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iPod on the iPad is iBad

August 23rd, 2011 · 1 Comment · Apple, Music, Software

I love my iPad, I really do. And I love music. For enjoying music while sitting on my ass, I thought it would be the perfect gadget to tune and tweak playlists.

But I guess we’re all just supposed to use “Smart” playlists now, because what Apple provides on the iPad for listening to music is poor excuse for what is supposed to be a great media device.

Let’s start with the name of the music player app on the iPad: “iPod”.

Satan’s little helperThis name is a complete semantic shit sandwich, and Apple should be better than that. Calling your email application “Mail” is a Google nightmare, yes, but naming a piece of software on one device after a different hardware device is a trip down the rabbit hole. Try searching for support information for the iPod app on iPad, I dare you.

But let’s look at where the iPad falls completely flat: making and editing playlists.

Let’s start with a new playlist. I’ll add a playlist called “Example”, by tapping the plus icon at the bottom left corner. This will open up the song list to add songs, shown below.

Songs view for adding songs to a playlist

Tapping on the plus icon will add the song to the playlist. Or actually clicking anywhere on the song line will add the song as well. The first thing that would be really useful here is a way to preview the song, but we’re out of luck. There’s no way to hear a song while you are adding songs to a playlist.

When you do tap a song, the title will turn grey to indicate the song has been added. Here I’ve added “Above the Treetops.”

Adding a song to the playlist grays it out for a brief period.

Ordinarily an item that is grayed out should now be inactive, but not here. Feel free to tap on the song several times, and duplicates will be added to the playlist. While I can see some people wanting to add repeats of a song to a playlist, it would be nice to control this. Again, we’re out of luck on that. You can always add repeats, and you won’t have any indication you are doing so. The grayed out effect could be useful to show a song is in the playlist at least once, but that effect only lasts until you hit “Done”.

When you add more songs later, nothing will be grayed out, so this indication is only temporarily helpful. Here I’ve gone back to add more songs, and it looks like when we just started.

No indication I’ve already added some of these songs. Thanks!

So don’t expect the software to keep track of things for you. Maybe you can open up another app and write down what songs you’ve added. Or something.

Moving on from the problem of duplicate tracks, how about we take the simple case of adding a track where I know the title of the song. We will try to add “You Found Me” to our playlist.

You can tap on that “Search” field all you want. It’s not going to help you. Searching isn’t supported while adding songs to a playlist. The search entry box is just up in the right corner as a tease, with no indication that it’s disabled.

No searching for you!

So how do I find this song? I will just have to scroll through my entire frickin’ music library. Suddenly I feel like I am playing some brain-damaged Wii game.

There’s absolutely no alternative way to sort the songs list either. You can’t sort or reverse the sort on any of the displayed columns. You are going to get alphabetical order, and you are going to like it. Let the scrolling swiping begin!

After all this rubbing of my iPad, instead of a genie coming out, I finally get to the song and add it. This isn’t going well.

That only took 18 frantic swipes.

The navigation buttons at the bottom allow you change the view from the “Songs” view to “Artists”, which looks like this:

Hope you like drilling down a lot.

This is kind of like sorting by artist, but you’ll have to drill down for each artist, one at a time. It’s a useful view for sure, but it would be nice to also be able to sort the songs by artist as well, so you could see all of them without a tap to drill down.

The “Album” view gets real pretty.

Looks nice and all, but sort of annoying to scan through looking for a title.

Again, this isn’t a bad view, but it’s quite different from a straight alphabetical list by album title. Not a problem if we could sort the songs view, but we can’t. None of these views have any flexibility.

The “Sources” button allows you to select a subset of your library based on another playlist. That sounds pretty useful. We can use it to filter the songs view to songs in the “Purchased” playlist.

Why do I have to select this twice?

The first time I select this, nothing happens. I have to select it twice. On the second tap, the list of songs is filtered. Except this time they are in an arbitrary order (based on the current ordering of that playlist), so it’s basically a random frickin’ heap of songs that I can only manually scroll through. This is a user interface toilet. I have this beautiful touch screen at my disposal, and my interaction it limited to scrolling up and down, and searching by hand.

Here’s where the real fun starts. I’ve been lazy and just added the first five songs in the list to my playlist.

Let’s add these five…

When I tap done, I’m taking back to the “Edit” screen, which confirms that I have indeed added five songs to this playlist.

Wait for it…

When I click done, the playlist now shows this.

Hey, what the frick is going on? Where’d my tracks go?

That’s right, a random number of tracks have disappeared from the playlist. I’m not the only person who is dealing with this issue.

So imagine you patiently grapple with all these problems and actually manage to make a playlist that has all the songs you want. Imagine you spent about forty minutes on such a task. You better be 100% sure that iTunes on your Mac has “Manually manage music and videos” enabled.

Manually manage music and videos is vital!

Because if you don’t have this turned on, even if you’ve turned off syncing on music, like I did with the option below, you’ll be in for a big surprise.

Music syncing is disabled, but that won’t stop iTunes…

Even with music sync turned off for the iPad, iTunes will just delete any playlists that were created on the device. Thanks, iTunes! Thanks, iPod for iPad!

I’ll grant that these issues may be caused by some subtle corruption in the music library that makes the app act weird. But that’s not my problem. And clearly, it happens to other people too. So either the app needs to recognize weird issues and fix them, or let me know, or something. Instead, it behaves abominably and loses data. Unacceptable.

After all these headaches, I’ve given up on it.

I found PlayMyQ HD to be a workable solution, if only for the basic feature of allowing me to remove a song from a playlist (which the app calls “queues”) while I am listening to it. With two taps, a song can be removed from a queue, and it gently fades it out and starts the next song. This allows me to tailor a queue by dumping a bunch of possible songs into it, and then culling while I listen. It could only be made better by allowing me to preview a song before adding it to the queue. And it also has the very obvious option of preventing duplicate song additions (which can be toggled), unlike the iPod app, which will gleefully allow you add the same song 15 times, without any indication you’re doing so.

The way PlayMyQ HD handles saved queues is a little clunky, in that saved queues are copied to the “active queue” and you have to remember to save it back. It also will crash if you remove the last song from a queue. Also the shuffle feature will duplicate the first track over an existing track if you use it when no song is playing. I’ve reported both those bugs, and within a few hours the developer has said these issues will be fixed in a future release.

Still, even with those rough edges, it’s a pleasure to deal with versus the iPod app. I’m embarrassed for Apple for shipping that turd. Apple applications for music should really be flagship products, and this one feels like a complete afterthought.

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