Alternatives to Apple’s iOS Music app
If you enjoy listening to music on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, but you don’t use Apple Music, you might find the new Music app to be overkill. It has a lot of features that don’t add much to your listening experience and just get in the way. With a cluttered interface, Apple’s Music app has lost its primary purpose: the ability to let you choose the music you want to listen to quickly and easily.
Fortunately, there are many alternatives. Most of these apps try to simplify the experience of playing songs on your iOS device, or offer more intuitive ways to control your listening sessions.
While Apple doesn’t allow you to easily replace its bundled apps – for example, even if you have another browser installed on an iOS device, Safari opens when you tap a link – there are no such limits with music player apps. They can all access the music you sync to iTunes and the music you download to your device from iCloud or the iTunes Store. So any music player app can access your library, and you can control playback from your iOS device’s lock screen, or even your Apple Watch.
Here is an overview of four apps that you can use to play music on your iOS device.
The $ 1 Ecoute is a minimalist player that lets you browse your music library by viewing its illustrations. It has the essential controls: play music in order, shuffle it, repeat it, and manage a play queue. But it also has a few extras, like a Shuffle Albums feature, which many people will find useful; I especially like it for listening to classical music.
Listen offers AirPlay streaming and even lets you play podcasts. It supports AirPlay, offers night mode, and lets you sort music by many criteria.
And Ecoute is already updated to take advantage of 3D Touch, available on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus (it’s the only music player I’ve found so far). When you press hard on its icon, you get shortcuts to search your library, shuffle all, or play all your music. Just for the 3D Touch Shuffle All function, this application has gained a place on my iPhone.
The $ 2 Cesium is a minimalist music player, similar to what the iOS Music app was before Apple added all the extra menus and buttons. It has a whole series of small features that greatly improve music playback. You can control it using gestures, you can choose a number of sorting options (including “Classic Mode”, which sorts classical music by names of composers instead of artists), and you can use it to play audiobooks.
With Cesium, you can mix by album, manage your play queue, view your listening history, and even choose custom colors for the app theme, or use a night mode. I wish Cesium had better documentation and support, rather than just a page on Reddit and a Twitter account for the latter; understanding how to use gestures takes some time. But Cesium is a nifty app, and once you get the hang of it, it makes Apple’s app look bloated.
If you have a lot of music on your iOS device, if you’re carrying a 128GB iPhone, for example, you might find it difficult to choose what to listen to. The $ 3 Picky kicks in to let you filter your library to choose exactly the music you want to listen to. Tap Filter and, in the different views — Artists, Albums, Songs, or Playlists — and you can choose to show only entries with more than a certain number of tracks. For example, let’s say for today’s playlist you only want to hear your rock, electronic, and alternative songs. Sort by genres in Picky, and the rest of your music stays hidden.
This lets you choose when you want to listen to singles or occasional tracks that are outliers in your library. It may take some getting used to, but when you do, you realize how much easier it is to choose what to listen to if you have an eclectic music collection.
In addition to these filtering features, Picky is a clean and minimalist player, which offers the usual features: shuffle, repeat, play queue, etc.
While it’s not the most attractive music player out there, Musixmatch (which is free, but offers in-app purchases for some features) is ideal if you like to sing along to your favorite songs. Musixmatch has a database of over 7 million songs in 38 languages, and while it can’t find lyrics for everything in my library, it does for most songs.
You can also use Musixmatch to identify songs you hear around you and display their lyrics. Musixmatch has an Apple Watch app, which can control the iPhone app, display lyrics, and listen to music to identify songs. There is also a Notification Center widget, if you want to be able to see the lyrics on your iOS device’s lock screen.
There are plenty of other music player apps available for iOS, but these four offer a streamlined approach to choosing and playing music, compared to Apple’s original Music app. If you listen to a lot of music on your iOS device, give it a try.