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iPhone Mobile Phone More difficult than it should be Music

The worst thing about an iPhone

Our household switched from Android to iPhone about six months ago. Some things were easy, others a little less so.

The easy things include contacts, email and calendar. The stock iPhone apps support industry standards so it was trivial to have them access my Postfix mail server and NextCloud server. On Android you need separate apps (email) or “sync adaptors” (contacts and calendar) to achieve this.

Generic file sharing and/or photo sharing is more difficult as SyncThing is not available for iPhone. And even if it was it would not work well as each app is its own walled environment.

But all of these can be worked around and once the work around developed you are done.

The biggest annoyance for me is the Music app.

What’s the issue with music apps?

To be fair, the iPhone music app is no worse than the stock AOSP Android music app: Neither of them supports random play of albums within a genre. This is a big deal if you like classical music or other genres like Broadway musicals or opera where there are multiple tracks that should be played in order.

The difference is that in the Android environment it is easier to deal with this. Android has a media database managed by the OS that any app can connect to and with appropriate permissions any app can read/play any media on the phone. So you just plop your music anyplace on the phone and get or write a music app that plays thing the way you want.

Why iPhone Music sucks

  • It is not easy to synchronize gigabytes of files between a laptop and the phone without using iTunes. So you are stuck putting you music into the stock Music app.
  • Other apps cannot get directly at that music. It appears that they can only setup playlists for the Music app to use.
  • You can get apps like Smart Shuffle that will set up a playlist with random albums within a genre. And this is a life saver for me.
  • If/when the OS decides to move a not recently used app from memory it then defaults to using Music for playing even if the last music app you used was something else.
  • If/when the OS decides to move Music out of RAM, Music forgets what it was doing and will default on next start to random play of all of your music on a track by track basis.

So here is how it works out:

  • You are in your car, Smart Shuffle is setup to play classical music performances. Everything, music wise, is fine.
  • You stop at a store. Pull up your shopping list app. Maybe check your email. Maybe check a website for product pricing, etc.
  • The OS has now decided to remove some stuff from RAM, apparently including Smart Shuffle.
  • You get back in your car and music automatically starts playing. Except that now it is the Music app, not the last used music playing app like Smart Shuffle.
  • And Music is randomly bouncing, on a track to track basis, between a movement of a classical piece, a song from a musical, a rock song, etc.
  • You are frustrated but you can’t do anything about it until you can pull your car over and fiddle with your phone.

Apple iOS should remember the last used app for playing music and use it regardless if it has been moved out of RAM or not.

Second, the Music app should remember what the heck it was doing last time. I do use the Music app if I want to listen to a genre where random tracks makes sense (generally pop, big band, jazz, etc.). If the OS decides not to start the most recently used music app at least Music should pick up from where it was last used, not decide to randomly play the entire library.