Apple Catches Up with Music and Photos

In the midst of the (justifiable) hoopla about Apple’s moves to make Siri available to 3rd party developers, and its move to integrate its various platforms, big upgrades to two of Apple’s struggling apps flew under the radar. Apple Music and Photos are getting serious overhauls.

The Music space of the app market is full to the bursting. Just to name a few, Spotify offers huge libraries of content, Pandora a sophisticated station-making algorithm and I Heart Radio a collection of over 800 local radio stations. Apple Music was widely perceived as an app that tried to do too much and did none of it very well. Most importantly, many users found the layout of the app confusing and non-intuitive. The new app still does a lot that’s featured in other apps- curates playlists, allows users to jump to music similar to what’s currently playing- it tries to lead into these features in a more intuitive way.

Indeed, the app has gotten a whole visual redesign. The tab layout now features just Library, For You, Browse, Radio and Search. This should, by pairing the tabs to the most commonly used functiona, help address difficulty of navigation, a common user complaint. The Now Playing screen is more visually attractive, and it’s easier to see which songs you have available for offline listening.

Beyond style, the biggest upgrade is the addition of a lyrics feature, which allows you to view a song’s lyrics within the Now Playing screen. To be sure, not every change has received universal praise. There have been complaints about [oversized buttons] within the app, which have limited functionality and which effectively shrink the screen. Overall, though, these changes offer Apple Music’s 15 million subscribers a better listening experience and give Apple a chance to compete with giants like Spotify.

Photos has undergone similiar, and indeed arguably more extensive, changes. The industry leader in photo apps has been, with over 100 million downloads, Google Photos. Well, they now have a clear competitor in Apple Photos. Across all of its platforms Apple photos will now have not only sophisticated facual recognition but object and location recognition as well. This means that if you want to search for, say, dogs, Photos will attempt to pull out all of the dog photos in your library.

Along with this comes a Memories feature, which will, through deep learning, create albums based on particular events, locations, etc. This is similar to the Collections feature in Google Photos; and, just as Google’s assistant tab, Memories can create customizable (by length, tone, etc) videos out of albums.

Memories isn’t perfect- for instance, it primarily sorts albums by location, though it does use deep learning to recognize other commonalities (wedding photos and graduation photos)- but it, along with Apple Music, is finally ready to compete with the major apps in its product space.