- Friendly user interface
- Great to share favorite tracks with friends
- Able to discover music that's popular on Twitter
- If friends aren't using it, #NowPlaying feature isn't useful
- Eats up a lot of battery life
- Suggestions don't vary much
Quick TakeThis is a neat app from Twitter and great for users genuinely interested in discovering emerging artists, but doesn't have much usability for other users.
Twitter entered the music streaming arena with the release of its Twitter Music app for iOS. The service enters a crowded field of music streaming and discovery apps, with services like Pandora, Spotify, Rdio and iHeartRadio already well-established players. Not to mention the rumors that giants like Apple are looking to enter the market as well. While Twitter Music is certainly in competition with some of these services, it also works hand-in-hand with Spotify, Rdio and iTunes.
Twitter Music isn’t a music streaming app; it’s a music discovery app. It’s not meant for users to sit and listen to on the commute home or to play in the background while hosting a party. It’s meant for users to find new music, discover what music their friends are listening to and share their favorite tracks. The service is broken down into four relatively self-explanatory components: Popular, Emerging, Suggested and #NowPlaying.
Via the Twitter Music app, users may log into their paid Spotify and Rdio accounts to listen to full versions of the music. Otherwise, users hear the iTunes preview of a track and are given the option to go directly to iTunes to download the full version.
Twitter compiles the tracks for the “suggested” page from artists a user follows and the people they follow. The suggestions were mostly spot-on in testing, with the exception of one or two tracks that were oddly out of place. While listening to the preview of suggested songs, users are able to immediately connect with iTunes to download the full version, view the artist’s twitter account and follow them without having to leave the current page, which is a great feature when discovering new music. When listening to a track or grouping of tracks, users are also able to steer away from the current page, or app entirely, making it easy to do other things while listening to Twitter Music.
Since the service is coming from Twitter, it’s no secret it’s meant to be social. The #NowPlaying page will show tracks that the people a user follows are tweeting – which means in order for it to be useful, followers must also be using and tweeting about the service. In theory it’s a good way to see what friends and people of interest are into, but when reviewing the app, TechnologyGuide’s #NowPlaying page was empty.
However, sharing music is extremely easy. When tweeting about a track, the service automatically includes the #NowPlaying hashtag, artist name, track name and iTunes, Spotify or Rdio (depending which a user is listening to) link to the song in the tweet. Users are unable to edit this information, which can be frustrating, as it takes up much of the allotted 140 characters. The neat thing about the included link is that a user’s followers who are viewing the tweet in the standard Twitter app or online are still able to play the song directly from Twitter.
The user interface is the best thing about the app. It’s clean and almost futuristic looking with a visual focus on artwork. At the time of review, it’s formatted for the iPhone display, and there is no iPad version (iPad users can still use it, just at iPhone size). The tracks are laid out in a tile format with the artist’s Twitter profile picture taking up most of the tile. Users switch between pages by swiping left to right or using a drop down menu at the top of the page. The app is intuitive and a pleasure to use. A floating design feature in the bottom left hand corner of the UI displays what song is playing and contains the button to purchase the song from iTunes. The feature can’t be closed and gets in the way when scrolling through tracks. The service also has a search function, but it’s not very expansive as users are only able to search for specific twitter handles, not key words, trends or hashtags. There were no advertisements when using the app.
There is also a web application for Twitter Music, which features a similar UI. Large tiles dot the screen and users can switch between pages via a dropdown menu in the top left hand corner of the screen. The web application has all the same features and uses as the iOS app.
Any streaming app is going to drain battery on a device, but Twitter Music seemed to eat up a lot more battery than average. After using the app for about an hour and half, battery was down almost 60 percent. Granted, the service was tested on an aging iPhone 4 with mediocre battery life at best, but the app stole much more than streaming Pandora does.
Overall, Twitter Music is a neat service but its usability isn’t very high at this point. It’s a great way to share music with friends and discover new things, but it’s not an app to spend a lot of time with. The suggestions will likely only change slightly unless users are constantly following new artists. Twitter fans who are genuinely interested in discovering new music will love the emerging artists compilation and it’s a nice way to see what’s trending in the twitter-verse in terms of music. However, services like Spotify and Pandora are much more effective means of discovering and streaming new music.