Apple is making big changes to the social features for Apple Music in iOS 11 and it seems pretty sweet.
Apple has tried and failed multiple times to generate a usable social feature for Apple Music. First, it started with iTunes Ping, which was supposed to be a way for us to tell each other about music we're listening to by "pinging" them with suggestions. Then, Apple launched Connect for Apple Music, which allows users to connect with artists they like and fans of the same music. It acts more like a feed for subscribers to follow and like. It's ... fine. I actually turned Apple Music Connect off a few weeks after it launched. It just didn't interest me.
When iOS 11 launches, Apple will have an entirely new social feature that, I think, finally hits the mark on what so many of us love about sharing music. Apple finally got it right.
It's just there
When you get started with the social feature in Apple Music, you'll be offered suggestions for people you can follow based on your contacts. Select the friends for whom you want to keep track of their musical activities. You can then see what they're listening to, right in the For You tab of Apple Music. It's not a messy feed with a bunch of comments and hearts. It's just the most recent playlist or album that friends you are following have been listening to.
I love this feature because it gives me the opportunity to see what kind of music my friends listen to. It's not unlike how Spotify shows you what your friends are listening to. I never knew that Rene listens to classic rock, or that Serenity has such a wide-ranging taste in music. Seeing what they're listening to gives me a window into their lives a little. I feel closer to them already.
The fact that what your friends are listening to is folded into the For You section of Apple Music makes it feel like a natural extension of the whole music listening experience. It doesn't stand out or seem like some tacked on addition to the user interface. It's just there, ready for you to discover new music if you want.
You can show off your musical expertise
Creating a playlist is now more important than ever. You can select which playlists your followers can see when they visit your profile page. If you really want to share your expertise in 20th century Neoclassisim, or how deep your knowledge of Krautrock is, make sure to set up some sweet playlists that your friends can see, and hopefully listen to and become experts in themselves. Then, you'll have so much more to talk about at parties.
To me, a playlist is like a mix tape. It comes from the heart. It's crafted and honed to be something you're proud of. It's not just a dumping ground for a bunch of songs from the same band, unless that's what you're going for with a particular playlist.
So, I look forward to sharing my mix tapes with others. Wondering why I thought Venom and Anthrax fit in with my playlist of the Big Four? Listen to my sweet playlist and you'll understand where I'm coming from.
Sharing is caring
The new social features for Apple Music in iOS 11 fit more in line with how I think of sharing music. It's not something you try to force on people the way Ping did —Here, listen to this record even though you've never expressed interest in the genre before. It doesn't ask you to act like a teenager, liking and commenting on posts by your favorite artists the way Apple Music Connect does (No offense Connect, you're just not my style, I'm not big on liking, commenting, and keeping up on feeds).
It's a way for you to share what you're listening to and allowing others to investigate for themselves whether they want to listen to it, too.
It's also a way to discover similar tastes you have with friends. When you select an album or playlist, you can see if any of your friends have listened to it. You can strike up a great conversation at the next party about whether you like Lorde's latest album.
I think I'll stick with it
Hopefully, Apple won't remove the new social features in Apple Music by the time iOS 11 launches publicly. I look forward to connecting and following my friends' music listening activities. I love sharing new music that I discover in Apple Music and really enjoy the possibility of doing it on a broader scale.