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Fruit Attacks has invaded, so get ready to blast some fruit

Today, 02:35 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Fruit: it's an important part of a healthy diet. But like anything else, too much fruit can be bad for you. Especially when the fruit turns against us, as in the new action puzzle game Fruit Attacks from En Masse Entertainment.

In Fruit Attacks, an army of alien fruit is slowly descending towards the earth. Players will have to blast the fruit invaders out of the sky with the help of cute creatures called SATIs. With a unique two-touch aiming system, vibrant art, and lots of stuff to collect and upgrade, Fruit Attacks might be freshest puzzle game you've played in ages. Read on for details!


When good fruit goes bad

In each level of Fruit Attacks, waves of enemy fruits will descend from the top of the screen. If they reach the Earth at the bottom of the screen, it's all over – kind of like Space Invaders or Missile Command.

The big difference here is Fruit Attacks' clever aiming system. Instead of just flicking up at enemies to fire, players must aim with two fingers. Each finger controls its own crosshair, and the position of the two crosshairs determines the arc of your shots. This lets you make cool shots that fly up high before zipping down, shots that move from left to right, etc.

The goal is always to match the arc of the enemy wave you target. The more fruits you destroy in a row without missing, the better your combo. Downed enemies drop golden seeds that act as currency between stages.

Some fruit invaders have too much health to take out with a normal blast, in which case you'll need to charge your shots. Simple press and hold with both fingers to charge a shot that will deal extra damage. Vibro-Skills will help deal with dangerous situations as well. It slowly builds up as a level progresses. When the Vibro meter reaches its peak, shake the screen to unleash the SATI's unique full-screen attack.

At the end of each area, players will have to defeat huge boss fruits. They attack with teams of smaller fruits, creating a nice challenge. You can always switch between normal levels and Nightmare levels for an extra challenge as well.


Building an army of fruit fighters

Fruit Attacks currently offers more than 180 levels to clear, with more on the way. The game also has lots of stuff to unlock, starting with the six playable animal characters called SATIs. Each SATI packs its own distinctive innate skill and Vibro-Skill. The SATIs can be upgraded independently, and different SATIs are better for different situations. An arsenal of separately upgradable mini-minions will add even more punch to your shots.

Players also get a home base to customize between missions. The more fruit enemies you kill, the more juice you can trade for rewards from the fridge. Your pet cat will drag in some regular or premium currency every so often as well. And finally, you can buy more furniture as you get farther in the game.

Fruit Attacks is a free to play game, and as such it has an energy system to keep players from rushing through the game. It probably gets pretty tough eventually too, but you can always go back and grind for money for upgrades that will make things easier.

You can't throw an apple without hitting a mobile puzzle game, but Fruit Attacks manages to stand out from the crowd with its distinct two-finger aiming mechanics. If you like fast-paced puzzle games, give this fruit a taste.





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Incipio DualPro Cases for iPhone 6 are only $17.95 t...

Today, 02:33 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Start protecting your iPhone 6 from harsh impacts with this dual-layer hard case from Incipio. The smooth exterior enhances grip while the shock absorbing TPU core provides a safe buffer between your device and the ground.





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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor hacks and slashes its way...

Yesterday, 06:51 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Game of the Year Edition, the acclaimed action game that pits you against Sauron's army of orcs, has come to the Mac. Set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings stories, Shadow of Mordor puts you in the boots of Talion, a soldier of Gondor.

On the night Sauron returns to Mordor after thousands of years of exile, Talion, his family, and his fellow soldiers are murdered atop the Black Gates. Mysteriously resurrected, Talion must piece together what happened that night with the aid of an elven wraith. While you'll slice your way through Sauron's army, developing rivalries with specific characters as you manipulate the orc chain of command, you'll learn how to dominate their minds as well, building an army of your own with which to face the Dark Lord an his servants.

The Game of the Year Edition of Shadow of Mordor packs in all of the DLC previously available for the game, and is available now on Steam for $24.99, though its normal price is $49.99. The game will come to the Mac App Store in early August.





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What's in a Logic Drummer? My top five percussionist...

Today, 02:00 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Dammit, Jim: I'm a guitarist, not a drummer. Luckily, I have a few Logic automatons to fill in for me.

Aside from my guitar, the tool I spend the most time with while writing a Song A Day is Logic, Apple's pro-level digital audio workstation. I switched to Logic from Reason—there's a joke here, but honestly I just can't find it—about a year and a half ago, in part because of Jim Dalrymple and his explanation of a music option called Drummer.

Drummer is the kind of feature that I hate to love. I use it ALL THE TIME, but it just feels too… easy. Nothing this easy should sound this good. It's like cheating. It's not going to replace a flesh and blood human, but for demos and for making something quickly (like, say, in a day), it's amazing.


See that little matrix? All you need is four variables: Simple/Complex, Loud/Soft. Pretty self-explanatory. To the right of that, you can choose (broadly) which percussion instruments you want the Drummer to play, and adjust sliders for variations on the beats. Click on "details," and you can fine tune just about everything in the instruments' sound.

As a result, you get an amazingly powerful and versitile tool for creating great-sounding drums. With some tweaking, I've fooled recording engineer friends into thinking that this collection of midi-triggered samples is the real deal. It's kind of nuts.

But I'm not here today to talk about what I hate to love about Drummer. I'm here to tell you what I love to hate. 

And OH do I love to hate it.

Drummer comes with a collection of 28 "Drummers", split into categories, each with their own distinct style of playing. Each "Drummer" is also accopanied by a description of what they and their drum kit sound like. 



So, without further adieu, I present my top five and bottom five Logic Drummers—based both on how much I employ their services and also the ridiculousness of their descriptions.

The bottom five #5: Graham the Hipster


Look at this hipster. Just LOOK at him. He's "experimental" AND "viruosic". Well excuuuuuuse me Mr. Graham! Take your processed sounding kit and go home. I run a tight 3 chord ship around here. No bending of genres allowed. Your kind is not welcome.

#4: Anders the Hair Metal shredder


Oh, grind me some of those massive beats, Anders. MMMMMMHMMMM. I just love the way your massive kit grinds out all those beats. Hot damn!

#3: Gavin and his "street cred"


Don't worry Gavin, I am thrilled that you went to music school. That makes one of us, at least. NO ONE, I repeat, NO ONE can doubt your street cred as long as you keep that handlebar-mustache-soul-patch-with-aviator-glasses thing you've got going on. Your cred is secure, man, your cred is secure.

#2: Ian the disappointment


Ian, you just disappoint me. I'm always trying to get you grooving your intricate beats all over my songs but it just never works. Maybe they're just a little too grooving and a little too intricate. Maybe I need to be on drugs to apprecaite your playing. Whatever the case, I always feel like it's somehow my fault when it doesn't work out. Which is just ridiculous. 

#1: Kyle the Bland


Kyle. Kyle Kyle Kyle. You are the default drummer in Logic and you really, truely live up to that title. Bland. Unassuming. Comfortable with most genres — of course you are. You're straightforward, you're versatile — which is just another way of saying that no one will ever be offended by you. You're boring. Sorry, dude. Someone had to say it. 

The top five #5: Boom Bap Maurice


In a recent update to Logic, Apple added a few new drummer categories. One of them was rap, and Maurice is my favorite drummer from that category. I'm not sure I totally 100% know what "boom bap" means, (Boom! Bap! Batman!!!) but I've been using Maurice's beats a lot lately. You're super solid, Maurice. 

#4: Maya (my Drummer crush)


When I was scrolling through the new drummers in that update, one of the first to catch my eye was Maya. It was the "flashback to the '80s" that really made me stop, and her beats definitely live up to that description. It's a nostalgic thing for me. Maybe Maya and I have that in common. Mabye I've created a whole personality for Maya in my head. Maybe I have a little crush on Maya and her reverb-soaked beats. Maybe I'm taking this a little too far. Maybe.

#3: Nikki and her On the Floor beats


There's a term in pop music, made popular (I believe) in the disco era called "Four on the floor". This just means the kick drum plays every quarter-note beat of a measure. Think of any disco beat and you'll hear it: "Boom boom boom boom". That's the kind of beat Nikki plays, and I like it.

#2: No-Nonsense Zak


Leave your nonsense at the door! No nonsense allowed! These adjectives, though? They make a TON of sense. Zak's beats? They're driving. His kit? It's raw. What about his style? It's EXPLOSIVE. I wouldn't necessarily think it, but put all those stuff together, and the scruffy kid in the baseball cap kicks out some really useful beats. Way to go Zak!

#1: Darcy the Best


The funny thing about this description of Darcy is that phrases like "tasteful" and "restrained" (two qualities that can be, ahem, kinda hard to find in a drummer) are the EXACT PHRASES I would use to describe my ideal drummer. True to her word, Darcy is the drummer I use the most. I can always count on you, Darcy! 

Furthering the drumming revolution

Because Logic Pro X has become such a huge part of my daily music creation, I look forward to the announcement of updates with an excitement that previously was reserved for the newest version of the iPhone. And with that excitement comes hope that Apple will keep expanding their list of drummers. Both Reggae and country—two genres of music that have super specific drumming styles—are difficult to approximate with the current lineup of virtual virtuosos.

As far as drum kits go, I'd love to see a kit focused on "junk" (some of my favorite percussion sounds are from things that aren't "drums" at all, but bits like bottles and cans and hubcaps) and chiptunes. There is a kit in Logic called "8-bit," but it's just a processed version of non-8-bit samples. It'd be cool if they made one with real 8-bit sounds.

I'd also love the ability to bring two AI drummers into the same session, if nothing else than to imagine the virtual disappointment on any of my top five's faces when I make them play with Kyle.

Oh, Kyle.





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Getting error code -54 in iTunes on Windows 10? Here'...

Today, 01:29 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

If you are having trouble syncing your iPhone, iPod, or iPad after the Windows 10 update, don't worry. With just a few clicks you will be back up and running, and able to sync your device with your computer again. It appears as though the Windows 10 update is marking the iTunes folder as Read Only, meaning that your computer won't allow it to sync with the device you have plugged in. So, how do you fix this -54 error? Simple.

  1. Open Windows Explorer
  2. Head to the Music folder
  3. Right click on your iTunes folder
  4. Go to Properties
  5. Uncheck the Read Only option under Atrributes

You will notice another pop up window as it applies the changes to all the sub-folders. If the problem still persists, verify that you have full control over the iTunes folder. To do this, right click the folder again, go to properties, then security, and finally click edit and then full control and apply. Once this is done, you should be able to head back into iTunes and sync your device again without an issue.

Thanks for the tip, Darran!





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Cricket Wireless to add unlimited calls and texts from Me...

Today, 01:27 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


The no-contract carrier Cricket Wireless will offer customers on its $50 and $60 a month plans unlimited calls and text messages from Mexico and Canada to US starting in August. Cricket already offers those customers unlimited calls and text from the US to Canada and also from Mexico.

The new additions to the plans will come at no extra cost. The support for unlimited calls and text from Mexico to the US will begin on August 2, while the same support from Canada to the US will begin at some point later that month, but no specific date has been revealed. There is a restriction on the service from Mexico to the US; calls and texts cannot exceed 50% of the total usage from the customer each month for any consecutive three month period or the service could be terminated.

Source: Cricket Wireless





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Mobile Nations Community Update, July 2015

Today, 01:24 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

July has come and gone (well, it's almost gone), and that means it's time for the Mobile Nations Community Update! This month we take a look at the best contests, recent happenings, hottest forum threads, and more from Android Central, Connectedly, CrackBerry, iMore, and Windows Central.





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EE launches new Euro Pass to let you use 4G abroad from j...

Today, 12:49 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


EE has announced a new Euro Pass for customers who wish to take advantage of unlimited calls, texts and data allowances abroad. From just £3 a day, you'll be able to call and text all your friends while lying on the beach, accompanied by up to 100MB of 4G per day. This new add-on is available in 39 European destinations.

A £4 charge per day is in place for those who are not on 4GEE Extra plans. If you happen to be on said tariffs, the charge will be cut to £3 per day. It's not a bad deal, though we're all eagerly awaiting the next few years when data roaming charges will be abolished altogether across Europe. Should you go above your 100MB allowance for that day, you'll be locked to slower speeds but will have 400MB of data on top of the 100MB already used up.

EE states that you'll be unable to go over your allowance, meaning you should return back home without fear of receiving a nasty bill. To get started, you need to text EUROPASS (4GEE Extra plan holders) or EURODATA to 150 and the charge will be deducted automatically while abroad and when you use your mobile phone.

As always, we do recommend you either pop in-store to chat to EE about roaming abroad if you remain unsure exactly what will be charged to your account. For more details online, visit the EE website.

EE, the UK's most advanced digital communications company, today launched 'Euro Pass', offering customers the option of unlimited calls and texts, and a data allowance (with 4G where available) each day when abroad in Europe – for just £4 a day.

Available to EE Pay Monthly, SIM Only and small business customers, with Euro Pass there is now no need to get separate talk, text and data add-ons when heading across the Channel. Customers on 4GEE Extra plans who already benefit from unlimited calls and texts in 39 Europe Zone destinations* can now add the Euro Data Pass to get 100MB of data for just £3 a day.

With Euro Pass, customers get unlimited calls and texts to standard UK and Europe Zone numbers so customers can call home to let their parents know they arrived safely as well as book a table at a local restaurant for the evening.

With both Euro Pass and Euro Data Pass, if a customer needs more than their 100MB full-speed allowance, they will receive 400MB at no extra charge for browsing, messaging and using social media at a slower speed. Alternatively they can choose from one of EE's great value roaming data add-ons. The customer is always in control and they can't run over their allowance, so they'll never get an unexpected bill.

What's more, EE's new passes are all on top of customers' home allowances, meaning the minutes, texts and data used abroad don't come out of their UK monthly plan allowance or incur out of bundle charges.

EE customers can opt-in any time - in the UK before they travel or when they're abroad – by texting EUROPASS or EURODATA to 150. Once it's added to their account, customers only pay on days they use their phone in EE's Europe Zone, so there's no need to take it off when they come home.

The new passes add to EE's range of roaming offers for Europe and the Rest of the World. With EE's roaming data add-ons you only ever pay for what you choose – there are no run on rates and no unexpected data roaming charges. This summer, EE has also introduced new data add-ons outside Europe starting from £5.

In addition to EE's Euro Pass for consumers and small business customers, EE offers 4G roaming in over 45 destinations worldwide. EE also offers 4G roaming in a growing list of countries to corporate customers as well, providing superfast data speeds overseas with excellent value and cost control thanks to new EE Business Data Traveller plans. For more information on roaming for corporate customers, please visit http://www.imore.com...F4gee%2Froaming

For more information on using an EE phone abroad and all of EE's add-ons and standard roaming rates around the world, visit www.ee.co.uk/roaming or www.ee.co.uk/businessabroad for small business customers.





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Making accessibility part of your developer DNA

Yesterday, 12:00 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Making accessibility a priority.

AltConf 2015 I gave a talk entitled, "Accessibility Is a Moral Imperative". It was a high-level talk about why it is so important for developers to keep accessibility in view while developing for the Mac, for iOS, and for the web. What the speech lacked was any technical details on how that can be accomplished. With this follow-up, my goal is to provide a non-technical guide to making accessibility a part of your developer DNA, whatever your app or website happens to be.

Don't get in the way of what's already there

The biggest challenge to accessibility in iOS is not coming up with new and interesting ways to make your app more accessible. Rather it is simply not getting in the way of the accessibility features that already come free with iOS. By now, all developers know that iOS is highly accessible by the blind and physically challenged. What you may not know is that every accessibility feature can be defeated by developers, and often is.

What you may not know is that every accessibility feature can be defeated by developers.

VoiceOver can be defeated by including hidden, junk text in your app. Flipboard is a prime culprit. When you read a Flipboard article, all you see is the text of the article. But when a blind person tries to use VoiceOver to read that same article, the text is garbled and loaded with intentional misspellings. The result is that the text is rendered unreadable by the blind.

Read Screen is a little known feature that allows you to swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers and have your iPhone or iPad start reading from whatever is visible at the top of the open window. In Safari, if you are reading a long article, you can scroll to a particular section, flick down with two fingers, and have the article read aloud from that point.

But that feature is easily defeated by the way web page elements are prioritized. Instead of reading what is visible at the top of the windows, this feature can be forced to read all the invisible menus, then the ads, and then the dozens of article listings scattered about the page. You could have ten minutes of reading before getting to the main article. Furthermore, rather than starting where you want to start, the reader is forced to the top of the page to read the developer's priority instead of yours. This amazing feature is rendered useless on many pages.

Barriers to accessibility

With so much free accessibility available to developers, you might wonder why so many apps defeat the built-in features. I don't believe for a moment that any developers are twirling their mustache, intentionally crippling accessibility features critical to those who need them. Instead, here is what I think may be going on behind the scenes:

1. The Path of least resistance

It is not that any developer is evil or lazy, it's that they're human. Humans tend to take the path of least resistance. If a developer can accomplish their goal in three steps, they will do it. But including an accessibility feature might require an additional five steps. Implementing dynamic type is a good example. Even if they think about the feature, they may deem the extra effort or time not to be worth it.

2. DRM

Developers who are trying to make a living with their content do not want to allow their work to be easily copyable, or easy to read without the surrounding ads on which their monetization is based. They protect their work by employing schemes that defeat copy/paste and ad-stripping. Unfortunately, I can't think of any ways to implement DRM that do not also adversely effect accessibility. Apparently, neither can they.

3. Highly stylized features

The Verge is one of the most heavily designed sites on the web. They do award-winning work that makes their content come to life in a modern, visual context. However, almost every design choice they make clashes with accessibility. This is common for design-centric sites and apps—magazine apps in particular.

In magazine apps, layout is king. It comes in ahead of all other considerations. Developers are so focused on how they want every line to look on the page, they never consider how the reader might like to see it.

Design-heavy apps do not tend to allow for easily resizable fonts, for example, or arrangeable page elements. It is the developer's way or the highway. There is no evil intent. They have a beautiful idea in mind. They just never considered its effect on accessibility.

Accessibility is NOT a technical issue

The lack of accessibility in apps is not because developers don't know how to implement the technical details. Developers do not need anyone to tell them how to include larger fonts, for example. They already know how to implement Text-to-Speech (TTS) and other accessibility options. If it were just a matter of technical details, accessibility would be easy. The challenge is getting developers to make accessibility a priority.

Does a media company want their content to be accessible, or want it protected from theft? If that is the choice before them, accessibility is going to lose almost every time. And it does.

If some accessibility features are difficult to implement and take time away from money-making aspects of a project, what is the pitch for getting devs to put the time and energy into dynamic type? As a former salesman, and a fan of dynamic type, I can't think of such a pitch.

It took the force of law to make businesses start adding wheelchair access, parking, and restrooms.

For designers, making their apps more accessible would mean giving up part of their app's identity. They are reluctant to provide anyone with the opportunity to break their format. To them, it is like pouring catsup on a fine steak.

These are not technical issues. At least, they are not solvable by current technology.

I am reminded of accessibility issues in physical spaces. It took the force of law to make businesses start adding wheelchair access, parking, and restrooms. For the most part, they did the least they legally had to do. To this day, braille or large print menus in restaurants are rare. They are not technically difficult to do. Every eating establishment, regardless of size, could have at least one Braille and large print menu tomorrow. They would rather spend $100,000 on design and layout than $100 to make a plain, easy to read list.

It is not about technology. It is, and always has been about incentive. That is why I focused my talk on accessibility being a moral imperative. At the end of the day, that is the only incentive that will move the needle in the right direction.

The path to accessibility

If you want to know how to better serve those with accessibility needs, I offer this general advice:

  • Don't get in the way of what is already there
  • Make all fonts user adjustable.
  • Make as many items speakable as possible
  • Test your app on people with special needs

Having already discussed the first one, let's take a brief look at the other three:


Sometimes, in content-heavy apps, developers will provide a few text sizes such as small, medium, and large. But those sizes are all relative. A person who does not see very well does not see those sizes as small, medium, and large. They see way too small, still too small, and nice try, but I'm still going to have to move on to another app. If you are not going to use dynamic type, at least make the fonts user adjustable. Regardless of how big you think the font is, if it is not big enough for the reader, it is not accessible.

Text-to-Speech (TTS)

I look forward to the day when everything on a screen is speakable. Text-to-Speech (TTS) is already here, and more than good enough. Imagine a lightweight script that could automatically select the text in a given section, and then read it aloud with one of the built-in voices just by tapping a Play button. Some websites already do this. There is no reason text-heavy apps can't do this as well. My understanding from developer friends is that all the APIs are freely available to devs if they wanted to go this route.

This type of solution would be ideal on the Apple Watch, as it has a small screen, necessitating small text. Having those snippets of text speakable would answer most accessibility prayers on that device.

Inclusive testing

Finally, test your apps on people with special needs. There are schools for the blind, and rehabilitation programs for the blind all over the country. Even if you do not know anyone personally, willing, blind and partially sighted testers are easy to find. (You can email me for more specifics.) The point is, unless you have tested your accessibility on someone that actually uses accessibility features, you have not actually tested your accessibility.

Accessibility for all

The good news is if you are asking how you can make your apps even more accessible, then you are already most of the way there. The special needs community is a rather forgiving lot. We reward effort, even those that are spectacular failures. Put forth the effort, and we will help you refine it.

In some ways, access is like justice: It has to be for all if it is to be fully realized.





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Apple Music: One month later

Today, 12:00 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


31 days into Apple Music, Beats 1, and Connect, how's it working for us?

Apple Music launched one month ago and in that time it's bounced from revolutionary new service to internet enemy number one—then back and forth again and again.

In part, this is due to how big a job the service is attempting to tackle: providing a unified music experience to everyone who uses the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac. That includes people who have tens of thousands of painstakingly ripped and cataloged songs in iTunes, and people with nothing but Siri and on-demand streams.

Like many others, we've been using Apple Music since its launch one month ago; 31 days in, here's what we love, loathe, and wish Apple Music could do better. Roundtable-style!

Before you started Apple Music, what were your hopes?

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: As a Beats Music subscriber from pretty much the beginning, I was crossing my fingers that they'd keep the personalized playlists angle and custom curation. I also had a devil of a time finding new music on any streaming service, so I wanted Apple Music to have better options. And Beats 1 was a crazy promise: I secretly love live radio—maybe it's the performance nerd in me—and I really hoped Apple could pull it off.

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: I can't say I went into it with a lot of expectations or preconceived ideas about how it should work. All I knew is that with Apple's name on it, it had to integrate with the music experience I'd already grown accustomed to with other Apple products.

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: Exactly what Jimmy Iovine said on stage: One complete thought about music. I wanted to not have to care if I owned a song or not, and simply have the ability to play whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it. I didn't even really care about Beats 1 or Connect. I just wanted a special music delivery service.

Were you using any other streaming services? If so, what?

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: Beats Music, Spotify, Google Music, Soundcloud… Beats Music was my mainstay, but I was also testing a bunch of services so that I could get a feel for the market Apple was entering here.

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: I have a free Spotify subscription and listen to music regularly on Soundcloud. I hadn't actually paid a subscription fee to any streaming service prior to Apple Music (technically I still haven't, but I plan to once my 90 days is up).

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: No. I used iTunes to buy music and iTunes Match to sync everything I had everywhere I had. I'd tried the few services that came to Canada when they came to Canada, but none of them stuck because they were all separate apps I had to switch to. I'm not sure why that made a difference when, for example, switching from Videos.app to Netflix.app never felt like a big deal, but it made a difference.

Beats 1: Always on? Or kind of off?

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: If Beats 1 was actually 100 percent great for me 100 percent of the time, I'd be a little disappointed. It'd just be catering to my taste, in that respect—and for a radio station to truly be worldwide, it needs that flexibility.

That said, I listen to Beats 1 almost every day. There's a lot of music on there I'm not particularly fond of—some rap and hip-hop just doesn't do it for me—but I love the passion the DJs have for it. Zane Lowe's show is a highlight of my day, playing a huge eclectic mix of fun, while Julie Adenuga introduces me to something new that I love (and usually can't download off iTunes or Apple Music, darn it) almost every day. I'm also starting to really dig the NYC and LA "local" station programming—there are a few DJs on there who play really smart stuff and really good transitions.

Where Beats 1 truly shines, however, is its specialty programming. Elton John's Rocket Hour. St Vincent's Mixtape Delivery Service. Joshua Homme's Alligator Hour. Ellie Goulding. Abstract Radio. If you're finding the DJ sets a little too hip-hop for you, listen to the specialty shows: They're far and away my favorites on the network in part because of their variety and versatility. I may not love every song on one of St Vincent's mixtapes, but Annie Clark and her guest sell me on the show every week.

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: Beats 1 irritated me from the outset. The incessant DJ chatter, the constant promotion, the absence of format. Some of the specialty stuff has been great, but there isn't enough there there to keep me tuned in all the time. I admit I haven't given it a fair shake, but first impressions mean a lot.

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: Beats 1 is kind of like broadcast TV for me. Often when I go through a list of content I find myself saying "nope, nope, nope, nope, …, nope." But when something is already playing, even if it's something I said "nope" to even a few minutes before, I'll listen.

I think there's some mental overhead to to choice that we, as humans, don't always benefit from. We're better at find reasons not to do things than reasons to do them. When we don't have to decide, it takes a burden away and we can just enjoy.

And no, I'm totally not taking Loki's side from Avengers 1!

Let's talk music libraries. Were you using iTunes Match before Apple Music? What did your personal library look like?

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: I have something like 17,000 songs—a third purchased, two-thirds ripped, and a couple dozen home recordings—and all of them are on iTunes Match. My library is eclectic, but not complicated: I've got a lot of variety but very few tracks that I'd classify as rare or super-weird beyond the occasional weird musical. I'm one of the lucky souls who's never really run into an iTunes Match problem, and the service always worked well for me. Sorry, guys.

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: My personal library includes more than 20,000 songs. Much of the library is ripped from audio CDs I still own, though I've collected a lot over the years from iTunes, eMusic, Amazon and other (legitimate) sources.

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: I was and still am, but I never had a particularly large library. The amount of CDs I've bought in my life is likely in the dozens, and certainly less than the amount of tapes, DVDs, and Blu-Rays. A lot less.

I'm more a video person than a music person, so streaming was always the most attractive option for me.

Are you still using iTunes Match with Apple Music?

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: Yep. I have a full backup of my music library on one of my Macs, but I like knowing that matched tracks from my Mac that I download on an iPhone (or my laptop) will be DRM-free. $25/year isn't that much for the privilege.

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: Yes. I've subscribed to iTunes Match since it came out and it's made keeping my music in the cloud much easier. I plan to continue to use it as well. Like Ren, I keep a full backup of my music library, though I keep it offline most of the time — I prefer to let iTunes Match, or perhaps I should say iTunes Music Cloud, keep everything in the cloud for when I want to hear it.

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: Absolutely. I just love the idea that the music I do have is easy to get everyone without a USB cable, sync, or anything else to worry about. At $25 a year, even for my relatively small library, it's a no-brainer.

Apple Music's streaming catalog: Does it suit your needs? Are you saving songs from it to My Music?

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: I really haven't found major beef with the streaming catalog beyond its lack of brand-new songs—but that's more of a "Darn, Beats 1 DJs, stop playing songs I can't buy or add!" thing. In general, I wish it was easier to buy or make a wish-list of songs not on the service so that I could either hop into iTunes or know when a tune was available for download. Definitely saving a ton of songs and playlists to my iPhone from Apple Music.

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: I am saving lots of songs to My Music. I find new playlists almost every day that give me something fresh to listen to which I haven't heard before. And despite having as much music as I started with, there's still a huge amount of back catalog from my favorite artists that I want, too.

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: I'm not really caching stuff (I feel more authentic calling it that, or bookmarking, then downloading, because I don't really own it). I use Siri almost all the time to find and play music and that means I don't have worry about lists or libraries. I just need to think about what I want to listen to, speak the words, and it plays.

Like magic.

How's For you working… for you?

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: My favorite feature of Beats Music carried over and made even better on Apple Music. Though it bums me out that my favorite Beats editors have been masked under faceless curator titles like "Apple Indie," the playlists are still great, and I find myself saving one to my music library on my iPhone almost every day. I wouldn't mind a "bookmark this playlist for later" option that didn't involve adding it to my library, though. Some days I'll wake up and want to listen to every playlist and Beats 1—not enough hours in the day!

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: For You is fantastic. I admit that it took me a few days of tuning, but we're at a pretty good pace now. Almost every day For You turns up something I want to hear, whether it's a human-curated playlist or an album by a favorite artist.

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: It's really good! As much as I don't use My Music, I do use For You. My Music is stuff I already know about, so I can just ask Siri to play it. For You is stuff I would probably never have thought of. So, any time I don't know what I want to listen to, and Beats 1 isn't doing it for me, I head right on over to For You and almost always discover some enjoyable.

The New tab: do you use it?

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: Occasionally! I actually like browsing it now and again because songs and albums will pop up that I didn't realize existed but absolutely want to listen to. (Florence + The Machine's new album, for example.) Most of the time I spend in Beats 1, For You, and My Music, though.

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: I check it periodically. I scan it for artists I'm already familiar with, then look for new stuff that catches my eye. Occasionally I'll load up something just because it looks interesting, to see if it'll sound interesting. It often doesn't.

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: Not really. I tend to forget it's there.

Connect or disconnect: How's the social stuff?

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: Artists, not so much. BUT. You can also follow the curators that make the For You playlists, the DJs from Beats 1, and the specialty shows. This is largely how I use it (and love it)—I add all those folks, and that lets me see when a new "Classic Rock" playlist is out, or a new episode of Josh Homme's Alligator Hour.

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: Where it works, as Ren points out, it's fabulous. Otherwise it's largely a waste of time. I hope this isn't another Ping. Apple's track record on social networking stuff is pretty abysmal.

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: I like the theory of Connect but so far it hasn't rocked my world. Ren pointing out how to get the Beats 1 playlists is awesome, because I do miss things I want to catch up on, but other than that, I've not found much else of interest.

I hope that changes. I love iTunes Extras and DVD/Blu-Ray extras, and the creative process, so if Connect became a regular, reliable behind-the-scenes content area, I'd be all over it.

The Music app: What's working—and what's not?

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: Mostly, the Music app is great. It's a lot easier to navigate than the old app, and once I learned where everything was, I could get around pretty quickly. But it does have a bit of a steep learning curve for beginners, and there are really weird UI choices (I'm looking at you, More button). There may be some relief for this coming in iOS 9, and I'm hopeful, but it is a bit of a mess at times—especially if you're not an Apple Music user.

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: Is my eyesight failing, or is the type on everything getting a lot smaller and less distinct? Maybe this is just a cranky old man yelling at a cloud, but I feel a bit bewildered by the Music app at times, simply because I'm so accustomed still to the way it was.

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: The Music app has a tough job. Making one complete thought around music is easy to say, not so easy to do. There's a lot of ways people enjoy music these days, from buying to streaming, internet radio to online lockers, social interaction to recommendations. Music has to manage all of that, and all of the playback functions from playlists to stations to up next, all in one place.

It's why we get ••• buttons all over the place.

So, yeah, it's cramped and overflowing and, right now, the convenience is hurting the usability. iOS 9 looks like it makes things better, however, and if Apple can keep iterating and improving it, we could have the best of both worlds eventually.

iTunes and Apple Music: Dare we ask?

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: Kill it with fire, please. iTunes has 10x the bugs that Music.app had when Apple Music was introduced, and combined that with already-existing iTunes Match errors to make for a truly terrible experience. I know Apple is short-handed in their software and services department, and that's the only thing keeping me from going on an all-out tear about the app. But seriously: Music.app for Mac can't come soon enough, folks. Maybe in the final version of OS X El Capitan? Can we dream?

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: iTunes is the foundation of Apple's modern music legacy — without it, there'd have been no iPod, no iTunes Store either. But that foundation seems badly eroded when you look at iTunes in its current state: It's a mishmosh of different interface ideas and disparate functionality that just doesn't make sense anymore. Apple Music complicates an already complicated interface. It's time for Apple to look at how to deliver music on the Mac with a fresh set of eyes.

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: If Music has a tough job then iTunes has an impossible one. It has to play and manage everything that can possibly be synced to an iPod, iPhone, or iPad, and do it all in a single package that can be wrapped up and ported to Windows.

One day Apple will decide it no longer wants or needs to support Windows, traditional iPods, and USB syncing to iOS. One day, iTunes will go to the cloud and the Mac will get the modern apps it deserves. (Mac App Store doesn't sync to iPod or iOS, doesn't port to Windows, so it gets a standalone app... which also doesn't get updated—all problems are relative!)

Until then, we're stuck with iTunes. And the only real—and huge—complaint I have here is that Apple isn't archiving existing libraries and then applying Apple Music as a separate silo that gets unified in the presentation.

When it comes to important user data—which music libraries certainly are—protecting the data has to come first.

Apple Music bottom line (for now):

bubblehead_serenity.pngRen: Apple Music is buggy, yes. It's barely a month old, trying to do a lot, and (mostly) succeeding. It has a huge userbase already, and I imagine that will only increase with the release of the next iPhone—people may gripe about being "test subjects", but when it comes to cloud services, it's incredibly difficult to stress-test these kinds of things in a closed lab. Should the company have called Apple Music a "beta" for its first three months? Probably. But it's doing a lot of the right stuff, and I know I'm listening to a ton more music than I was a month ago. For me, the combination of For You and Beats 1 blow the other music services out of the water when it comes to discovery.

bubblehead_peter.pngPeter: Apple Music is off to a rousing start. There are and will continue to be growing pains, of course: Interface issues to work through, service uptime, content that works and content that doesn't work. Apple piqued my curiosity with the launch of Apple Music, but it's delivering content that's going to keep me subscribing long into the future.

bubblehead_rene.pngRene: There's a lot that needs to be fixed about Apple Music. Making it work with separate iTunes accounts and Family Sharing shouldn't be so hard. Canceling the free trial should be easy to do. iTunes Match vs. Apple Music should be crystal clear. No one's music libraries should be touched. No song should ever not add when you want to add it. And the list goes on and on.

Growing pains, all of that. No plan, no matter how well thought out or how well intentioned, can survive impact with millions of customers and their edge cases. Problems happen. It's how well and quickly they're dealt with that matters.

That's said, I'm digging Apple Music. I don't have much of an existing library to worry about and I don't go to the apps anywhere nearly as much as I go to Siri, so it's been borderline miraculous for me so far.

The ability to just Power Word Music up whatever I want to listen to, whenever I want to listen to it, feels like the future to me. And Apple Music has delivered that today.

How is Apple Music working for you, one month later? Share your thoughts in the comments below!





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