Music on watchOS 5 is a rare misfire for Apple's designers

Posted:
in Apple Watch
The Apple Watch is gorgeous, but you're not alone in being confused about how to play music on it. Apple has made it all inconsistent, contradictory and impossible to know at a glance where your music is coming from. AppleInsider has complaints -- and a wish list of solutions.




We started looking into playing music on Apple Watch because we knew you could do it yet we found it confusing. The original thought was that it was just us, that once we got how it worked, we'd understand it. We really, really did not expect to find that the whole experience looks like it was designed by multiple committees, all more interested in something else.

We're not planning on just bleating about the complexity, though. Here's what we are certain Apple should and what we presume easily could do to alleviate much of the confusion.

Dear Apple

Please change the Apple Watch Control Center's speaker icon from AirPlay to, well, a speaker. And change the name of the list that appears from AirPlay to Bluetooth. We're not asking you to change the list, as much as we'd like to be able to AirPlay from the Watch, our complaint is only that you make it look as if we can when we truly cannot.

That's 'AirPlay' pronounced 'Bluetooth'
That's 'AirPlay' pronounced 'Bluetooth'


While we're asking for interface changes, we would really appreciate it if screens on the Apple Watch would work the same way regardless of how you get to them. So whether it's via the Control Center, via Settings or via the Music app, please reword and rework the Bluetooth settings screen.

If someone has gone to this screen from anywhere, they either going to change between existing speakers or to add a new one. Right now you always give them a list of currently connected devices, we just want you to also always include a Connect a Device button. Even if it has to be one you get to with a Force Touch, so long as it's consistent.

Similarly, the tapping on the status icon at the top of the Watch face when you're playing music should take us to a single place, not one of two depending on where the music is coming from. Since you can't tell from the icon whether music is playing from your Watch or your iPhone, there's no way to know if tapping it will take you to the play/pause screen or to a Now Playing list of what's on all your devices.

Speaking of which, it would be really good if there could be just one Now Playing list instead of two.

Doubtlessly all of this is somehow more complicated to do than we imagine or it would've been already. Yet, it does seem to be chiefly a matter of rewording screens and rerouting how people get to them.

Left: asking Siri to play a song. Right: tapping to choose the same song. Which is playing on the Watch and which is streaming from Apple Music?
Left: asking Siri to play a song. Right: tapping to choose the same song. Which is playing on the Watch and which is streaming from Apple Music?


However, there is one more feature that is presumably more involved yet fixing it would be like giving us an aspirin. It's Siri. Please just make it so that Siri checks what music is physically on your Apple Watch before it streams those tracks from Apple Music instead.

Now, there is a logic in Apple's position here in that if you can ask Siri to play something and it can respond, then you've got an internet connection. So you can use that same internet connection to stream Apple Music. Yes, but there's a difference between squirting the words "Hey, Siri, play Mahler's Fifth" to Apple's servers and then those servers streaming the symphony on repeat.

More than saving a data plan, though, this would simply clarify what's going on. If you have chosen to put music onto your Apple Watch, it's because you want to listen to it. Let the decision to instead stream from Apple Music be your choice. Let us have the same result whether we ask Siri to play Bix Beiderbecke or we tap through the Music app to choose our jazz playlist.

That said

Now that we've found where the confusion is ours and where it is really Apple's, though, we have also found why it's worth doing all this. You know that being able to leave your desk occasionally and work somewhere else is good for you. Previously, we've always taken our iPhones with us and so have remained just as much in contact with the world as ever.

However, now we've loaded up our Apple Watches with music, we can leave the phone behind. Go work somewhere else, pop AirPods in your ears and listen to music straight from your Watch.

It is a gorgeous experience -- and that's what we're used to from Apple.



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Soli

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    And add good support for audio books. :)
    NumNutsstanhope
  • Reply 2 of 19
     :o I thought that control centre ‘speaker’ image above was something to do with walkie talkie! Same yellow colour and sort of looks like one! (In case relevant, I’m a new Apple Watch owner...only since Christmas.)
    edited January 25
  • Reply 3 of 19
    stukestuke Posts: 80member
    As usual, you guys nailed it.  Need a postage stamp to send this to Tim Cook at Apple?  I'll spring for it because he doesn't listen to ordinary faithful customers like me through Feedback!
    stanhopeburnside
  • Reply 4 of 19
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 580member
    NumNuts said:
     :o I thought that control centre ‘speaker’ image above was something to do with walkie talkie! Same yellow colour and sort of looks like one! (In case relevant, I’m a new Apple Watch owner...only since Christmas.)
    The yellow icon is for walkie talkie. The one that has an orange square around it is "Airplay".
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 19
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 580member
    So here is a question: why is there a function to play music through your Watch from your iPhone? If the iPhone is near enough to connect to the Watch, it is near enough to connect to the AirPods, why go through the Watch?
    Just putting this out there, but can Music on Apple Watch just be the same as on the iPhone (play stored and streamed, with a menu item for "downloaded music" for those that do not wish to use their data allowance); and a separate Music Remote app to control music and speakers, including AirPods, on the iPhone?
    [I assume the Watch channels streamed music through the iPhone so that it can use Bluetooth instead of WiFi. But if that is the case, it would have been less confusing if the Watch were restricted to play stored music only, and forced users to use the Music Remote to control the iPhone to stream]. 
    Presumable, the iPhone can send information about what is being played to the Watch or the Cloud so that, if you want to continue to listen to the same music on the Watch after you move away from the iPhone, you can (Netflix manages to do this with movies, I can stop watching on the TV and seamlessly continue on my iPad).
    Just separate Music and speakers on Watch, from remotely controlling music and speakers on the iPhone.

    edited January 25 watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 19
    The answer here is obviously so simple it's amazing AppleInsider hasn't figured it out.

    All they have to do is make the next Apple Watch 17 percent thinner and 8 percent lighter. That fixes all the problems every time!
    SpamSandwichburnside
  • Reply 7 of 19
    And please fix the Watch app so I can select a playlist nested more than one folder deep to transfer to my watch.  I have several dozen playlists carefully filed away in folders and subfolders, but only those filed in the top-level folders are available to transfer to my watch.  When I pick one of the second-level folders in the app it shows no contents.  This bug appeared with the launch of iOS 11 / WatchOS 4, and I've complained about it / contacted support / filed bug reports after every minor release since that hasn't fixed it.
    netmage
  • Reply 8 of 19
    netmagenetmage Posts: 256member
    The main problem with your title is Music on iOS is also a misfire. I'd be happy if they added sort options for different selections that worked properly over USB - no one wants to hear an Artist's tracks in alphabetical order.
    trumptman
  • Reply 9 of 19
    netmage said:
    The main problem with your title is Music on iOS is also a misfire. I'd be happy if they added sort options for different selections that worked properly over USB - no one wants to hear an Artist's tracks in alphabetical order.
    From what I've read that isn't Apple, that's the car's head unit that is merely using the iPod music controls. The car head unit can be programmed to poll the iPhone (iPod) differently, but generally they suck and don't.
  • Reply 10 of 19
    I want the Amazon Music App on my Apple Watch. Been bugging Amazon about that....maybe I can get some help bugging Amazon from you all here. ;D
    stanhope
  • Reply 11 of 19
    Every app that plays audio on your phone needs its own custom app on your watch. Those custom apps all work differently. Some let you adjust the volume using the wheel and some do not. Apple should have standardized the audio playing experience on the Apple Watch and insisted that app developers use it.
  • Reply 12 of 19
    bonobobbonobob Posts: 153member
    sflagel said:
    So here is a question: why is there a function to play music through your Watch from your iPhone? If the iPhone is near enough to connect to the Watch, it is near enough to connect to the AirPods, why go through the Watch?

     That’s not what happens. When you ask Siri  on the watch to play some music, the music will be played directly from the iPhone.  Your watch is only controlling the music, not playing it.  Test this for yourself by starting some music from the watch, and then putting the watch in airplane mode. The music will keep playing. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 19
    Apple has some work to do on this to make it easier, 100% agree. One consistant way that works great for me to play music stored on the Watch without using cellular data is with playlists. It works every time, assuming all the songs in the playlist have been transferred to the Watch. For the gym or  jogging when I leave my phone at home, I use my stored playlists on the Watch for uninterrupted music. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 19
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 580member
    bonobob said:
    sflagel said:
    So here is a question: why is there a function to play music through your Watch from your iPhone? If the iPhone is near enough to connect to the Watch, it is near enough to connect to the AirPods, why go through the Watch?

     That’s not what happens. When you ask Siri  on the watch to play some music, the music will be played directly from the iPhone.  Your watch is only controlling the music, not playing it.  Test this for yourself by starting some music from the watch, and then putting the watch in airplane mode. The music will keep playing. 
    That is not what is happening with me. I just tried it. I have the phone sitting on my desk and my Watch on the wrist. I chose the Music App on the Watch, chose Library on the Watch and a song that I knew was not downloaded neither on my Watch nor on my iPhone and started playing. The music started playing on my AirPods.

    I am 100% certain that the music streamed through my iPhone, onto my Watch, and from my Watch into my AirPods. This is why:
    1) in the Now Playing screens, the Watch showed the song that I chose and that was playing; the iPhone still showed the song I played on it this morning coming to work.
    2) To make sure the music really was indeed playing through the Watch to the AirPods and not directly from the iPhone, I turned on Airplane mode only on the Watch, and the music stopped immediately.  If the music had been streaming directly from the iPhone, it would have kept going, at least until the song ended
    3) I turned only the iPhone onto Airplane mode, and left the Watch connected, to make sure the Watch was not streaming directly via 4G, and the music also stopped.

    This means that, like old Christmas lights, if you take out either the iPhone or the Watch, the music stops. Ergo, the music flows through both of them onto the AirPods. Crazy, if you ask me. 

    I think Music on the Watch would have been more intuitive if 

    - the Watch would always play directly either via 4G, WiFi, or downloaded music. This is what it does when the iPhone is not in range, so just do this all the time.
    - the User can chose a "Downloaded Music only" in the Watch Music App (just like we can on the iPhone), if they don't want to use data allowance or save battery
    - If the User is in range of an iPhone, he can chose a "Remote "Music" App that plays from the iPhone (similar to the embedded "play from iPhone" function in the Music App)

    This is not too much to ask, Apple asks us to chose between playing music on the Watch or the iPhone all the time anyway (for example to play on AirPlay speakers). 

    It is not perfect but at least it mirrors the iPhone (including its problems, such as not knowing whether a song is streaming or playing from Downloads).
     
    edited January 25
  • Reply 15 of 19
    It is definitely confusing. I am on the trial period on Apple Music, but not going to continue. When they fix the UI I would like them to integrate the Remote (macOS iTunes control) feature in Apple Music similar as iPhone. There is a bit more lag in actions, but it seems counterintuitive to have a separate app. 



  • Reply 16 of 19
    It is a freaking annoying mess, very un-Apple.  JUST FIX IT, APPLE!

    Also, allow me to play any audio I want on my watch speaker!  It is my choice if I kill my battery.  
    anantksundaram
  • Reply 17 of 19
    This is the main reason why I play only stored music on my AW. Using it as a vehicle for the music on the phone is a crappy experience, interface-wise. 

    The recent news item on AI about the local storage for music on AW having gone up to (at least) 5GB is great news. However, it’s a pain to get all the music into AW in the first place — once past that hump, it’s a fine experience. 
  • Reply 18 of 19
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,911member
    Rare? Ha ha ha. Apple design has been in frequent misfire mode since 2013 when iOS 7 was unleashed upon us. That’s what began a lot of the bugs I’m still suffering today. The unnecessary visual change and feature creation took precedence over the functional design. It hasn’t yet corrected in all that time. 
  • Reply 19 of 19
    on top of everyone else's complaints, it'd be nice if apple would fix the bug wherein watchos5 fails to update play counts on tracks that were loaded on it from a phone playlist (ie: not using apple music). worked in watchos4 and broke in watchos5.
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