While Apple – through Steve Jobs – has had a profound impact in the music industry and shows consistent interest in streaming music (through features like the recently announced iTunes Radio, old iTunes Match etc.), it has not focused on producing a powerful music player for its iOS ecosystem.
Don’t get me wrong. Apple has the capability to produce amazing apps like it does with GarageBand. Perhaps it’s a matter of focus. Whatever it is, the stock Music app (which was previously titled “iPod”) doesn’t really cut it when you want to move beyond just plain listening.
Most iPhone users make use of the Music app but it’s not out of true conscious choice. It is more of a convenience because finding and using a new music app that replaces the stock Music app is hard what with thousands of music players on the App Store.
Music on the iPhone is as much about the playback features as much it is about the usability factor. This is something most of the apps miss. The apps are ugly and unusable or if they are wonderfully-designed, features go lacking.
While I cannot claim that what follows is the ultimate list of best music apps for your iPhone, these apps are definitely right on top when it comes to features, usability and that intersection of technology and art.
#1: Groove: Smart Music Player
- Automatically sort your favorite music and suggest a wide variety of mixes based on your listening habits.
- When you’re in the car, use smart gestures to control volume, playback and get new mixes while keeping your eyes on the road.
- Rediscover forgotten favorites from your own music library.
- Download missing album artwork, artist photos and bios.
- Automatically organises your music in tags (pop, metal, indie, electronic, etc.).
- Search your music library and create instant mixes in just a few taps.
Top it up with the fact that Groove is free and no-ads, you get an idea of a really awesome music player for the iPhone that should replace the stock Music app.
#2: Track 8
The first thing about Track 8 is that it’s a totally attractive app built on the Metro theme of Windows Phone. Track 8 features a bunch of things that make it one of the coolest music players in the store. From the App Store description:
- Quickly find and listen to your recently played, new, and most played albums
- Sync your appearance settings via iCloud
- Search for songs at breakneck speeds
- Gesture controls to easily adjust the volume and change tracks.
- Supports AirPlay, AirPlay Mirroring, iCloud, iTunes Match, and Launch Center Pro.
Track 8 is well-known for its slick performance at a time when a brimming track list will almost stop your stock Music app from functioning correctly.
Download Track 8
Sometimes, you want to explore an alternative but not end up in a strange land that has a lot of new things. If Groove and Track 8 appeared overwhelming in design or features (or both), Ecoute should be a friendlier, easier alternative to use. Although not a glorified alternative like the previous two, Ecoute does its job fine. Also worth mentioning is the neo-skeuomorphism that looks like a merger of new and old schools of design. Large album art, controls and a really easy-to-use interface marks Ecoute as a worthy alternative to the stock Music app.
Panamp is for two kinds of music lovers: one, those that spend a lot of time on their music app trying to nail down that song they have in mind and two, those that want their music players to do all the thinking and play the favorites all too often. Panamp’s provides a bunch of interesting features to take:
- Power Search: Locate artists, tracks or albums quickly and efficiently using Power Search, and find all their related media on your device with a single swipe.
- Dynamic Queues: Browse your entire music catalogue by any method and add the tracks with a simple swipe to your queue. A seamless list of tracks is gathered, allowing you to create the perfect soundtrack on the go.
- Controls: Playback controls are on-screen throughout the app, equipped with fast and efficient gesture controls to put your entire library at your fingertips.
A full-gesture music player is usually scary to pursue but the developers behind CarTunes nailed it. If you’d want to feel like some futuristic Gen Y using a smart device to control music, CarTunes will get you as close to the feeling as possible. Here’s the bunch of gestures that are assigned specific actions:
- Full gesture control
- Tap anywhere to play & pause music
- Flick to change tracks
- Slide to change volume
- Pull down to instantly tweet
- Two-finger flick to shuffle
- Slide to seek forward and backward
- Pinch to play current song’s album or artist
It might take some time getting used to all the gestures but once you’re into it, you’ll probably love it. One thing that CarTunes isn’t is a full-fledged smart music player. Everything else is about as good as it can get with a gorgeous interface and usability.
We’d love to add to this list many other powerful music players. Let us know of your favorites in the comments!