iOS

The Break Up of iTunes, a musician’s perspective

Piggybacking off of yesterday’s post, there was a rumor earlier in the month that the next wave of iOS apps to come to the Mac are Apple’s very own media apps.

9to5mac.com - Next major macOS version will include standalone Music, Podcasts, and TV apps, Books app gets major redesign | Guilherme Rambo:

Fellow developer Steve Troughton-Smith recently expressed confidence about some evidence found indicating that Apple is working on new Music, Podcasts, and perhaps Books apps for macOS, to join the new TV app.

I’ve been able to independently confirm that this is true. On top of that, I’ve been able to confirm with sources familiar with the development of the next major version of macOS – likely 10.15 – that the system will include standalone Music, Podcasts, and TV apps, but it will also include a major redesign of the Books app. We also got an exclusive look at the icons for the new Podcasts and TV apps on macOS.

I have been arguing that iTunes should be broken up into separate apps on the Mac for years. As a musician and teacher who is an absolute iTunes power user, and who depends on music library management tools, I thought it was worth digging into the implications of this a little bit.

If you are a podcast listener, and have room in your diet for some shows that discuss Apple technology, there was an astoundingly good conversation about this topic on last week’s episodes of Upgrade and ATP. Both shows discuss not only the implications for the future of iTunes, but for the very nature of the Mac itself.

I am so excited for the TV app and the Podcast app to get their own attention. They have been much needed for a long time. I imagine Podcasts will be solid out of the gate. I will kind of miss the current TV app icon on iOS and the Apple TV but I understand that Apple needs to brand it with their logo since it is going to be coming to third party TVs and Amazon Fire products this fall with the launch of their new TV service. I don’t know how a Books app based on the iOS version would work with my imported PDF book library, but it is already wildly inconsistent between iOS and macOS so I cannot imagine it could get any worse.

iTunes is a place that I have traditionally relied heavily upon to organize my music library, recordings of my ensemble, and video performances of my concerts. I detail my entire music and video workflows in my book, Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers.

iTunes is the only app that allows me to store my personal library alongside a streaming music library, and sync it across multiple devices. This is what has set it apart from Spotify for me over the past few years. iTunes also has some great video organization tools. For years now, I have organized all video of my school ensemble’s live performance (amongst numerous other musical performances and home video) into the video section of iTunes, and then pointed a Plex server towards the folder of files so that I can stream them from my Apple TV and iOS devices on the go.

If the new Music and TV apps are just like their iOS counterparts, there are a whole lot of features I depend on that could potentially get ditched. Here are a few of them...

-Importing my own music. The iOS version of music can’t even import a song. That’s right! If I buy an album on Bandcamp, or take an audio file of a professional band performing a tune my ensemble is working on, I can drag them right into iTunes on my Mac, and they will sync to my mobile devices over Apple Music Library. I would imagine Apple has to have at least figured this one out for iOS if they are going to ship this app on the Mac in the fall.

-Metadata control. It would be a sad day if I could not press the info button on a song, add my own comments, rating, and adjustments to the title, album name, etc.

-Smart Playlists. Jazz and classical recordings are notoriously difficult to manage in iTunes because of how complex their metadata is. In addition to editing artist and album information in these recordings, I have spent some time adding extra info to the comments section of my songs and then creating smart playlists to filter them. If Miles Davis is tagged in every recording he sat in on, you can make playlists like ‘Songs Miles Soloed On Between 1961-75.’

-Adding video. QuickTime (much like Preview) is an app that exists only on the Mac, because it is natively built into iOS whenever you tap a media file (or PDF in the case of Preview). Apple never had a dedicated app for managing video (although there is the awkward iMovie Library feature which has an arbitrary file limit). That said, iTunes is a pretty great utility for this purpose. I would hate to loose its video management features, even though they were never on iOS to begin with. The TV app is looking more and more like it is built to fulfill Apple’s TV strategy, which is to aggregate as much TV and Movie content from as many providers as possible, into a unified entertainment service. Don’t get my wrong, I am excited, I just don’t see myself using it to organize recordings of my band concerts.

Presumably iTunes isn’t going anywhere any time soon. For these legacy features, and including the need to sync older iOS devices to a Mac, I imagine it will still come on the Mac, buried in the Utilities folder, for years to come. Hopefully, users will still be able to do actions like I listed above in iTunes, and enjoy the benefit of them in the new Music app.

In conclusion, I remain highly cynical about this transition because Apple does not seem interested in making good apps in recent years. Conversely, I am enthusiastic about the long term benefit. If Apple developers are writing code for just one version of their apps instead of two, it is more likely that iOS versions of software will get elevated. That is exciting, even if it means that the Mac apps cannot do all of the same stuff they could always do at first. Coupled with rumors that Apple is going to release an ARM based Mac in the near future, I would like to believe that years down the road, we will be getting closer to a shared app platform between all Apple devices, with feature parity, and less distinction between input devices and which hardware its running on.

iOS apps I would love to see come to the Mac, a musician’s perspective

There has been a lot of buzz lately around ‘Marzipan,’ a set of developer tools that Apple is making to help third party developers more easily port their iOS apps to macOS. It is heavily rumored that Apple will detail this initiative at their developer conference, WWDC, this June (during the keynote on June 3rd).

Last year at WWDC, Apple unveiled four Mac apps that use this new set of tools to bring iPad-like versions of iOS apps to the Mac. The apps launched were Home, Stocks, Voice Memos, and News. The apps have been met with much criticism for their lack of Mac-likeness. For example, when you double click a news article in the News app, you can't see an article in a separate window, a behavior you would expect from the Mail app or Notes app on Mac. Likewise, the Home app, when setting up a time based automation displays they iOS style date picker, with scrollable numbers, rather than the calendar like interface that you would see when selecting a date in traditional Mac apps.

I agree that these four Mac apps are garbage, but I would much rather have the utility of them than not. Even if all these Mac apps do are act like iPad apps that accept input from a cursor instead of a finger, I would still kill to have any of the following on macOS:

-Tonal Energy Tuner. There are no tuning drone based apps, even on the web, that do 1/100th of what this iOS app does. My Mac is my primary device for sharing audio and visuals with my students during class. This would get used every single day.

-forScore. I have a weird way of managing my digital sheet music using the file system of my Mac, but then importing duplicate copies into my iPad’s forScore library. It would be really nice to have one place where this is all managed across all devices. Of course, this would require forScore to sync a library across devices, which the team has told me is too difficult a task to prioritize currently.

-Twitter. Twitter killed their Mac app recently and as someone who recently started using their app on iOS (Tweetbot is still far better but Twitter no longer provides the proper APIs for them to stay up to date on modern features), I would really prefer to not use the web browser on the Mac.

-Apollo. To my knowledge, there has never been a good Reddit client on any non-mobile device. Apollo is great.

-Facebook Messenger. I hate Facebook but it is a necessary communication tool. I would love to use it for that without going to their stupid website ever again.

-Overcast. My favorite podcast player. Would love to have it on Mac.

-Health. An app that excels in showing me data on graphs and charts sure would be useful on the big screen of a Mac.

-Due. My favorite reminder app is already on Mac but it looks gross.

-Instapaper. I use ReadKit on the Mac as an Instapaper client on Mac now, but would not mind something more minimal. Instapaper is the perfect candidate for a Marzipan app for its simplicity.

-Instagram. Who wouldn’t want this on Mac?

-Tempo. There is only one good metronome app on the Mac (Dr. Betotte). Opening up UIKit to Mac developers would bring a whole lot of competition in this space. Frozen Ape’s Tempo would be my first choice to get ported over.

-AnyList. Their Mac app is already just a gross port of their iOS app. Using Apple’s tools would surely make it prettier and more responsive.

-Ferrite Recording Studio. My podcast audio editor of choice is only on iPad. It sure would be cool to use these tools on a bigger screen with keyboard and mouse.

Top 10 iPad features we’d like to see in iOS 13 | Macworld

From Macworld...

 

Top 10 iPad features we’d like to see in iOS 13 | Macworld

The new iPad Pro hardware is great and Apple needs to invest in upgrades for iOS to take advantage of it. Here are a few ideas for new features.

No way 9 or 10 are happening any time soon. I am really hopeful for 6, 7, and 8. A resounding “yes, please!” to 3, 4, and 5. With regards to 2, I must be the only person who does not require external file support to get work done on an iPad. I would much rather Apple improve iCloud Drive and third party cloud drive support in the Files app. For the most part, I think these are likely to happen in order from 2-10.

I am looking forward to the future of iOS, whatever it is.

Sonos gets AirPlay 2 Support and Affinity Designer Comes to iPad

It’s an exciting day for users of Apple products today. Two announcements that caught my attention are highlighted below...

Affinity Designer Debuts on iPad as a Full-Featured Graphic Design Tool – MacStories:

Nearly one year ago, Serif released Affinity Photo for the iPad as a full-featured photo editing powerhouse. Unlike what companies such as Adobe do, where a Mac app like Photoshop is broken down into less powerful versions on iOS, Affinity Photo was brought to the iPad with no compromises whatsoever. Today, that same philosophy is bringing us Serif's second major iPad app: Affinity Designer.

Where Affinity Photo focuses on photo editing, Affinity Designer is a vector-based illustration tool. And with full support for the Apple Pencil, iOS 11's drag and drop, and system technologies like Metal, the app looks like the ultimate portable design studio.

For a limited time, Affinity Designer is available at a launch price of $13.99, 30% off the regular price of $19.99.

I have long been looking for something like Adobe Illustrator on the iPad. I have been very happy with OmniGraffle for designing seating charts, posters, flyers, and other graphics on iOS, especially because it syncs flawlessly to its Mac counterpart. For $13.99 I am going to be very tempted to give Affinity Designer a spin. Download it here.

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Next up, Sonos!

Sonos Adds AirPlay 2 Support to Certain Speaker Models – MacStories

Sonos announced today that it has added AirPlay 2 support to compatible speaker systems. The update allows users to stream audio to the company’s Sonos One, Beam, Playbase, and the second generation Play:5 speakers from iOS apps that support AirPlay 2 of and from iTunes on a Mac.

I recently purchased a HomePod and have been looking forward to pairing its audio with my existing Sonos Playbar in the living room and Sonos Play:1 in the bedroom. Jason Snell wrote a great post for Macworld that gets into the all the details about how all of these different smart speakers play together.

Sonos update adds AirPlay 2 support | Macworld:

Perhaps most impressively, all AirPlay 2 speakers can play music in perfect synchronization. If you’ve got a HomePod or two and a compatible Sonos device, you can now select all those devices and play music through them, entirely in sync. Even better, if you’ve got incompatible Sonos devices and place them in the same group as an AirPlay 2-compatible Sonos device via the Sonos app, those speakers will also play synchronously. I was able to get music to play in sync throughout my house this morning, via a paired set of HomePods, a Play:5, and the (incompatible) Play:1 in my bathroom.

My two Sonos speakers are incompatible. So I can’t get too excited unless I buy a new Sonos One or Play:5. I do need one of these for the basement but it is a steep price to pay. Furthermore, it is a bummer that the old speakers cannot be controlled individually through the Apple home app, only as a group with a compatible Sonos.

I can bypass this problem in the living room, where my TV (with Apple TV attached) is running its audio through a Sonos Playbar. AirPlay allows a phone to send audio to an Apple TV on the same network, so if I want to control the Playbar individually, I just send audio to the living room Apple TV its attached to. The bedroom will be a different story, through I cannot imagine that many scenarios where I will need separate music or volume control in the bedroom and basement.

 

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Music education apps on iOS that I would love to see come to the Mac

From Macworld...

iOS apps that need to be on the Mac | Macworld:

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who has a great track record of reporting Apple scoops, wrote a few months ago that Apple was working on a new approach to app development that would let developers “design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it’s running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac hardware.”

Accepting that Apple could change direction at any time and that this project—code-named Marzipan—might not even be announced this year, it’s an intriguing possibility. Obviously iOS has a much more thriving app store than the one on the Mac, so if Apple could make it easier for iOS developers to deploy their apps on the Mac, it might help the platform thrive. Merging the approach to developing apps on Apple’s two platforms also may make sense in light of the report that Apple may be replacing Intel processors with Apple-designed ARM processors in future Macs.

A lot of rumors and speculation, to be sure. But let’s go back to the root premise of this entire story: The Mac could be improved if it was much easier for iOS developers to bring their apps over. Which got me thinking, what iOS apps do I use today that I wish were on my Mac?

I have been giving this a lot of thought since reading Bloomberg's report. I think this is a big deal. In music education, a lot of useful apps are iOS only. I would die to have the utility of some of them on my Mac. Here are a few examples.

Tonal Energy Tuner: This may be my most used rehearsal tool in the band room. I constantly have a drone and or a metronome running in the background while my students play. The problem is that my Mac is my device that is usually plugged into the mixer at the front of the band room. I would be able to much more efficiently manage TE alongside my Keynote slides and iTunes library if it were piping audio through the same speakers and had support for tactile keyboard shortcuts.

forScore: forScore is one of the only apps I use exclusively on iPad. The form factor of the tablet is perfectly suited to it. That being said, there would be times where it would be easier to manage files in bulk if there was a version for Mac that I could open up and drag stuff into. This, of course, would assume that a forScore library would sync across devices. This is something it currently cannot do (which is good because it is one of the only things keeping me from buying a second, smaller iPad).

Tempo and Tempo Advance: There is a shortage of good metronomes on macOS. There are a lot of good ones on iOS. For the same reason that Tonal Energy would rock on a Mac, so would Tempo. And nothing like Tempo Advance exists on Mac.

I would imagine that Marzipan could work the other way around, making Mac apps easier to develop for iOS. If this were the case, I could do an entire second blog post on Mac apps I would love to see on iOS. Logic Pro, are you out there?

Road Trip!!! Off to the Tennessee Music Educators Association Conference!

 

I am pumped to be spending the next four days in Nashville to present at the Tennessee Music Educators Association Conference. I am presenting three sessions tomorrow, Friday, April 13th. One of these sessions is brand new and focused entirely on teaching intonation to student musicians with the support of the Tonal Energy tuning app. Scroll down for links to all of my session notes.

Road Trip!!!

My wife and I are making a road trip out of this event. In addition to eating and drinking our way through the city over the next few days, I am excited to be seeing old friends and new. Tomorrow night we will be seeing the Nashville Symphony Orchestra performing a program of Elgar, Mozart, and Bach. I will get to watch a friend of mine from grad school, Joshua Hickman (Principal Timpanist), performing with the ensemble.

I will also get to meet friend, Craig McClellan, in person for the first time. Craig has an awesome education/technology blog called The Class Nerd and has been a recent regular on my podcast. (Listen here and here).

Craig and I may or may not have a very special project we are cooking up for teachers later this year...

Session Notes

Here are the session notes for my three sessions. Check them out!!!

Going Paperless with iPad (April 13, 9 am)

Working with Digital Scores (April 13, 10 am)

Teaching Intonation with Tonal Energy (April 13, 3 pm)

Chris Russell's early thoughts on the iPad Pro

If you ask me, Chris Russell's Technology in Music Education blog is one of the places on the web to read about music technology in education. Chris is a big time proponent and writer on using iPads in music ed. He is also a great hold out when it comes to resisting new tech and pushing his current technology to its near death. As a reckless early adopter I admire him for this.

Chris just updated his iPad to the large 12.9 pro model. This device was updated recently alongside an all new 10.5 inch sized pro model. I hear that the 120Hz refresh rate on the screen of both these new models is out of this world. Needless to say, now that Chris is using an iPad Pro, I am curious to see what he will write about it in the coming months. 

His early thoughts are in keeping with this theme, basically stating that the iPad Pro is a monster piece of hardware desperately waiting for the productivity features of iOS 11 this fall.

A few days with the new 12.9″ iPad Pro | Technology in Music Education:

I have been putting off the purchase of a new iPad for some time–and it was time to upgrade.

That iPad arrived on Tuesday, and I have been using the iPad Pro in my daily life for the past three days.  I have been reading a lot about the iPad Pro models on all of the technology news outlets.  The general consensus is that the iPad Pro is wonderful, but it costs a lot.  This sounds like typical Apple to me.  That said, my 2008 MacBook (which I am still using) was pretty expensive ($1500 if memory serves), but it is still working for me nearly 9 years later. 

I have been integrating the iPad Pro into my life, and for the most part, what I have to say is this: it is a big iPad that does what iPads do.  I am able to do some more split screen activities as the size better allows for it, and it is wonderful for reading music.

What did Apple check off on my WWDC wishlist?

A few weeks ago, I detailed my wishlist for WWDC. Below, I have reposted it with what Apple actually announced. My assessment over whether or not a feature was announced is based on whether or not the feature was announced verbally during the keynote, not on a slide or later discovered within the OS.

MACOS

-News app to mirror the one on iOS NOPE

-improvements to pro apps (Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X) and additions to the Photos app NOPE

-splitting iTunes up into separate apps like what is on iOS: separate app for Music, TV, Podcasts, and iTunes Store NOPE

IOS

-default apps (won't happen) NOPE

-serious overhaul of iPad productivity (better file system, better home screen, drag and drop, better multitasking, more control over audio ins and outs) YESX100

TVOS

-PiP NOPE

-Ability to watch TV content from two apps at once NOPE

-ability to command with Siri without the Remote app (for example, I want to say to my phone, “hey Siri watch Game of Thrones,” and have it turn on the TV, launch the HBO app and start the most recent episode) NOPE

-ability to sync all Apple TVs in the house so that they show the same video at once (for parties...also, this won't happen) NOPE

WATCHOS

-smart contexts: ability to change Watch face, complications, and notifications based on sensitivity to time and location CHECK, Siri watchface

-better audio controls (easier to access Now Playing screen, complications to play and pause audio, ability to scroll the crown for volume and use hardware buttons for control whenever audio has recently been playing) CHECK, sort of with swipe to audio controls within Workout app

GENERAL

-Siri improvements (more reliable, faster, more open to third party apps, better integration with tvOS, local dictation and basic commands CHECK

-AirPods with always listening Siri NOPE

-improvements to iCloud Drive (shared folders, files, and URLs) CHECK definitely to shared files, but not sure about others

Here are some of my favorite features that reddit users replied with:

-Multiple iOS user logins NOPE

-Hey Siri on Mac NOPE

-custom watch faces NOPE

-open CarPlay up to more developers (pasrticular third party maps apps and messenging apps) NOPE

-iOS dark mode NOPE

-Workflow integration NOPE

-Open up NFC to third party apps CHECK

-Apple Pay your friends and family over iMessage CHECK

-Apple Music continuity NOPE