iOS 10 Music App: second take

I’ve been living with iOS 10 for about a week now, or long enough to have gotten up the learning curve imposed by some of the UI changes. (This is starting to be my general rule of thumb. Any UI change, even if it’s for the better, can be jarring and disruptive the first time you encounter it, but the benefits take a while to perceive). The first week I tweeted a series of questions about the new Music app, most of which I’ve managed to resolve. But there’s one very important question left unanswered, about how iOS 10 Music handles smart playlists synced from iTunes.

Relocation of Shuffle/Repeat controls: Now that I’m used to the change, I actually like Apple’s relocation of the Shuffle and Repeat controls to the newly created “swipe up” pane, which also displays the “Up Next” queue. Placing these controls, which are used infrequently during a normal playback session, where they can’t be hit accidentally counts as a UX improvement in my book.

Relocated lyrics: Given the rights issues around song lyrics, I always was a little surprised that Apple provided a way not only to add them to your own tracks but also to view them in iOS. When I first experimented with iOS 10 Music, though, I thought this had been removed. Good news: they’re still there, just with access moved to a new option on the … menu (or on the Swipe Up pane).  This is somewhat less cool than the move of the Shuffle and Repeat controls because the Lyrics option only appears if the file actually has lyrics, meaning I had to search through a bunch of songs before I could actually find one where the button showed up to verify that this actually worked.

Playlists syncing as empty: I have a few smart playlists that appear to sync but don’t appear populated on the iPhone. Fortunately it looks like there’s a workaround: plug in the phone, uncheck the playlists, sync, then check the playlists to select them and sync again.

Disappearance of star ratings: I’m less OK with this change. iOS 9 introduced “love” as a ratings option alongside star ratings. I didn’t use it because I don’t find “love” granular enough when you’re managing a library of 40,000 tracks. There’s a big difference between “desert island disk” level and “yeah, that track’s OK and I might put it on the right mix tape.” But it looks like star ratings are disappearing, even if they are still in iTunes (and accessible via Siri). Not cool.