The Irony of Apple Music
Spotify makes bold claims as the one streaming service that is available on pretty much anything. Computers, tablets, phones, consoles, streaming sticks, smart speakers, and even smart TVs. Spotify is not just available on most modern devices, but they are linked together through a feature called Spotify Connect.
Spotify Connect has two functions. The most surface-level function is to provide easy switching of playback/output audio between two Spotify devices. In consequence, it also means you can control the current output device using any other Spotify device.
The secondary function? To monitor and keep Spotify accounts locked to one user and that one user only. Yes, Spotify devices are always communicating with the Internet. Spotify’s magic is in the online component; going offline prevents you from accessing music on demand. Also, all Spotify devices set to Offline Mode must go back online within 30 days or else the music is rendered unplayable.
And this sole feature, Spotify Connect, keeps the music moving undisturbed from one device to another, from your phone to your smart speaker, from your phone to your PS5, the possiblities are endless.
It sounds quite… pointless. Why would anyone have the need to really switch devices every day? Why not just use one device for all your music?
This is my ordinary life. See, I use Spotify Connect every single day at least 20 times a day. When you’re going to the washroom and need to switch the audio from the laptop to the phone. When you’re heading out from the office and need to switch audio from the computer to the phone. When I’m charging my phone on the other end of the room and switch over to my computer.
These are realistic scenarios that make Spotify enjoyable to use. I cannot say the same for Apple Music. In Apple Music’s current state, it appears as if each device is its own independent device that has the same access to the same Cloud Library. Thus, if you were to switch from the Mac to the iPhone, you have to play the same song again, with a different queue, and with a different shuffled list.
Oh, Spotify Connect also means your shuffle, queue, and current rotation are consistent between all devices.
The irony is, well, the reason why people buy Apple devices: the ecosystem. The Apple ecosystem has gotten more popular as of late to showcase the seamless integration from iPhone to Mac to Apple Watch to iPad to other devices like HomePod. For example, I can open up a Safari tab on my phone and get a Chrome icon on my Mac Dock allowing me to open the tab on my MacBook. My SMS messages appear on my Mac and I can see notifications on my Mac, too.
But you know what really showcases the integration within the Apple ecosystem? On your Mac, you can right click your Desktop and select “Take Photo” under “Import from iPhone”. Your Mac literally opens the camera on your iPhone for you, without you needing to grab your phone. That is Apple magic and the power of the Apple ecosystem.
It is incredibly confusing how Apple’s most popular service does not have this tight integration. Even Apple TV+ syncs playback history between devices somewhat well. Currently, Apple Music can allow it to broadcast its audio to other devices, and this list of devices is only Bluetooth-paired devices and AirPlay devices.
And all of this is relying on the host device to broadcast the music to the, say, speaker. Most devices that support Spotify Connect are independent devices, so you can use your phone for other things while the speaker streams the music independently. This leads to the limitation that Apple Music cannot control other Apple Music devices ala something like the Apple iTunes feature, Remote.
Apple Remote allowed an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to control your Mac’s iTunes Library. But that only works on the local network. With Spotify Connect, you can have a speaker across the globe and control what it is playing.
Spotify Connect is the killer feature of Spotify. It is just one more notch on its belt, including Discover Weekly, Daily Mixes, and Discover Radar. Clearly, Apple is still trying to catch up. And I’m appalled that a company priding itself on the seamless integration of its devices has not applied such a mindset to a service used so extensively in daily life.
I’ll be sticking with Spotify. The Connect is definitely a feature that is very important to me. And unfortunately, for Apple, it’s not the only feature that is keeping me on their platform. If Apple can add their own version of Connect, it may not get me to immediately switch. But it is definitely a proper step in the right direction.