Talking tech since 2003

If you’ve been missing from Twitter today and you haven’t kept up on the latest tech news, let me catch you up. Earlier this morning on ABC’s Good Morning America, Twitter announced that its highly-anticipated music service, Twitter #Music, was launching today with both a Web-based version and an iOS app.

And indeed, the app has launched. You can view the Web version at music.twitter.com or download the iOS version from the App Store.

Before we jump into things, I have some bad news to break to all of you iPad lovers — Twitter #Music’s iOS app is only optimized for iPhones and iPod touches at this point. That means you’ll have to run it on your tablet as a tiny app or in 2x mode. This is sad because, as you’ll see in my screenshots, the app doesn’t look bad blown up on my iPad mini (granted, it is jailbroken and running RetinaPad). Twitter could have just blown the iPhone app up to iPad size and called it a day, but oh well.

So, Twitter #Music, the social network’s take on music discovery. Was it worth the wait? After some time spent playing with it, I honestly have to say no.

google-music-gridIn terms of looks, the iOS app is beautiful. It makes use of big, colorful tiles containing artist photos and utilizes horizontal sliding pages much like you find in many Android apps. This “holo” feel leads me to believe that an Android version of #Music will indeed show up at some point, and Twitter’s approach to the design of this app is all about cross-platform consistency.

Sliding either left or right will display a new section of the app. You start out on “Popular,” which shows the artists that are trending on Twitter at the moment. The next section over is “Emerging,” which is music that isn’t as popular but is picking up steam nonetheless. “Suggested” shows you artists that you might like. How does it figure these artists out? I have absolutely no idea, but it did get a couple of them right on my part. Lastly, there is “#NowPlaying,” the section that gathers the artists and songs your tweeps are playing.

We’ve established that the app looks pretty. But looks aren’t all that matter in the app world — functionality matters, too. The user interface needs to make sense. If the user is expecting something to work a certain way and it doesn’t, the blame (IMHO) lies more on the developer than it does the user.

So here is my beef with the Twitter #Music iOS app as it was released today.

First off, Twitter #Music seems to be all about the artists. That’s great. But when I’m looking at the Popular section and I see that Psy is sitting at number one, I want to know why. How many times has his song been tweeted? Let me know! Don’t just show me a list of artists and tell me that they’re popular. Give me an idea how of exactly how popular the artist and his or her song are. Give me more.

Speaking of songs, you’re inexplicably limited to one song from the artist you tap on. If you tap on P!nk, you get “Just Give Me a Reason.” Want to listen to more songs by her? Maybe you can! Just tap on P!nk’s profile button and… oh. It’s just a recreation of her Twitter profile page inside the #Music app and nothing more. If you want more P!nk, you’ll have to open your other music app (iTunes, Spotify, etc.).

Playing music in the app is just weird. You tap on an artist and then tap the large play icon to start playing a track. You’ll then see a spinning record at the bottom of the screen. Naturally, you might think tapping this record would pause the track, but no. Tapping the record actually pulls up a play menu with back, pause and forward buttons. But, interestingly enough, should you pause the track and continue browsing around the app, that little record at the bottom of the screen becomes a play button. I don’t know why, but this inconsistency bothers me a lot.

This is a Twitter-powered app, so tweeting out a song should be pretty simple. Twitter wouldn’t hide this, right? Well, they kind of would. You can’t just tweet what you’re currently playing unless you pull up that special play menu and tap the compose button. And Twitter #Music automatically bogarts some of your tweet space, so you may only have 75 characters available for your tweet. Boo.

twitter-music-playThe part of the app I thought would be coolest was the #NowPlaying section, but after checking it out, I’ve come to appreciate the way Spotify integrated social via Facebook into its app and the way Facebook directs Spotify tracks into the ticker rather than having them display as full News Feed stories.

Twitter is a channel where people are much more concerned with the signal-to-noise ratio, and as a result, people aren’t going to be tweeting out every track they listen to. It also isn’t as easy to do so through Twitter #Music, while posting from Spotify to Facebook is super easy thanks to frictionless sharing. What’s it matter? It just feels like Twitter #Music isn’t all that representative of what people are listening to. It’s actually a better indicator of what they’re comfortable with sharing.

So after spending an afternoon and part of an evening with Twitter #Music, I’m kind of blah on the service and the experience it offers. I just can’t see it becoming as big a part of my music listening experience as services like Spotify or Pandora, or even my own personal music library. It’s gorgeous — there’s no doubt about that. But there just isn’t enough here to keep me interested and make me want to come back. And what is here feels like its stuffed into a user interface that lacks any kind of coherence or consistency. It’s too bad that the personality doesn’t match the looks in this case.

This review was mostly about the Twitter #Music iOS app, but it largely applies to the Web-based version, as well. The website is more or less an enlarged version of the app tailored to larger screens. I didn’t really see any additional functionality on the Web that was missing from the mobile app — the same limited capabilities apply to both.

Have you played with Twitter #Music at all? I’d love to know what you think about the service and app so far. Leave your thoughts below in the comments.


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