The “TL; DR”
- iTunes is bad. It’s slow and bloated. It’s getting better with each release but it never seems to improve quickly enough to match the competition. The UI is confusing at best, clunky and slow at its worst.
- I strongly believe that Apple should move the Music portion of iTunes to a separate, standalone app. Do one thing and do it extremely well.
- I get random errors that are only “resolved” by killing and restarting the Music app on iOS. The UI feels sluggish and search is slow on iTunes on macOS and the Music app on iOS.
- I’m not interested in Apple Music’s exclusive albums or Siri integration. I can’t use the music streaming feature on Apple Watch since I don’t have the LTE version.
- No Web client. This one I cannot forgive. Everyone else has one. I have a powerful Linux machine at work and with all competitors give me the option to use a Web app. Spotify even provides a native client for Ubuntu. Being unable to listen to the music at work is a dealbreaker.
- Due to all of the above, I canceled my Apple Music subscription. I’m now giving my 9,90€ a month to Spotify. Apple is leaving money on the table.
The Long Story
I’m trying to like Apple Music but I can’t.
I’ve been using Apple Music on and off ever since it first launched at the end of June 2015. It made sense at the time. I was, and still am, all-in into the Apple ecosystem. Apple Music promised to be better integrated with my hardware and software than anything else on the market. Also, one less app to install and one less account to log into. Hooray!
Initially, there were problems. Many of them. Apple Music had just been launched, so they were expected. iTunes on the Mac and the Music app on the iPhone would often skip songs, stop playing out of the blue, or take a long time to change tracks (even on a fast and stable WiFi connection). Music on the iPhone would often tell me that something was wrong, inviting me to retry with a tap. Except that said tap would never work, only killing the app from the task switcher would “fix” it. I kept telling myself that it would get better.
After a while, I decided to sell most of my Apple stuff and go back to Android, to see what’s the world like over there. Let’s call it my mid-life crisis of the Information Age.
Along the ride came the switch from Apple Music to Spotify, which I suddenly could use everywhere: my Mac, my Nexus 5X, and my GNU/Linux workstation at work. It was pure bliss.
Fast forward two years and I’m fully back to the Apple camp, so here I am, trying Apple Music, again. Here I am, canceling my Apple Music subscription in favour of Spotify, again.
There are many reasons. The first, and most important, is that the “portals” through which I access Apple Music (iTunes on the Mac and the Music app on iOS) feel slow and bloated. Search is slow and only seems to respond to exact queries. Spotify is more lenient and always seems to find the artist I’m looking for even when I’m misspelling its name. I’m also still experiencing some of the problems that plagued the service at launch. Spotify is zippy and always amazes me how well it works.
Siri integration works fine, except when it doesn’t. More often than not, it won’t understand an artist’s name and starts playing random stuff instead. No Siri for me.
The “For You” section is… well… passable. The AI-generated “My Chill Mix” was always impressively on point. “My New Music Mix” was just terrible, full of music I would never listen to. No amount of “loving”, adding, and following artists or tracks seemed to improve the situation. Again, Spotify’s programmatic suggestions (its “Discover Weekly” playlist) are consistently better.
The dealbreaker for me is that there Is no way to use Apple Music on my work machine. It’s a powerful Linux workstation with lots of cores and RAM. The kind of work I do can’t be done on macOS. It can’t be done on Windows, either. A Linux desktop for work is fine and I like it. It’s just lacking a native iTunes client 1. Given that all competitors can be used from Linux in a way or another (usually via a Web interface) I fail to understand why Apple doesn’t have one. Spotify even went the extra mile and shipped has a native client for Ubuntu!
Apple Music, at this stage, is kind of a “meh” product, bleeding from tens of paper cuts. It’s only advantage is that it comes built-in with all Macs and iPhones, is better integrated in the Apple ecosystem, and requires one less app to install and one less login to remember. I would probably switch back to it if my primary work machines becomes a Mac or Windows workstation where iTunes is available.
Until then, in the sea of 9,90€ music streaming services, I feel like I’m better served by Spotify.
I tried installing the Windows version under Wine, it didn’t work. ↩