is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
I upgraded my iPhone and my Mac tonight so that I can run the new Apple Music service. Setting aside for now the fact that with this major upgrade iTunes and the iOS Music app have have both reached new levels in tortuously convoluted user experiences, here are some of the things I encountered. First, this:
That’s Allen Toussaint, in case you aren’t familiar; not Elvis Costello. Toussaint did record an album with Elvis Costello some years back, but they’re different people. Jeebus, even a Bing search for Elvis Costello turns up the right photos.
Second, here are the playlists that Apple Music made for me based on the interests I signaled during the service’s onboarding process, where you click on a really showy, confusing and not particularly comprehensive series of bubbles to indicate what genres and artists you like. The results are pretty terrible.
The playlists include a whole bunch of stuff I can’t stand, along with a smattering of albums from acts that I’m okay with but not particularly passionate about, and one so-so album from a band I quite like but rarely listen to. Nothing from my current heavy rotation of artists appears here, and nothing new or surprising that I’d never encountered before does, either. Overall, the selection lacks any real surprise or inspiration.
When I complained about this on Twitter some people seemed to think that it was unrealistic for me to expect Apple Music to come up with great recommendations on the first try, contending that it has too little data to go on now, and that the recommendations would improve given more of my time and usage.
That response completely bewildered me because it entirely ignores the facts. Apple does, in fact, have all the data that they need to make great recommendations to me. I’ve been using their iTunes Match service for two years, which stores all of my iTunes library’s metadata in the cloud. Moreover, I’ve been using iTunes for almost a decade and a half now, migrating the same music library from computer to computer and device to device. Few other services have as much data on my media consumption habits as Apple does—not Netflix, not Amazon, not Google. Plus, Apple is the most successful technology company in human history. When you combine those factors, shouldn’t it be realistic to expect more from Apple than what is basically the same out-of-the-box experience that the original Beats app offered?
I’m passionate about Apple and heavily invested in their ecosystem, but this kind of willful denial of the very high expectations we all have for this company drives me bats.+