The song coverage is more varied than I’d thought. For example, Warren Zevon’s Excitable Boy has all three levels of coverage. “Johnny Strikes Up The Band” has line-by-line lyric tracking, “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” has no lyric tracking, and “Werewolves of London” has syllable-by-syllable lyric tracking.
“Werewolves of London” is in the Sing: Classic Rock playlist, for what it’s worth.
It seems more and more like the process that generates a Sing-compatible track is either manual, automatic but time-consuming, or costly in terms of licensing. Otherwise surely you’d want every album with a playlist song on it to be fully enabled, to give explorers like me the sense that there’s a ton of coverage?
I am not a karaoke aficionado, for the record; I just like singing loudly to the music of my childhood.
So I updated my Apple devices today, as one does, and with the updates came Apple Music Sing. It’s pretty cool; like it says on the tin, for songs it works with, you can turn the vocals way down and the lyric display shows you where you are in the song — down to the syllable — and you can sing along. Nice.
You do not get any cool mixing, which is a shame. You kind of want to be holding a microphone and you want your vocals to get mixed into the backing music and maybe add a little autotune? I don’t know how that stuff works but I know I’m always flat. But it’s still fun. I just lost half an hour to it.
The question on my mind, of course, was “what songs work with this?” For starters, Apple has a bunch of playlists:
They’re what you’d expect. Popular fare, nothing too weird, certainly enough to make me pretty happy.
What about your own library? Not the streaming stuff, the actual library that only weirdos who used to buy CDs have? Welp, nope, this is an Apple Music feature so it doesn’t work with your antique library, even if you have Apple Match and you’ve synced with the cloud and all. I checked a couple of Boston songs which worked when streaming but not when looking at my library. Fair enough.
What about more obscure streaming stuff? It apparently depends, but here’s something interesting: there are two classes of song that support Apple Music Sing. More popular stuff supports the syllable-by-syllable tracking of the song lyrics:
But, say, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes?” from Fairport Convention’s Unhalfbricking only goes line by line.
And coverage is spotty: Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out The Lights doesn’t support Sing, but their I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight does. The former is licensed through Rhino and thus Warner, while the latter is by way of Universal — maybe that’s the difference? No, because Hokey Pokey is on Universal and doesn’t support Sing. So who knows?
There’s no way to tell whether or not a song supports Sing without popping it open, and you can’t tell whether it’s syllable by syllable or line by line without playing it.
Yep, they continue to be really great after a year of use. Apple hasn’t made progress on the wearable interface yet, alas. They’re still my favorite headphones ever. The unexpected benefit: they’re exactly what I need for using videoconferencing at work. Lightweight, live in my pocket, I don’t have to awkwardly carry them to a conference room when I’m talking to someone remotely. They’re just great.
The basics: I like my AirPods. They were easy to pair, the sound is decent, and they’re secure in my ears. The case is cool and will fit nicely in my backpack. I am not an audiophile, so if you are maybe you want something better, but they’re fine for me. I’m not going to be a huge fan of pulling my phone out of my pocket to change the volume, but I think I can live with that.
The really interesting thing is how unobtrusive they are. I could possibly have one of these sitting in my ear all day; it wouldn’t cut off outside sound and it wouldn’t be annoying. If Siri was really awesome, this would be the at-hand personal assistant as described in Oath of Fealty, which would be kind of cool. Siri is not that awesome yet, however, and she’s not tuned for voice communication. Like, I should be able to say “Where is Susan?” and Siri should tell me where she is instead of making me peer at my screen. (We have Find my Friends, it’s not creepy.)
Anyhow, lightweight: that’s the cool bit about this device. They’re a wearable that fades into the background. Or maybe they’re a signpost on the way to that wearable.
Gruber has been more accepting of the new iOS App Store rules than I am, but I like his latest post on the subject. New information to me: there’s a limit of 3,500 items in the in-app purchase catalog for any iOS app. As he notes, this has obvious implications for Amazon. It also occurred to me last week that the 30% Apple cut wouldn’t work terribly well for the oft-rumoredNFC implementation. If Apple wants us to use iPhones as payment devices everywhere, they’re not going to be taking 30% of all transactions made via the iPhone. So I keep on thinking there’s more to the picture than we’ve seen so far. I’ll say this: Apple continues to be annoyingly opaque.
Apple’s released its new subscription/purchase rules. Interesting commentary here. He drills in on the one sentence in the press release which refers to anything other than subscriptions: “In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.” If Apple hadn’t rejected the Sony Reader app, I’d assume that “content” referred to subscriptions, but since Apple clearly does care in some unspecified way about non-subscription content I can’t feel confident there.
30% is a huge cut. If you’re getting something for it, such as payment processing, it’s not unreasonable. If you’re a small content provider and this frees you from having to worry about PCI compliance, processor gateways, and so on? Sure! But if you’re a big content provider or aggregator (hi, Amazon), you are not getting value for that money.
Apple said something somewhat confusing that nonetheless implies that the way in which they enforce the rules has changed. Gruber summarizes. If Apple means what they seem to mean, that’s alarming. Also difficult to enforce. If Amazon removes the store button from the Kindle app, but still sells Kindle books pushed to the iPad via their Web site, is the Kindle app still offering the customers the ability to purchase books outside the app? I can buy ePub books from various sources without involving Stanza, and then download ’em to Stanza. Does this violate anything?
Sony says Apple rejected their Sony Reader app on the grounds that all purchases on the iPad must go through the App Store. I don’t care that much about Sony on a practical level, but the implication is that the Kindle app is likewise in trouble, since it allows me to buy a book via the Amazon web site and download it to my iPad. If that’s no longer allowed, I’d be fairly annoyed.
On the other hand, the Kindle app pushes you over to Safari to make the purchase. It isn’t clear if the Sony Reader app did the same thing. The Sony Bookstore is not available on the Web; if you click on the “Want this eBook?” link on a Sony Bookstore page you’re instructed to download the Reader. I’m guessing that Sony didn’t implement a secret Web purchase page for the sake of the iPad.
The New York Times is not citing Apple sources in their reporting. There’s one troublesome line: “The company has told some applications developers, including Sony, that they can no longer sell content, like e-books, within their apps, or let customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store.” At face value, that would imply that the Kindle likewise violates the rules. But Sony has an interest in making Apple look like they’re being unreasonable, and we don’t even know if Sony was the source for that information.
Clause 11.2 of the current App Store guidelines (PDF) says “Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected.” Key words are “in an app.” Safari is an app; I think a strict reading of those terms would rule out the way Amazon’s doing it as well. On the other hand, a strict reading of those terms would rule out any ecommerce. It could be better written. Possibly the intent is that it be read as “for an app.” Either way, there’s room for rejecting the Kindle app, and of course Apple reserves the right to do whatever for whatever reason.
Given the upcoming subscription feature launch, it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple’s reevaluating its stance on paid content for iPad apps. It would surprise me somewhat if they decided to tighten the screws on Amazon, and it would disappoint me, but it’s certainly possible. Check back in a month or so, I guess.
Oh, and a side note: the reason Kindle beats the crap out of the Apple iBookstore? Authors can’t link to the Apple iBookstore on their Web pages. I can’t buy while I’m sitting at my computer and push the book to my iPad. I gotta drag out the iPad, search, blah blah blah. Surprisingly bad design decision on Apple’s part. Killing the Kindle app (and presumably other ebook apps like the Nook app and perhaps Stanza) would really hurt the iPad as a book reader.