How much for an iPhone? You decide!

A new 64 GB iPhone 8 could cost anywhere between £1,011 and £2,142 over two years, depending on your network deal and how much data you want per month.

While it’s not news that the more data you get, the more expensive it is, you might be surprised at the range of prices for the phone for any given amount of data.

For example, if you need about 8-10 GB of data a month, you could be paying anything between £1,035 for the cheapest deal (buying the phone for £699 and having two years of SIM-only connection with Three) and £1,441.75 for the most expensive (a £58 a month contract with EE).

Here, I did a graph. I’ll post links to my working soon in a spreadsheet. While this is just for the 64 GB iPhone 8, the shapes of everything are similar for the 256 GB and Plus versions.

Stuff to notice:

  • Every provider apart from Three really doesn’t want you to sign up for a lot of data. EE and O2 offer particularly expensive deals if you flag yourself as a potentially heavy data user.
  • There’s almost always a premium for paying less upfront. The contract deals (solid lines) sit well above the SIM-only + cost of phone deals (dashed lines) except in a few weird cases. On Three, this premium generally adds between 26% and 38% to the total cost over two years. There’s another particularly extreme example on Three which is the big kink in their cost curve. You can pay £79 upfront and get 100 GB data for £65 a month (total £1,639) or get the same phone and data with zero upfront and £81 a month (total £1,944). That’s a £305 charge to borrow £79 for two years – something like 190% annual interest. Seriously? If you’re paying £81 a month for your phone anyway, you’d be mad to go for that.
  • You should probably note that there are “added value” extras in some networks’ plans, and I haven’t costed that in. If you want Spotify Premium, you’ll get that thrown in with Vodafone’s Red Entertainment plans, for example, which is worth £9.99 a month.  I just got a free pack of Hotel Chocolat chocs as a random freebie with Three. Go figure.

Ultimately, it’s worth doing a few sums before grabbing any new phone deal, especially at a low upfront price.

And I’m probably going to stick with my cost-saving strategy of buying a last-gen phone outright next time I need a new one!

Who thinks like you about music?

This week might have struck you as being all about Prince, all about Beyonce, or neither. Whichever artist and whichever songs have been dominant in your mind, the chances are there’s a place somewhere in the world that agrees with you. Where is it for you?

It’s all about Purple Rain! Beyonce who? – you might enjoy life in Slovenia, El Salvador, Malta or Egypt.

When Doves Cry is clearly the best Prince song – you’re thinking like Australia (and also Belize, Brunei and Zimbabwe).

I mainly like Prince’s newest material – you’ll find friends in Vietnam.

It’s all about Beyonce! Prince who? – now you’re thinking like Russia, India and Taiwan.

I love tons of stuff from both of these people… – the UK, US, Sweden, France and Belgium think like you.

I like Beyonce, but would like to remember Prince with something quiet and contemplative – north and western Europe is with you, especially Denmark. I’m in this category too, which is why I made this mix for Chill. Scroll below it for more facts and maps than you might ever need to explore further…

Let me explain…

It’s been an emotional and unique week in music, with two huge surprises. A legendary artist died, focussing attention around the world on his life and work, creating seismic shifts in the music charts. In the middle of this, another legendary artist had a surprise album release which has also had a huge effect on sales charts.

I thought I’d take a snapshot of sales a few days after the initial impacts to see what I could learn about how events like these play out in different cultures. I picked iTunes to analyse because, at the time of writing, Beyonce’s album and most of Prince’s music were unavailable on the most popular streaming services. It’s probably thrown up more questions than answers, but that’s good because that gives me an excuse to listen to a lot more music now and crunch a lot more numbers later.

Where are people buying Prince songs?

Prince songs in iTunes top 100 Placeholder
Prince songs in iTunes top 100
Number of Prince songs in each country’s iTunes top 100 on April 26th 2016. Hover or click each country to see its name and the number of songs.

Prince’s appeal is incredibly wide, crossing cultural boundaries and arguably defining them. In Sweden and the US, about 1 in 4 songs in the iTunes top 100 are by Prince. Most of western and central Europe, North America, Oceania and pockets of every other continent with an iTunes store are buying Prince tunes again. There are some notable exceptions, including Russia and eastern Europe, India and Japan.

What are the biggest Prince songs?

Purple reign Placeholder
Purple reign
iTunes chart position for Purple Rain (hover or click to read)

There’s a clear winner overall: Purple Rain is the biggest – and, in 15 countries, the only – song people are buying to commemorate Prince. It has made the top 100 in no less than 76 countries this week, and is the biggest selling Prince song in 62 of these countries.

A few countries have other preferences. In four (including Australia), When Doves Cry comes out top. In another four (including Mexico), Kiss has sold the most. Little Red Corvette is the biggest seller in two countries, and Vietnam throws up the interesting exception of a recent Prince song (Hardrocklover, 2015) as the country’s top choice. Mozambique prefers U Make My Sun Shine, a 2001 duet with Angie Stone which didn’t chart in the UK.

Why the differences? It could be down to local music fans’ tastes or what local media have been playing. Lots of people grew up with Purple Rain as an anthem, but by no means everyone. Sometimes a very different sounding song is needed to work on a radio playlist, and some cultures are more open than others to different sounds from Prince’s wide ranging catalogue.

Where can it snow in April?

One of the most poignant Prince tribute songs, which has been picked up in a few places, is the ballad Sometimes It Snows In April. Written for the film Under The Cherry Moon in 1986, it is so intimate and on-theme about the impact of death that fans are suggesting it was Prince’s prediction of his own demise. But, as appropriate as it is for the occasion, only a few countries have seized on it at the moment, and they are closely grouped.

Some places it snows Placeholder
Some places it snows
iTunes chart position for Sometimes It Snows in April

In Denmark, this is the top Prince song, and it’s number 2 in the chart. It’s also the top Prince song in the Netherlands, and charting high in Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Finland and France. Are these places where people are a bit more open than average to slow, thoughtful introspection? Or do they just have music champions or social networks which think a bit differently from the rest of the world?

Another global phenomenon

Beyonce
Beyonce's Lemon spread
Number of songs from Beyonce’s Lemonade album in each country’s iTunes top 100, April 26th 2016

Even in a busy chart week, Beyonce’s Lemonade album has had an instant and massive impact around the world. In 37 countries, every song from this album is in the iTunes top 100, and there is at least one song in the chart in 90 countries. It’s across every continent, including every major market.

Where have Prince or Beyonce dominated?

Beyonce and Prince compared Placeholder
Beyonce and Prince compared
Prince and Beyonce songs in each country’s iTunes top 100

This comparison is a bit cheeky. Obviously it’s not a contest. But I wanted to see if the countries where Prince hadn’t sold many downloads this week were not buying into American music trends generally.

Beyonce’s new album has been doing very well in Russia, India, Taiwan and Thailand where there are no Prince songs in the top 100. It’s had some impact in Japan, where western music often struggles to cut through. (iTunes isn’t the best measure of what’s most popular in Japan, but the dominant CD market is usually even more heavily stacked towards local pop music.)

There are 16 relatively small countries with iTunes music stores where neither Prince nor Beyonce are in the top 100 at the moment. These include Venezuela, where PSY’s Gangnam Style is currently number 1, and Nepal, which is currently most enjoying David Guetta’s Euro 2016 anthem. Local chart shows must be fascinatingly random.

But on the whole, Beyonce shows that certain artists can have a massive impact across cultures even without the advance work of a publicity campaign – or at least a specific album campaign. To be fair, one song from the album, Formation, had been given a major push through February’s Superbowl half time show. So was this the song most people wanted to buy?

Which Beyonce songs have sold best?

Which Beyonce song is on top? (world) Placeholder
Which Beyonce song is on top? (world)
Top selling Beyonce song in each country (hover or click to read)

Formation is the leading song in 48 of the 90 countries where people have been buying Beyonce on iTunes. This includes all the biggest English-speaking markets like the US, UK, Ireland and Australia. The Superbowl is seen around the world and must have had an impact on creating a demand for this song in a wide range of countries from Israel to India, Sweden, Spain, Taiwan and Japan.

But there have been no official singles so far, and at the time of writing, I gather no decision has yet been made by the record label about which song to focus on first. In nearly half the countries where the album has dropped, other songs have been picked up as listeners’ favourite buys.

6 Inch, featuring The Weeknd, comes out top in 11 countries spread around the world. Hold Up is the biggest in 10 countries, Sorry in 7 countries, and Freedom and All Night are top in 5 countries each. Daddy Lessons, Don’t Hurt Yourself and Pray You Don’t Catch Me are also top picks in some countries, which means that most of the album’s 12 tracks are doing best somewhere in the world. It might be hard to pick a single.

Different cultures might have different preferences, or it might be random. Western Europe seems fairly united behind Formation, but beyond that, it’s hard to see much consensus on which song is best.

Which Beyonce song is on top? (Europe) Placeholder
Which Beyonce song is on top? (Europe)
Top selling Beyonce song in each country (hover or click to read)

So who thinks like you about music?

Are you a contemplative European like me, a musical omnivore like the Americans, very selective in your western music tastes like the Japanese, or splendidly isolated like the people of Micronesia?

BBC brings back Def II!

Well, sort of. I just thought it was fun to remember the last time they used roman numerals for a youth brand. Hasn’t it aged well! II! II!

BBC2_DEF_II_1989

Although if you wanted to modernise that classic logo, can I suggest this modest improvement?

bbcthree-proper

4 songs and artists you should hear a lot in 2016 (but might not have heard yet in the UK)

I love this time of year. Running up to Christmas, the music industry goes all out to sell big albums by big artists they’ve spent all year marketing, but right now, nobody knows what’s going to be big, and anything could happen.

So if you like these tunes, why not share them and help make them hits? And if you want more, check out www.songsfor2016.com

DNCE – Cake By The Ocean

So this is what’s happening with Joe Jonas, the Jonas Brother who isn’t Nick and all over everything everywhere. “Cake By The Ocean” has already been big in America, and spreading, but with no current plans to market the band in the UK, you might not have heard it. Fix that now! (PS – radio people – you’ll need an edit. The official one is good, and commercially available from Amazon, etc)

Dua Lipa – Be The One

She’s on most of the cool kids’ lists of ones to watch for 2016, and my favourite from all of that sort of thing, but radio (apart from Radio 1) have been weirdly reluctant to play this so far. No idea why. Brilliant song.

Mike Posner – I Took A Pill In Ibiza (SeeB remix)

So some interesting things happened to Mike Posner after “Cooler Than Me” became a viral hit. This song sort of describes some of them. He also made two albums for a record company which looks unlikely to ever release them, then got signed by a different label who let him do something completely fresh and new. There’s a beautiful acoustic original of this track, but this remix should be conquering the radio. Soon. Hopefully. (Again, you’ll need an edit, but it’s available.)

Lukas Graham – 7 Years

This song gives me the same buzz that Wiz Khalifa – See You Again did last year, and that worked out pretty well. The band is from Denmark, they’ve made a splash in the USA now, but not appeared on the UK promotional radar yet. Again, no need to wait…

More if you like these…

See www.songsfor2016.com or just subscribe and share my Spotify playlist here:

How are these things possible?

It’s the day before getting back to proper work, and impossible to concentrate on writing an actual blog post when there are so many questions floating around my head, such as…

How was this possible?

ange-hopkins

That’s Angela Cassidy, a former colleague I love and respect, smiling with Katie Hopkins. Angela tells the whole story here about how she ended up in a TV show, being grilled by “TV’s most reviled personality” (The Week) about having the audacity to be pregnant while overweight. The oddest thing is that while fast-forwarding through most of the show – TLC’s “Katie Hopkins: Fat Story 1 Year On” – I started to have a bit of sympathy for Katie Hopkins’ situation which might account for some of her manner. But then I listened to words coming out of her mouth, ones she chose to put there, and that pretty quickly evaporated. How is it possible simultaneously to want to hug and throw stuff and someone, while realising that both are highly inappropriate?

How was this possible?

abz

“Abz On The Christmas Farm” was an actual thing the BBC paid to make.

“Christmas special catching up with rapper turned smallholder Abz Love and his girlfriend Vicky Fallon, as a tumultuous year on the farm draws to a close.” – BBC listing

It sounds like Alan Partridge was temporarily in charge of commissioning. Except that he might have called it “Farm Rashers With Love.” And that would have been funnier than the show.

How was this possible?

kittens

“Meet The Kittens” is a brilliant show on CBeebies which our 1 year old son Noah loves.

cbeebies-isis

Turns out the media geniuses behind it are “Isis Productions”. Which you might think is perfectly fine and innocent until you find, from the CNN archives (last February, in fact):

cnn-isis-kittens-nutella.si_

HOW COULD WE LET THIS HAPPEN?

5 things worth binge watching on Amazon Prime

Got £79 to spend on a bit of TV and some boring parcel delivery stuff? Thought not. But how about a one-month free trial of Amazon Prime and the excitement of rushing to binge, binge, binge on the things worth watching (which aren’t available on Sky, Virgin or Netflix in the UK) and then bailing before your card gets charged? Is it worth the hassle?

Yes it is. But you need a guide. So here’s what I enjoyed over the holidays:

1. The Man In The High Castle

the-man-high-castle-main

I don’t want to spoil this for you, but if you’ve seen or heard the hype (some of it tasteless and ill judged, like the branded subway cars), I think you’ll enjoy it more if you dial your expectations down a notch or two.

Ridley Scott produces a Hugo Award-winning Philip K Dick story for TV, an intriguing fantasy about how the world would be different if Germany and Japan won the Second World War. The setting is exciting and there are some well drawn, likeable characters whose stories would be gripping to follow, even if there were not an uber-twist. There are physical glimpses of a different world, the one we know, and everyone is rushing round The Greater Nazi Reich (east USA), the Japanese Pacific States (west coast) and – Star Trek fans rejoice – an actual Neutral Zone in the middle trying to work it all out. Amazing idea, right?

Yes, and the team spent YEARS on it. Originally it was meant to be for the BBC, but that never worked out. There’s usually a reason why stuff gets offloaded from a Beeb deal. If it’s comedy, it’s usually because it’s not funny enough, and it ends up on Sky. With drama, who knows? Maybe the budget blew up? Or maybe the story just sprawled out of control, beyond the British tolerance to make 4 to 6 episodes, max.

It feels sprawly. I genuinely love the idea, but it could have been an amazing 4 episodes instead of a saggy 10, and still not done (series 2 just commissioned – don’t follow links like this if you want to AVOID SPOILERS…). To be fair, the original book is an idea rather than a neatly finished story package, and if the makers think they can hold attention and command viewing and budget for an epic world-building saga, good luck to them. I’ll keep watching, at least for a bit.

For now, I’d recommend a binge on series 1 if you like the idea, and enjoy the sport of thinking how it could all have worked out better in an alternative universe. Which is kind of the point.

SEVEN RED LINDORS OUT OF TEN.

2. Mr Robot

mrrobot2-850x560

When was the last time you saw a good drama about computers? They aren’t the most promising subjects. Too often the stories are nebulous conspiracy hacks where nice people end up changing the world with a bit of earnest typing and lots of weirdly big, slow moving progress bars (UPLOADING!!! 97%…. 98%…… AAAAAAGH!!!) Or they contrive that somehow the physical worlds of computers and people have to merge to make the story relatable, which sometimes works (The Matrix) and usually doesn’t (Tron, The Lawnmower Man, Existenz and whatever the hell that Adam Sandler thing was with the giant Pac Man last summer. Ugh.)

Anyway, this is not that. It’s good. It works because the main character’s world is full, not just of brilliant tech genius and what he chooses to do with it, but with relatable fear, insecurity and mistrust in a world obsessed with security where we trust computers with everything. The story rockets forward relentlessly, and while the characters are so, so dark on the whole, there is just enough light – or the hope of light ahead – to keep making things having to happen. And then just when you think you know what must happen, something else does.

Can’t say much about the plot without potentially spoiling it, so just trust me – it’s worth a look, and if you like how it starts, you’ll love how it goes. Christian Slater especially is an unexpected joy. The most annoying thing is that I feel I need to see it again, but I’ll be turning it off.

NINE GREEN QUALITY STREET TRIANGLES OUT OF TEN.

3. Halt And Catch Fire

Halt-and-Catch-Fire

Having said there aren’t many good stories about computers, Amazon seems to have brought in a batch load. This also happens to be my favourite 1980s period drama, full stop. (Is it too soon to use “period drama” for the 1980s? Too late.)

Not much point describing the setting, because I doubt it would grab your interest. A bunch of people want to make a new PC and argue about how to do it. See? But the people are special. There is life, love, wit and style about them. And dammit, they make what they’re doing seem pretty interesting, world-changing even. I totally enjoyed getting misled into thinking this was really the story of some famous real computer company under a different name for fictional purposes, until I realised that it really is the story of spirited battlers on a new frontier. It’s not just about somebody, it’s about everybody. That means you. If you’ve ever struggled to get an idea off the ground and into a challenging world, you will relate.

And if you like tech at all, there’s soooo much nostalgia candy, the most and best since Life On Mars, with a soundtrack that even exceeds that classic. Brilliantly chosen sets of tunes illuminate and capture the essence of each character, and it’s not your standard mish mash of 80s classics as heard every Friday on Tinpot FM’s more music variety mix. The characterisation and music are so well done, they can even unsettle and shock you by playing what you think is the wrong music for the wrong person until you realise… no, there’s a bit of story I don’t want to spoil for you.

Series 1 is better than series 2, I think, so if you’re in a big rush don’t worry about getting all the way through. But you should give this one a go.

EIGHT RETRO CARAMAC BARS OUT OF TEN.

4. Betas

betas

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. Really only dipped in because each episode was shorter than other series, and the seriousness of some of the other stuff was doing my head in.

It’s a comedy about app developers. Amazon have REALLY tried to corner the market on computer dramas. And this 2013 series was groundbreaking. But it feels like a beta for 2014’s Silicon Valley (on HBO and Sky Atlantic), which has lasted longer.

Betas is a little brasher, the characters a little bouncier and not gelling quite as well together as Silicon Valley’s, and while it’s entertaining and more compelling than I expected, one short series felt like it told the available story well enough. There’s “will they/won’t they?” romance and “will they/won’t they?” venture capital fundraising, and I think it’s enough to enjoy it while it lasts without caring too much what happens in the very, very end.

SIX STRAWBERRY CREAM ROSES OUT OF TEN.

5. Extant

extant-season-2-700x393

It’s the sci-fi drama where your most frequent question might be “how the hell did they do that?” They got an infertile astronaut pregnant on her own in a space station. They brought a robot boy to life in an endearing way. They got Oscar-winning Halle Berry to play the lead. How did they do any of that? And how did they keep making me want to watch the first series when it got all weird yet simplistic, zoom-bangy yet ploddy at the same time? How? Any of it?

I’ve seen nearly a series and a half of Extant, and it still feels like it’s just getting set up for the real story yet to come. There’s a burgeoning alien life which can manipulate human minds, and an apparently unrelated story of the development of artificial intelligence which can exceed human capacity and will probably end up being made to fight wars for us. I’m kind of getting the feeling that humanity is going to get squished in the middle of an aliens vs. robots war starting some time in series 7 if we ever get there.

So if that sounds like your sort of thing, dive in! And if you don’t want to pay Amazon for it, you don’t have to – series 2 comes to the Syfy channel from January 13th 2016. That’s where I’ll pick it up from here. Possibly. If I get time to watch in the background.

FOUR LEFTOVER MILKY WAY CELEBRATIONS OUT OF TEN.

PS – I know there are other, award winning, exclusive things on Amazon Prime. I tried Transparent but it didn’t really grab me. Mozart In The Jungle was fun for an episode, but I literally fell asleep trying to watch any more. If they ever make any more of Chris Carter’s The After, I’ll be there, but otherwise I’m happy with one “mysterious event which definitely isn’t The Rapture even though it looks a lot like The Rapture”-related drama in The Leftovers.

I think I watch too much TV. But if you have suggestions for stuff to watch, go ahead…

Also, MUST REMEMBER TO CANCEL AMAZON PRIME TRIAL TOMORROW.

First impressions of Apple Music – not great

I want to like Apple Music. While I work in radio, picking music for stations, I don’t feel we’re competing with Apple’s new service because the vast majority of radio listeners approach a pile of 30 million on-demand tunes differently from a highly crafted, linear stream which radio has worked out how to do well over nearly 100 years. We can enjoy both. And personally, I welcome anything which makes it easier for me and other radio listeners to discover great music, which we can enjoy together. So I don’t just want Apple Music to work, I want it to be great.

On first impressions, it’s not. It misses by miles, in ways I never thought a clever, creative, technically competent company could. Maybe my expectations were all wrong. Maybe it’s an early version of a work in progress. Either way, I thought I’d write up these first impressions and share what I’d be looking for in something better. If you have ideas on how to get more out of the experience, I’d love to hear them…

Best bit – Beats 1

Zane Lowe is a class act, passionate, and not just good with words – lyrical and even poetic in a way that can draw you into the most exciting and challenging musical journeys. It’s unfair to judge anyone’s first show as representative of the ongoing experience – first shows are always a bit “raaaawwwrrr! we’re on!!!”, and good shows settle down when they find what people engage with. But I’m missing what I was expecting to find by way of helps for people to engage. It’s a nice selection of cool tunes, and there are clearly some ideas and personalities coming up, but it all feels a bit shouted and broadcast across me right now. I’m amazed at how “samey” it has felt to listen in the chunks I’ve sampled it, even though my head knows that the music has been diversely sourced. I don’t think that’s because it’s programmed to sound the same, more that I’m not engaging with it yet. Early days, though. There is life and hope here.

Radio craft query: I’m wondering how often they will play tunes. If they pick a playlist and thrash it around, they’ll annoy many who want a pure, first-listen discovery service all the time. If they never repeat good tracks, they’ll never connect most of the audience, and the tracks won’t grow on people. Where will they strike the balance? Personally I thought they would do a lot more to help tracks grow with listeners, to nudge tunes back in your direction if you show signs of starting to like them, but my expectation has dropped a lot as I’ve looked around. (Update: looks like there are playlists available for at least some shows, so you can dip into the tracks, but they seem incomplete and don’t include any presenter audio, which is a shame if you want a bit of context to get into something.)

Awful but not the worst bits – the other “radio” stations

Something I expected from Apple’s raid of radio professionals would that they would start to grasp what makes music radio work and deliver satisfying curated channels. What I’ve tried so far is anything but satisfying.

I started with their “Chill” station, because I set up a radio station with that name ten years ago. It’s what comes up first in Google (in the UK, at least) when you search for the word “chill”. The team of specialist producers and myself curate it very carefully – to the point where we’ve often been accused of not adding enough tunes, and I wouldn’t deny that there’s a lot more we could play. But we’re looking for a feeling rarely found – “chilled” but not cold, sometimes cool but more often warm and uplifting. In Apple Music’s “Chill”, I found two tunes in the first 20 they offered that I’d like to play, and we’re already playing one. The rest left me cold. I know it’s all very subjective, and there may be lots of people who prefer Apple’s blend, but for me, when I reach for the fast forward button most of the time, it’s not a service which is helping me chill. Still, I’ll keep exploring, while it will feel like work.

I thought there would be no way they could mess up the “Charting Now” channel, because iTunes is the world’s biggest music retailer and surely they get what charts are, and how they vary across the world. Apparently not. A good chunk of what they’ve played me is US-centric, has never charted in the UK, and I don’t believe the 6 minute 30 expletive-ridden album track I was just served up has been a hit in the States either. (Believe me, I check charts obsessively, as I program pop radio for kids and grown ups as well as specialist stations.) It all seems a bit random.

And here’s the problem – radio is not random. It’s anything but. It’s not enough to take a list of popular or even expertly curated tunes, pop it on shuffle and call it a day. Listeners don’t find that satisfying, for many reasons. For one, hearing the same artist twice within three tunes makes a station sound stupidly repetitive and broken. This happened within minutes of my first sampling of the charting channel. Hearing lots of tunes in a similar style next to each other isn’t ideal either, and it’s totally avoidable. Music on the radio is programmed to balance smooth flow with surprising variety. Getting it right is an art and science, and something I thought Apple could easily find the skills to manage. They haven’t, at least not yet.

The truly awful interface experience

If a device or service doesn’t work perfectly, this is often forgiveable if the interface is good and responsive. I’m running Apple Music off an iPhone 5, and have no issues with speed or responsiveness in the technical sense of stuff moving when I press or swipe it. But the experience is frustrating because of a mix of connectivity and design issues.

First impression: I tried listening to the radio channels before signing up for the trial, and got unhelpful error messages which suggested they were not working. A quick Google search revealed that these went away if I subscribed, so I started my trial, and this was fixed. I get that some stuff is subscriber-only – why not write error messages which say so?

Next problem: hearing a tune and liking it, but finding it incredibly difficult to save it in any kind of list. Turns out there may be a day 1 “we’re so successful, it’s overloading!” type issue which has been preventing the automatic turning on of the “iCloud Music Library” setting required to save playlist info. Fixing this was unbelievably frustrating and random. An error message took me to the right setting, but it kept changing itself back constantly for about 100 attempts before finally working. Lots of other people found this too. I can’t believe most people would have been patient enough to keep trying, but until that bit works, Apple Music is a dumb broadcaster, not something you can have much fun with. I’m expecting that should be fixed when peak demand dies down, or whatever.

But then, the design problems come up which won’t go away until there’s a new version. Let’s say you want to save a tune to a playlist. Which button to press? There’s a “heart”, which doesn’t do this – but it does skew the rest of what you’ll get from a radio channel, and I can’t see how to unskew it, so I don’t want to press this much. There’s a box/arrow icon of the kind which suggests “put this somewhere”, but that only links to “share station” and “share song” options. There’s a cryptic three dots/three lines icon, but that just brings up the name of the next track to play. For goodness’ sake, if you’re working off a playlist, why not just list the playlist? I know that’s a premium price option for music rights, but this is a premium price service after the trial. Finally, what about these totally cryptic three dots at the bottom…

Oh, there it is – “Add to a playlist…” is an option along with (repeated) “share station” and “share song” options, and “Show in iTunes Store”, which handily gives me the option of paying more money to keep the tune. No thanks, I’ll just pop it into a playlist please, and a list of my playlists appears. Can I start a new playlist? No!!! Well, I can, it turns out, if I press the top left button to go back to the home page, then click “my music”, then “playlists”, then the incredibly tiny word “New” half way down the screen. This is crap.

I’m expecting there must be a setting somewhere so I can filter explicit tunes, or versions of tunes, but I’m not seeing it anywhere in the Music app settings. It looks like I have to go into “Parental Controls” to do some global restrictions, where I’d prefer to have the choice on the fly to sample safe or potentially sweary streams or playlists, just as I’d choose which station to listen to carefully if there are other people in the room.

Other random annoyances include “You look like you’re listening on another device” when that’s impossible (I’m not installing iTunes on Windows – yuck), not knowing what bits of the interface are buttons or text info, and rarely knowing what to expect when clicking an icon. Liking an artist in a playlist and want to hear more from them? Try clicking the artist name – it brings up five dots, so you can rate the tune (which you can’t then unrate). There’s no “more by this artist” option – you have to go search. I feel like Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man, just woken up in the future and can’t work out how to use the three freakin seashells in the toilet. Laugh if you must, but it’s embarrassing…

Lots I’ve still got to delve into

There’s a lot of content in Apple Music. I am professionally and personally motivated to put up with the “mystery meat” menus and “you just have to learn it” workflows to get into it, so I’ll look more and report back.

The curated playlists look interesting and are beautifully presented. It’s nice to see music videos in the mix, but finding them took a while, and navigating the selections looks like it will take longer.

The world music selection is something I really want to explore, because Spotify has a very poor selection of Asian music, in particular. First impression is not good – searching for (probably) the best selling J-Pop group of all time, “Morning Musume”, brings two random compilations done on a music box (really awful instrumental covers) plus a completely random of “Deep Sleep Music”. Maybe they thought I needed help to chill. I feel like I do.

This is the problem with Apple Music right now. What should be a delight is too often frustrating, and what should be carefully crafted is too often random. There’s a stack of potential, but in the words of a well known song, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

PS: Apple fans! Want a more upbeat review with pictures and everything? MTV have a great one.

Hello!

It was great to see you at that conference!  /  I see you found my business cards which I must have left on the train*

(* delete as appropriate)

Here’s a special mix I made just for you. (Or find it on YouTube)