Apple Music Gets New Look, Few New Features

At the WWDC 2016 keynote event today (June 13), almost a year after Apple Music launched, the company revealed a redesigned version of the streaming music app, due out as a part of iOS 10 this fall. While this updated Apple Music doesn't feature the significant feature upgrades we  hoped to see, its aesthetic changes may make it easier to find the tunes you need.

To make the service easier to use, Apple is trading tiny type for large, bold text buttons. Apple Music Marketing Director Bozoma Saint John presented the updated app and said the redesign should "make it clearer where you are."

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Saint John revealed that Apple Music will let users access lyrics directly from the Now Playing screen, a feature that could save you a few taps down the road.

While the names of Apple Music's navigation tabs differ in the new version -- Browse, Library and Search will replace New, My Music and Connect -- the contents of those sections are mostly the same. So to avoid any confusion when the redesign launches this fall, here's a tab-by-tab guide to the next version of Apple Music.

Library

The My Music tab is gone, replaced with Library, which will show only the songs that you've downloaded onto your iPhone or iPad. This may clear up clutter in this section, as Apple is no longer trying to shoehorn the songs uploaded from your iTunes library onto your screen.

At the top of the App, you'll see big buttons for Playlists, Artists Albums and Songs, which replace the drop down menu that the app's current users need to tap through. Library is just like My Music in that it puts your recently added songs front and center.

For You

In a move that seems clearly inspired by Spotify's Discovery Weekly playlist, Apple's put a personalized Discovery Mix playlist at the top of the For You section. Below that, you'll find the songs you've recently listened to and new playlists that will be updated daily.

Apple seems to be admitting that its Connect social network for music content was a failure, as the service is now buried at the bottom of For You. This way, if you've dug through the rest of its content, Connect can show you some more photos and other things from your favorite artists.

Browse

Apple didn't change much in the tab it used to call New, except that it now gives even more of your screen to editorial content. In a screenshot shown by Saint John, a big photo alerting users to Nick Jonas's new album takes over half of the screen, above big text buttons for New Music and Curated Playlists.

When you scroll down, you'll find directories that let you listen to the songs on the top of the charts, as well as browse by genre. We wanted to see Apple make it easier to navigate curated playlists, but this doesn't feel like enough.

Radio

The Radio tab still features Beats 1, and Saint John said the station is becoming the "largest radio station in the entire world." This section hasn't changed drastically, but large "Explore Beats 1" and "View All Stations" links may make it easier to find old episodes of radio shows and listen to iTunes Radio Stations.

Search

Not mentioned by name, and seen only in presentation slides, the new Search tab is likely self-explanatory. Previously, Search was hidden in the top right corner, so placing it in the navigation row -- which Spotify already does -- could make it easier for users to find songs.

Bottom Line

A redesign for the sake of clarity feels like a half-measure. Apple Music still needs to make its playlists more shareable, and show us that iCloud Music Library is worthy of our trust. We look forward to seeing Apple Music in the beta version of iOS 10, but we doubt this will help raise Apple's subscriber numbers.

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