that uses brighter and bolder fonts and the cleaner look that we’ve seen in some of the other iOS 10 apps like Maps.

Library

The new Music app puts the user’s own library front and center, where it belongs. It’s now on the very first tab on the left. All of the sections now get larger and bolder headings, and the Library section shows the classic category lists of the pre-iOS 8.4 days. The term My Music has also been basically expunged from the interface in iOS 10; now it’s just referred to as the Library throughout — a term that we think provides a lot more clarity.

In the Library section, you’ll see Playlists, Artists, Albums, Songs, and Downloaded Music. Home Sharing is also still included here if you have it configured on your device. An Edit button in the top-right corner allows the order and visibility of these categories to be customized, again hearkening back to the pre-iOS 8.4 days. A Recently Added section at the bottom shows an artwork grid for any albums, playlists, and songs that have been recently added to your music library.

The Downloaded Music section provides a quick filter to show only the music that has been downloaded to your iPhone — useful if you happen to be out of coverage a lot, or merely want to avoid excessive data charges while away from Wi-Fi. The view from here is laid out much like the main Library view, except you’re only browsing tracks that are actually stored on your device, and sub-categories are fixed to the standard Playlists, Artists, Albums, Songs, and Videos, along with the “Recently Added” section at the bottom. A Downloading section will also appear at the top of this list if you have tracks that are currently being downloaded. It’s a very welcome change from the confusing and awkwardly located Music Available Offline toggle switch from iOS 9.

Navigating the User Interface

The iOS 10 Music app makes generous use of tap-and-hold and 3D Touch gestures to access various menus while navigating. The old ellipsis menu buttons have disappeared in most places, replaced instead with a tap-and-hold or 3D Touch gesture to access a pop-up menu with additional options. Android users will likely find this UI interaction to be very familiar, and it does make us wonder if Apple plans to more closely mirror this new user interface to the Android Apple Music app.

Options shown on the pop-up menu vary depending on what you’ve selected, but we really like how Apple has both simplified and unified the menu views; no matter where you are in the interface, the look and feel of the menu remains the same, with only the options differing. The top of the menu will show the selected item, which can be played by tapping the artwork. Tapping on the title will quickly take you to the content listing for that artist, album, or playlist. All of the menu items are left-justified now, making them more easily readable in our opinion, and icons are now shown on the right to assist in quickly identifying each function.

Apple has also used much clearer names for the menu options. For example, the option formerly known as Add to Up Next, which we always found confusing, has been more appropriately renamed to Play Later, making it much more obvious that this drops the selected tracks to the bottom of the play queue, and it more closely mirrors the Play Next option. The Make Available Offline option, which was a mouthful, is now simply Download, and a single Remove button appears for tracks that have been downloaded to your device, which brings up a secondary menu to ask whether you want to delete it from your library entirely or only remove the downloaded copy from your device. Buttons for downloading and sharing are now distinct menu options, rather than small icons nestled beside the artwork. In fact, the Share button that was previously littered throughout the user interface has now taken an appropriate backseat and appears only on the options menu.

Love and Dislike

iOS 10 also moves users away from the binary “love it or leave it” choice when rating tracks, adding a third option — Dislike. The small heart button throughout the user interface has been replaced with an ellipsis that takes users to a menu providing options to “Love” or “Dislike” a song.

Although the layout of the buttons suggests there are only two states available, each is actually toggled on or off independently — meaning you can “unlove” a song by tapping on the “Love” button to clear it without actually having to select the “Dislike” option. All songs begin as neutral until you take some action to either Love them or Dislike them. Much like “loving” songs has Apple Music recommend more songs like it, “disliking” a song will tell the Apple Music system that you want to see fewer songs like it in the For You section and other recommendations.

Now Playing

The Now Playing view in also gets a nice redesign, more in line with the other UI changes we’ve seen throughout iOS 10. The bottom mini-player bar increases in height to make it more accessible, and includes album artwork and additional playback controls.

You can tap on the mini-player bar or pull it up to reveal the Now Playing view, which is much cleaner than before. Album artwork is front-and-center, and interestingly it will expand to fill the full screen width when the track is playing, and shrink down to a slightly smaller size when paused or scrubbing. It’s an interesting effect.

One of the few remaining ellipsis buttons in the iOS 10 Music app can be found in the bottom right corner here to bring up an options menu for the current track. The layout, however, remains the same as the tap-and-hold menus elsewhere. With the exception of an AirPlay button and an add/download button (which appears for tracks not already on your device), the other buttons previously found on the Now Playing screen have been eliminated or moved elsewhere. The overall result is a much less cluttered interface that we find to be a really refreshing change.

Lyrics

Lyrics are now shown in a much more obvious way in the new Music app. Tapping the album artwork showed lyrics in prior versions, although you would have had to add these to your tracks manually via iTunes to see them. With iOS 10, many Apple Music songs now include lyrics as well, and they’re now displayed in a collapsible view that can be found by scrolling down from the Now Playing screen. A Show/Hide button expands or collapses the lyrics; if no lyrics are available, the Lyrics section is simply omitted.

Lyrics can also be accessed directly from the tap-and-hold menu of any track you happen to be browsing. A Lyrics option appears at the bottom of the menu if lyrics are available, and tapping this option brings them up in a separate panel.

As there are obviously licensing issues involved, not all Apple Music tracks include lyrics just yet, so it’s kind of hit and miss where you’ll see them. Adding lyrics yourself via iTunes remains an option of course — even for Apple Music tracks.

Up Next

Up Next is now found by scrolling down on the Now Playing screen, immediately below the lyrics (if any), rather than via a separate button. This makes access to Up Next far more intuitive in our opinion, and has the added bonus of removing an additional button from the Now Playing screen that we felt just added more clutter and confusion.

Buttons for Shuffle and Repeat are found at the top of the Up Next queue. Tracks can be reordered in the queue simply by tapping on the handle on the right and dragging them up or down — no additional button is required to activate an edit mode before doing this — and tracks can be removed from the queue with the usual right-to-left swipe.

Playlist and Album Views

Playlist and Album views also get a much cleaner look and more distinct options. Love and Share buttons in the headings are gone, with these options moved into the ellipsis menu instead. Only one additional button now appears at the top, which shifts between three states: Add appears when browsing items in Apple Music that are not yet in your library, the standard iCloud download icon appears for tracks that are in your library but haven’t been downloaded to your device, and the word Downloaded appears for tracks that have been downloaded to your device. Tapping on this button changes the state of the album or playlist as you’d expect.

Individual tracks no longer have an ellipsis button beside them, with the menu now being accessible from a tap-and-hold or 3D Touch gesture. Individual tracks instead show either a plus sign or iCloud download icon to add them to your library or download them to your device. Tracks already on your device show no icon at all, but can be removed via the tap-and-hold menu — the former right-to-left swipe gesture for removing tracks is no more.

For You

For You now moves to the second tab of the Music app, making it secondary to the user’s own library. The content of this screen has also been similarly cleaned up, with information organized into more obvious categories, rather than just a stream of seemingly-random playlists and albums with no obvious correlation to your listening experience.

At the top of the For You screen will be special custom mixes based on your interests, such as New Releases and Favorites. A Recently Played section comes next to allow you to revisit anything you’ve recently listened to, followed by recommended playlists for the current day of the week based on your individual listening habits — presumably your Monday mix for heading to work is going to be slightly different than your Friday mix for heading home. Further groupings appear below for things like albums for the day of the week, Heavy Rotation, Artist Spotlight Playlists, New Releases and more. Further down comes Apple Music Connect — still available for those users who really want to connect with artists, but otherwise is nicely left out of the way for those who just want to find and listen to music by themselves.

Browse

The section formerly known as New has now been given a more logical name of Browse, and as the name implies, it allows listeners to explore a wider variety of new and curated content. Where For You is tailored to your own library and listening habits, Browse gives you access to what the Apple Music team is putting forward as popular or interesting to the broader listening audience.

An artwork slider at the top shows exclusive, new, and featured releases, while categories below provide access to New Music, Curated Playlists, and Top Charts, as well as options to browse by genre or look at videos.

Radio

The Radio tab provides most of the same features as before, redesigned to match the rest of the Music app. Sliding artwork at the top allows browsing through top stations, while an Explore Beats 1 option provides a schedule of upcoming shows and access to on demand content from prior shows. View All Stations takes you to the full list of stations. Recently played stations are shown below these options.

Search

Search gets its own place in the new Music app as the fifth tab in the bottom-right corner, taking you to a dedicated Search screen. The search bar at the top of the screen will show “In Library” or “In Apple Music” to indicate at a glance which area you’re searching in — as before, tapping on the Search field provides buttons to choose where you want to search, with the last selected option being the default for next time.

Recent Searches are shown below this for quick access to anything that you’ve been looking for recently, and scrolling down past Recent Searches will show Trending Searches for anybody who may care what everybody else on Apple Music is searching for.

Much like before, search results are grouped into top results, songs, albums, etc. However, in iOS 10, the results allow for the same interactions as anywhere else in the app. Plus signs and iCloud download icons appear for items that aren’t already in your library or downloaded to your device, and tap-and-hold gestures work for opening the full options menus, meaning you can very quickly add a track to a playlist, create a station, share it, or Love/Dislike it without ever having to leave the search screen.

CarPlay

Music layout changes have also been brought over to the CarPlay user interface, though the changes are more subtle here, reflecting the generally simplified CarPlay design aesthetic. The Now Playing screen gets the ellipsis button with pop-up Love and Dislike options, similar to the on-device Now Playing screen.


The Music app on CarPlay also shares the new tab layout, with Library displayed first, and subcategories such as Recently Added, Playlists, Artists, Albums, and more. The For You, Browse, and Radio sections all appear more or less as expected, mirroring their on-device counterparts using the simpler CarPlay layout.

Settings

The Music section of the Settings app now shows how much space your downloaded music is taking up on your device, with an Optimize Storage option that lets you determine whether downloaded music is automatically removed when your device runs low on storage space, along with an optional Minimum Storage setting to ensure that at least 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of downloaded music is kept on your device.

Music storage optimization was automatic in iOS 9, so the Optimize Storage option provided here in iOS 10 is actually provided to allow you to disable this feature, or at least ensure that a minimal amount of downloaded music is kept on your device, regardless of other storage requirements.

 

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