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Tips & Tricks

Customizing the Library View in the iOS 10 Music app

Apple made some arguably nice changes to its core Music app in iOS 10, departing from the Apple Music centric version that debuted with iOS 8.4 and putting the user’s own music library back front and center, where it belongs. One of the features that came back along with this, albeit in a slightly different form, was the ability to customize the main Library view to choose which organizational categories you want to see there.

Sorting Playlists, Songs, and Albums in the Music app

The Music app got another somewhat quiet update in iOS 10.2, allowing you to now choose a sorted order for the playlist, song, album, and video listings in your own music library. A new “Sort” button appears in the top right corner when viewing these three categories. Playlists can be sorted by Playlist Type, Title, or Recently Added, while Song, Album, and Video views offer sorting by Title or Artist.

Note that sorting by Playlist Type is the standard order that was used in prior iOS versions, placing Genius playlists at the top of the listing, with all other playlists still mixed below alphabetically — despite the name, it still doesn’t distinguish between Apple Music and user-created playlists, for whatever reason. The sort button is understandably not available in other views such as Artists, Compilations, Composers, and Genres.

Enabling Star Ratings in the iOS 10.2 Music app

One of the more controversial changes in Apple’s iOS 10 Music app was the elimination of the longstanding star-based rating system for music tracks. It’s unclear whether this was just inadvertently left out in the redesign or whether Apple felt that the new love/dislike system was enough — but clearly somebody at Apple got the message, as the ability to use star ratings has quietly returned in iOS 10.2.

It’s still hidden by default, but if you’re an iTunes power user who has gotten used to being able to rate your tracks on a sliding scale — a feature that’s been available in iTunes and on the iPod since its very inception — you’ll be happy to know that a quick trip into the Music section of your Settings app provides an option to toggle the feature back on.

While Apple has brought the star rating feature back, it’s moved it into the track menu, rather than hiding it behind the artwork as it was in iOS 9. Tapping and holding on a track, or tapping the ellipsis button in the bottom right corner of the “Now Playing” screen will bring up the menu, and if you’ve enabled star ratings in your settings, a “Rate Song…” option should now appear there. Ratings should also once again sync back to your iTunes library via direct sync, Apple Music, or iTunes Match, however this doesn’t replace the love/dislike system — if you’re an Apple Music user, star ratings won’t affect the recommendations you see in the “For You” section.

Using Double Tap to Control Play/Pause on AirPods

Apple’s wireless AirPods automatically pause music playback when one or both of the buds are removed from your ears during use. But if you’d prefer to control play/pause with touch controls without having to remove AirPods from your ears, Apple has given users a way to do so. While your AirPods are connected, go to Settings > Bluetooth on your iOS device and touch the “i” to access the information screen for your AirPods. On that screen, you’ll be able to change a number of settings, including the Double-Tap controls. AirPods are set by default to control Siri with a firm double tap — here, you can switch the setting to Play/Pause instead.

In switching this setting, users are giving up immediate double tap access to Siri. However, that tradeoff is somewhat mitigated if you’re using an iPhone 6s or later, or a 9.7” iPad Pro. Those devices allow anytime use of “Hey Siri,” which means it can still be easy and convenient to access Siri hands-free, as long as you’ve allowed use of “Hey Siri” in Settings — and as long as you’re close enough to your iPhone. Some users of the newest Apple devices may find this option makes more sense.

Canceling your Apple Music subscription

While it’s been a fun ride, the three-month free trial of Apple Music is coming to an end on Wednesday, Sept. 30, after which users who haven’t specifically opted out of the service will automatically be billed for their first month of service. If you’ve signed up for the free trial but don’t want to actually start paying for Apple Music, you’ll need to ensure that you’ve disabled auto-renewal in your iTunes account.

Accessing a song’s album in the iOS 8.4 Music app

One of the features that may appear to be conspicuously absent in the newly redesigned Music app in iOS 8.4 is that ability to find the associated album or artist when looking at a given track. The menus provide a wealth of options for adding tracks to up next or starting stations, but the way to see a list of other tracks on that album is less obvious.

In reality, the option is there, but it’s hidden behind the album cover, which is kind of an “a-ha” moment once you discover it. Tapping on the album cover that appears at the top of the menu will take you directly to the album containing that track. From there, if you want to access the the entire artist’s catalog, it’s only one more tap away — simply tap on the artist name below the album title.

Setting a custom playlist image

One of the new features introduced alongside Apple Music and the iCloud Music Library in the latest versions of iTunes and iOS is the ability to now specify an image of your choice to represent any of your playlists. By default, iTunes and iOS will simply use a collage of the album artwork from the tracks in your playlist, but you can actually add any photo you want instead.

In iOS 8.4, this is done by opening the playlist, tapping the “Edit” button, and then tapping the artwork, at which point you’ll be prompted to either choose an image from your photo library or take a photo with your device’s camera.

You can also do this in iTunes while editing a playlist by clicking on the artwork image. On OS X you’ll get the same image picker used for contact photos, allowing you to choose one of the stock photos, browse for an image on your Mac, or use your Mac’s camera to take a picture. In either case, the image you’ve chosen will sync with the playlist between your devices — but be aware that once you’ve done this, there doesn’t appear to be any way to get back to the default album artwork collage, as there’s no “remove image” option to be found anywhere.

Unsharing Playlists in Apple Music

The process of sharing playlists in Apple Music is generally pretty straightforward: You tap on the share button and a standard iOS Sharing Sheet comes up that allows you to copy a playlist link to your clipboard or send it out via text, email, or social media. Anybody with the link and iTunes 12.2 or iOS 8.4 or later can then simply click on it to see the content of the playlist in iTunes or the iOS Music app, and even save a reference to it in his or her own library. Playlists that you’ve shared are indicated by the word “Shared” when viewing them in the iOS Music app, although this distinction is less clear in iTunes.

However, what if you decide that you no longer want to share a playlist? While the option for sharing is pretty easy, the option to stop sharing is a little more hidden, but it’s still there. In the iOS Music app, you need to go into the playlist and tap the “Edit” button as you normally would to add, remove, or reorder tracks. If you then scroll up to the very top, you should see a switch labeled “Shared Playlist” — toggling this off and saving your changes will disable sharing for that playlist. Note that while the Music app shows this as a toggle switch option, it’s really not — once you turn it off, it disappears entirely, so it’s a rather odd use of that particular UI control.

iTunes 12.2 takes a slightly more intuitive approach, with a “Stop Sharing” option on the playlist menu that can be accessed from the ellipsis button to the right of the playlist title. Note that while this will disable sharing for the playlist, Apple Music doesn’t regenerate the sharing URL should you later decide to share the playlist again — so anybody who had the original link would still be able to access your playlist if you turn sharing back on. If you want to reshare the playlist and ensure former users can’t access it, your only option is to copy the tracks to a new playlist, delete the original playlist, and share the new one.

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