While archrival Spotify is closing in on having 100 million paying subscribers around the world, Apple Music has been steadily closing the gap. For one thing, it's pre-installed on every iPhone and iPad you buy (Android users can download it separately), and Apple offers a whopping 90-day free trial.
With Apple selling well over 200 million iPhones every year, that means a river of potential new customers are flowing in all the time. But Apple Music has a few quirks. For one, its emphasis on minimalist icons instead of text labels can mean a lot of trial-and-error before you figure out what certain buttons can and can't do. Let us help you avoid some of the ensuing frustration with 5 tips and tricks for Apple Music.
Navigating your MP3s and Apple Music subscription content
If you've ever bought MP3s from Apple's iTunes Music Store, those tunes are now included in your Apple Music subscription in streamable form (and downloadable for offline listening like any other Apple Music track). Just go to the Library tab, and your past purchases are all neatly sorted for you, with album cover art for easier identification.
With your streaming subscription, you can now download that whole collection of songs by tapping on the cloud icon with the downward-facing arrow, or you can tap on the three-dot menu for a variety of other options, like sharing a link or adding to a playlist; you can also tap "Love" or "Dislike" to help Apple personalize its recommendations. If you see a song with a star next to it, that just means that it's popular among Apple Music users.
Also note that the quick-access menu at the top of the Library section can be customized by tapping on Edit in the upper right. Here you can remove specific shortcuts, add new ones and reorganize the order in which they show up.
Note that the first time you use Apple Music, the Library section will only have a playlist for your purchased MP3s. If you want to browse for others provided by the streaming service, you need to tap on the Browse tab, then Playlists.
Creating your own "stations" in Apple Music
The Playlists section puts mood-based song lists right at the top, and you can swipe left to see more, or tap "See All" to get a more compact and vertically scrolling list instead. The "Essentials" playlists are basically greatest hits collections for specific artists, curated by Apple Music's experts. But there's one other interesting playlist trick that you might not know about.
With a few taps, you can get access to a whole dynamic playlist that's based on a single song. Apple refers to this type of playlist as a "station," like on a radio. This can be really handy for exploring music that might sound like something you already know you like. Stations will include some music from that artist, but it will end up ranging to many others as you keep listening.
You can get your own stations with a series of taps. Go to your Library, tap on the album containing the song you want to create a station for, tap the song itself, tap the banner that pops up on the bottom of the screen, tap the three-dot menu, then tap Create Station.
This last tap will start playing your song, but tapping forward will now advance to the next song in the station's queue, rather than taking you to the next song on the album. If you decide that you like a song that pops up on this station, you can add it to your Library by tapping on the "+" icon in the bottom left.
Unfortunately, you can only create stations based on individual songs, whereas Spotify also lets you access this feature for specific albums or entire artist catalogs. Apple Music also doesn't have a function to add a station to your library. (The "+" button on the bottom right only adds a specific station song, rather than the station itself.)
However, if you want to revisit a station, you may be able to find it in the Recently Played section of the For You tab.
Understanding Apple Music's live radio stations
If you're yearning for the sound of a real human DJ introducing tracks, talking about music and sometimes interviewing artists in a live studio, Apple's Beats 1 may scratch that itch. The first time you open Apple Music, it will be the first station listed on the Radio tab, but it can get pushed out of sight if you listen to a lot of other stations in the app. To find it again, you have to search for it on the Search tab.
As soon as you start playing this station, it will at least go back to the first slot on the Radio tab. But again, there's no way to add the station itself to your library -- only the song that's currently playing.
Apple Music has a number of other live stations, but the Radio tab also presents you with "stations" that are actually just dynamic playlists. ("Dynamic" means that the song list may get continual curation by Apple over time, whereas its curated playlists tend to be more static. Yeah, it gets a little confusing.)
The rule of thumb is that if the station's back and forward buttons are grayed out, you're listening to a live stream. If you can go back and forward, you're listening to a curated list of songs.
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Adjusting the settings of the Apple Music app on iOS
While Android apps customarily provide their own settings menus, Apple frequently takes a different tack on iOS. In the latter operating system, you must go into the Settings app to make changes to your Apple Music settings. You can scroll down the list until you find and tap on the entry labeled just "Music," or you can search music in the search box to find it more quickly.
Here you can toggle cellular data on and off; if you toggle it off, Apple Music will wait until you have a Wi-Fi connection before streaming or downloading. You can also see how much storage space your downloaded music is taking up, toggle Optimize Storage if you're low on space or use Sound Check to normalize the audio (as in, make it so that all your tunes hit the same level of loudness).
Sound Check is not to be confused with Volume Limit, the latter of which just creates an upper boundary on how loud things can get.
If you want to tweak your bass or treble, tap EQ (a common abbreviation for "equalizer) and choose a preset that fits the kind of music you listen to. Unfortunately, you can't adjust individual EQ bands, so there's no fine-tuning of treble or bass. And you don't get any visual indicator of how the presets would be adjusting bands on their own.
In our experience, you should be able to find a preset that's good enough for most of your listening tastes. If you want to be able to fine-tune, Spotify ironically gives you direct access to a 6-band equalizer while Apple's own music streaming app does not, and Spotify has a full settings menu within its own iOS app as well.
Managing your Apple Music subscription
Apple Music defaults to a $9.99 per month subscription in the U.S. (after your trial is over), and that's for a single user. But you have other options that are just a few taps away. Tap the For You tab, then your profile picture in the upper right, then Manage Subscription. Here you can confirm your price, how often you get billed and when your next billing date is.
Below that, you can switch to a family plan for $14.99 a month, which serves up to six users; a student plan for $4.99 a month and a single-user plan where you are billed $99 once a year (which works out to $8.25 a month).
If you decide to cancel your Apple Music subscription, you will still get full access to the service until your next billing date.
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