Three quality-of-life features Apple should consider
Apple make some incredible products, and have developed an ecosystem that sucks you in. When you have a Mac and numerous devices like iPhone or iPad, plus home devices including lights or HomePods, everything just works together nicely. Most of the time. But it is so convenient and effortless to take a photo on my iPhone while out and about, then see it on my iPad without having to do anything.
But while life in the Apple ecosystem is so incorporated and seamless, there are some quality-of-life features missing that would help take tvOS, iCloud Music Library and the HomePod Mini to a much more powerful level.
Edit 14th April 2022
I forgot a quality-of-life update, and it is for the AirPods Max. How could I have forgotten that one?
tvOS: ability to turn off auto-play next episode
The anxiety is real. The credits of your favourite TV show have started, and maybe you’re debriefing the cliff-hanger that episode left you with, or the remote has decided to hide in the dark, but that “Up Next” countdown starts.
Panic sets in.
That timer is going down so fast.
With mere seconds to spare, you find the remote, madly hit buttons hoping to get the “Menu” button, or scroll to another item in the list, and have that timer. Like a good espionage thriller, it’s right down to the wire.
Hang on… wasn’t the decision to watch TV meant to be a relaxing one? Why end my session with a mad panic?
I get it though: if you’re literally binge watching an entire season, it can be a great feature: just hit the play button and boom, next episode starts.
Here’s an idea though… wouldn’t it be great to have a setting that can turn this feature off? Some may want it on, but Googling around shows that many would love to be able to disable this.
macOS/iOS and Music: force-sync a playlist
In theory it all sounds magic. But not everything that is magic is good (cough, who decided to put a charging port for the Magic Mouse on the bottom of the device?). The Music app on macOS is meant to just sync your iCloud Music Library changes to the cloud – and then they appear effortlessly on your other devices, like your iPhone.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Recently, “doesn’t” is more common.
But who uses playlists? Well, I do, in every single group fitness class I teach. My classes need an exact structure, using music that I have purchased from Les Mills – there are specific cover versions, durations, edits and licensing in place that means I must use these versions of the music for my classes. And I build my classes in playlists so I can pre-program in a 10 second silence here or there, and also know the exact duration of my class from when I hit play. Yeah, playlists are crucial to my teaching.
The only way I can work around this is to create a brand new playlist (not duplicate, but brand new) and drag the music from the borked playlist to the new one. Then that playlist appears.
What’s really screwey though is that one day then every version of the macOS playlists starts to appear on iOS – there’s been no reboot, no changes made, I just open the Music app on iOS and there they all are. Especially annoying due to the workaround noted above: there are so many different renamed versions of a playlist just to get syncing to work, so it’s chaotic when they all decide to sync everywhere again.
But instead of having behind-the-scenes magic that does its own syncing with its own rules (which no doubt make sense), wouldn’t it be awesome if I could right-click a playlist and “Sync with iCloud Music Library”. And then on iOS, a “Sync with iCloud Music Library” button that can push and pull it all too.
Magic is good… when it works. But when it doesn’t it magically becomes incredibly unfriendly to work with. Right click, sync. That’s all, and so simple. It already syncs (sometimes) so give me a trigger to force a sync and hopefully can resolve this issue. Even adding more detail or a status so we can see where things are synced – or a web version so we can see what is in the cloud, and where the sync is stuck.
While I know moving entire tracks to the cloud is more complicated (especially for space, and some may abuse the capability of uploading tracks), that’d be welcome too, again for the gym music side of things. Some tracks used are special covers which mostly don’t get matched, but occasionally an originally licensed song gets matched but matches incorrectly. Instead, every quarter when we get new gym music, I have to turn off Apple Music on my iPhone, do a manual sync from my Mac to my iPhone with my new group fitness music, then turn on Apple Music again. This way my iPhone uses my official group ex music, not the ‘matched’ versions.
HomePod Stereo Pair: create a cabled solution for desk use
I bought some fancy speakers, and they weren’t cheap. But they rattled, and the manufacturer said “turn the bass down and turn the volume down”. Uh… if you make a speaker that goes to “11” with bass up to “+6”, then you should make sure they can work flawlessly with volume at “3” and bass at “+1” without having to turn them down. Anyway, even four months after purchase, the retailer offered a refund so took them up and I was left with nothing by my MacBook Pro speakers or my BOOM 3. Not great for all-day listening.
Conveniently I had only a few days earlier ordered a few HomePod Mini devices which were en-route. While they were for placement in specific rooms, they were a low priority so I set two up as a Stereo Pair for my MacBook Pro.
The quality, clarity and low end of such a small speaker in desktop usage was surprisingly impressive. The one downside: you need to AirPlay to them.
In theory, AirPlay is awesome. Select a device, and it all just works. But AirPlay with a Stereo Pair has a noticeable lag. Not microseconds. Multiple seconds. For some reason, I couldn’t even set up device-wide AirPlay for the pair either: they’d play for a little bit but would often drop out. But the delay itself makes them unusable for any time-sensitive work (such as working with video editing or audio mixing). So while I would have been happy to keep them, this one flaw made them unfit for this purpose.
HomePod Mini offers no other way to connect. No input, can’t plug in to a MacBook for power or input, nothing. While the simplicity of the HomePod Mini is so aesthetically pleasing to look at, the lack of input choice create a limitation here. But Apple could overcome this with a simple little device.
And we all know how much Apple love dongles (cough, USB C).
OK, so imagine this: a box that has two inputs – one for power, and one for a cable to connect to your Mac – and two outputs – one for the L and one for the R HomePod Mini in your pair. It’s like a HomePod Mini-specific external DAC that turns a Stereo Pair in to a wired pair.
And as an added benefit, for a pair you only need one power input, not two. Everyone’s powerboards now breathe a sigh of relief!
Either that, or make them connect via Bluetooth or something with less lag when used as a Stereo Pair. Apparently these little speakers have Bluetooth inside, but can’t be used for audio. But boy that would open them up for a much better experience – sure, still not as perfect as wired, but better than AirPlay.
Instead, I increased my speaker budget by a little (and by little I mean multiplied it by 3, ouch) and ended up with an incredible set of hi-res audiophile speakers instead. No comparison really, hey?
Side note: these HomePod Mini are now scattered throughout the house, and are working so well. I can ask Siri to play something in whatever room I want and it all just works, plus can intercom to scare the crap out of guests. But bottom line, scattered through the house, works a treat.
Apple TV offers such an incredible way to consume media. I just want to not have the next episode automatically start.
Apple Music offers an incredible library with seamless cloud syncing. When it works. Right click, sync. Simple.
HomePod Mini Stereo Pair sound incredible for what they are. But are 3 seconds behind anything happening on your Mac. They have a wire, so, well, find a way to allow a wired connection.
While the Stereo Pair one is a bit more involved to produce a hardware device, software tweaks to tvOS and the Music app on Mac and iOS would
I’ve provided these to Apple as feedback in the past too: if you have a quality-of-life improvement to suggest, give Apple some feedback too.