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Two Weeks with Beats Music

It’s been two weeks since Beats Music launched, and I was a day-one subscriber. I even bought into the “save your name” campaign they were running, and made sure to get the name I wanted.

First things first: the launch was a disaster. Beats Music worked barely and rarely during the first 48 hours. When it did work, it was pretty cool, though. I waited patiently for the opening day growing pains to be taken care of, and haven’t had any problems getting into or using it since then. I’ve spent a good deal of time with Beats Music over the past 14 days, and overall, it’s been a mostly positive experience.

The UI is, for the most part, great. There are some minor annoyances with some of the gestures being a little hard to initiate due to a small area to tap on, but more often than not it works exactly like you’d want it to. The on boarding process is simple, fast, and actually pretty enjoyable. You’re presented with bubbles that have different genres of music in them; one tap means you like that genre, two means you love it, and holding your finger on it for 3 seconds will cut it completely. After you’ve chosen the genres your interested in, you’re presented with a second bubble field of bands. You repeat the process, and that’s it. You’re looking at a screen of music that’s been chosen for you. On first launch, I was amazed at how accurate the selections were. Playlist after playlist of songs that I already knew and loved were presented to me.

I went through, liking and disliking diligently. I made sure to let Beats know how happy I was when they’d given me gold, and how disappointed I was when they gave me Mumford & Sons. This is when things started to fall apart a bit… the big draw of Beats Music is supposed to be the curated playlists that are handled by real, music-loving human beings. That’s all well and good until it starts handing you professionally curated playlists of things that you’ve explicitly stated that you hate.

I’m a rock/metal guy. I like angry, aggressive music. I do not like Belle and Sebastian. I’ve told Beats Music that I do not like Belle and Sebastian by hating all of their albums and all of their songs individually. Still, I’m being handed a playlist entitled “Intro to Belle and Sebastian”. Yes, I’ve hated the playlist. No, it won’t go away. It’s almost like those playlists aren’t refreshing. Is it possible that I was too enthusiastic and have exhausted every recommendation that the brain trust behind all of those curated playlists has for me? That feeling of “wow, this actually works” has been slowly replaced with “wow, this app doesn’t listen to me at all”. That’s a frustrating feeling, and one that flies in the face of their advertising campaign; the more I’ve rated, the worse my suggestions have gotten.

There are only two other negatives regarding Beats Music, and one of them is the lack of a “radio” option. In Spotify, for example, I can start a radio station from anything. Artist, song, album, playlist… literally anything. Beats Music doesn’t do that. I’m assuming they don’t have that feature due to the last complaint I have about the service, and they call it The Sentence.

In theory, The Sentence is amazing… a mad-libs style fill-in-the-blank affair that should be able to give you music to fit any situation or circumstance you find yourself in. In reality, it’s a horribly executed gimmick that really has no use whatsoever. It’s really only good for jokes. Trying to make a playlist based on “punching walls to hardcore” left me skipping through middling punk tracks from the late 70s. After 10 skips (and hates) in a row, I gave up. On the flip side of that, I was able to get “Loose Booty” by Sly & The Family Stone by saying “I’m at the gym & feel like taking my clothes off with the boys to disco.” The Sentence, in its current form, isn’t providing the magic they’re advertising. It’s an incredibly hit or miss option that really doesn’t add anything at all to the overall experience.

I don’t dislike Beats Music, and I haven’t given up on it. There are some issues to work out and some growing pains to get through, and I’m aware of that. I’m not deleting the app from any of my devices just yet. I still think the UI is great, and the audio quality is superb. I love having a library instead of having to rely solely on playlists like I’m forced to do in Spotify. For now though, I have gone back to Spotify. I’m still watching Beats Music intently in the hopes that each update brings it closer to being the service that I hoped it would be.

OUYA: A New Kind of Video Game Console

OUYA: A New Kind of Video Game Console

This has the potential to be really cool. I’m interested to see if it actually makes it to market, and if so, in what capacity.

Instagram

Instagram

Instagram, if you’re unfamiliar, is an iPhone app that lets you take pictures, apply effects, and share. It’s a dead simple concept, but Instagram has the benefit of having its own social network baked right in, so it’s become extremely popular, despite the fact that version 2 of the app basically destroyed the coolness of the filters.

I like using Instagram, but I rarely do anymore… I got tired of people doing what I feel is cheating. “What are you talking about, you moron? How can you cheat at taking pictures?”, I hear you asking. Let me explain.

In Instagram you’re given the ability to import pictures, filter them or not, and share them. I don’t think that should be an option, honestly. To me, the point of the app is to take the pictures with your iPhone. That showcases your creativity both in composition as well as the filter you use serving the shot. If you can set up your $3,000 camera and take an absolutely stunning photograph, that’s awesome… but it doesn’t belong on Instagram. That’s not to discount the hundreds of beautiful photos that I’ve seen on Instagram that were taken exactly like that, but I don’t think it’s really following the spirit of the app. In my mind, anyway.

There’s something to be said for having a photographic eye. There’s also something to be said for being able to take a great picture with nothing but your iPhone. When I started messing around with Instagram, the photos that I liked weren’t breathtaking or anything, they were just cool. They were photos that someone took with their iPhone because that was what they had with them to capture a moment. There was a certain level of candidness to them, and I enjoy that. I like photos of life as it happens as much if not more than photos that are set up.

What do you think? Is Instagram an app that lets you share photos, or an app that lets you take them? If you use it, what do you find yourself doing with it most often?