While iTunes is no longer the only app available that allows you to manage your music and other media, this pioneer product in music management is still the old standby when it comes to the iPhone music experience. Although the traditional approach of owning your music is still widespread, there are many benefits to simply streaming your music as well. This article looks at the various approaches, and recommends the best apps on the market for streaming music.
It’s An iTunes World
In 2001, Apple Inc. introduced the world to iTunes and forever changed the way we listen to, manage and purchase music. MP3 technology existed previously, but Apple’s foray into the digital music management world was what ultimately prompted many to put down their CDs and enter the digital domain. iTunes is an application that plays and stores media, broadcasts online radio or podcasts and manages mobile device content via iOS or Microsoft Windows operating systems. Users can purchase content to add to their iTunes library via the iTunes Store, such as music, podcasts, videos, movies, television programs or even ringtones. Apple device users can access their iTunes library via the Music app that comes preloaded on all Apple devices. ITunes syncs with your iPhone to make all iTunes content accessible on your device … or at least as much as your device memory can handle.
Assuming you already have an iTunes account that contains a personal content library, the next step in maximizing your mobile music experience with the iPhone is syncing your account to your device. If you do not have an iTunes account already set up on a desktop or laptop you can also download content directly onto your mobile device via the iTunes Store app which also comes preloaded on all Apple devices.
To sync your iPhone with your iTunes, simply connect your phone to a computer that stores your iTunes library. Once inside iTunes click “iPhone” in the sidebar and then select which specific content you want synced to your iPhone. Users have the option to only sync certain types of media (such as syncing music but no video) or to only select certain files that are the same media file type (such as adding a single song as opposed to your entire music library). Then select “Apply.” Users also have the option to automatically have devices sync to iTunes every time a phone is connected.
Using The iPhone Music App
Once your phone is synced and is ready to use for music listening, there are several ways to access your tunes. To browse through your music library you can either browse by song, artist, album, genre, playlist, audiobooks or podcasts.
The simplest way to hear a song is to search for it by dragging down the screen in any view and revealing the search bar. Tip: you can even search for and play songs outside of the Music app, by touching the center of the Home screen and dragging down to reveal the Spotlight Search bar, or by asking Siri to play it.
Once a song is playing a screen pops up that gives you the option to pause, resume playback, control volume, restart a song, skip to the next song or to the previous song, or rewind/fast forward.
You can view and can control the music even when the iPhone is locked. Music playing controls actually appear on screen when the lock screen is activated and disappear after a command is performed. This convenient feature allows users to use the phone as a MP3 player without having to “wake up” the entire device.
Browsing through albums is an eye catching experiencing thanks to Cover Flow. Simply hold the phone sideways to browse music by swiping left or right through album artwork. To view individual tracks on a particular album tap the “i” icon at the top of the screen.
Thinking Outside iTunes
As aesthetically pleasing and easy to use as it is, listening to your iTunes library via Apple’s Music app isn’t the only way to enjoy music on an iPhone. There are several music streaming apps offered today, both free and premium services, that essentially eliminate the need for owning music in a library. (For a comparison of owning versus streaming music, click here.) Streaming music uses a cell phone’s data connection to play or “stream” music from a third party server … much like YouTube does with videos. Free music streaming apps typically offer their services free of charge by selling advertising. Most streaming music apps also offer a premium pay version of their app that eliminates the banner ads and commercials. The most popular streaming music apps for the iPhone are Pandora, Spotify and Songza.
One of the first and probably best known streaming music apps is Pandora. Pandora is best known for its interface that prompts uses to select either a “Thumbs up” or “Thumbs down” to indicate if they like a song or not.
Through the use of their proprietary algorithm, Pandora customizes the upcoming music selection based on user feedback. How active a user is with this feature determines how customized a particular station will be. Importantly, Pandora does not allow a user to search and listen to a specific song, but a user can name a song to launch a customized station that will play songs similar to the one identified—and it’s likely that that particular song will play at some point on that station.
Spotify offers a similar customizable feature with their streaming radio, but stands out from Pandora in its ability to access specific tracks by name. Whereas Pandora searches for similar sounds/styles to a song you are requesting, Spotify plays the exact song.
Songza curates music based on factors such as date and time. It also partners with celebrities to offer playlists of their choosing for users to access. This app has grown so widely popular that Google purchased it in 2014.
Apple has dipped its hand into the streaming music pool as well with iTunes Radio. Similar to Pandora, iTunes radio curates stations based on listeners’ preferences. A unique feature of this app is that it can be used cross platform with other Apple devices. In other words, you stop playing a station on your iPad and pick up right where you left off later on your iPhone.
Wrapping It Up
Just as Apple helped fuel a music revolution with the release of iTunes more than 10 years ago, streaming music may indeed be the next music frontier busting through the front door. With more and more music streaming options for iPhone users being developed every day, the way in which we use these remarkable devices to consume music continues to evolve as well. Still, even amongst this streaming evolution iTunes reigns supreme as the number one way iPhone users listen to music via the iPhone. As long as iTunes continues to offer users the ability to listen to music data free, it will have a leg up on streaming services that rely on data connectivity for use.