Article in Best of category.
Best Alternative Music Apps for iOS
There is a variety of iOS music player apps. We've got a list of the best music streaming services for the iPhone and why each…
There is a variety of iOS music player apps. We've got a list of the best music streaming services for the iPhone and why each one matters.
Unlock your speaker’s full potential
I debated quite a bit on whether to include the Sonos app on this list as it is only applicable if you actually have Sonos speakers. But it has so much functionality and useful features I wanted to throw it in anyway.
With the Sonos app, you can stream natively to any Sonos speaker in your house. There’s a variety of fully-integrated music sources like Apple Music, Sirius XM, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Spotify. By streaming directly to the speaker versus AirPlay or Bluetooth, you get a higher quality stream of audio.
Sonos speakers can be grouped together based on room, or using a set of them as rears for a soundbar. This lets them all stream from the same high quality source. The newest speakers, the Era 300, even support spatial audio. While you stream from the Sonos app to any Era 300 or the Arc, you can get 3D Dolby Atmos sound that can come from any angle, including above you.
The app has other nice to have features including custom EQ tuning, speech boost for podcasts or video, and bass reduction for when listening at night. As you move between sources you can control all the playback from a singular app. Again, it isn’t at all useful if you don’t have Sonos gear but if you do, it’s a wonderful user experience.
The people’s music app
If you aren’t an Apple Music subscriber, chances are you subscribe to Spotify instead. It is the go-to streaming service for many users, especially if they don’t want be tied to a first-party solution.
Spotify is constantly praised for its massive collection of playlists and discovery features. It’s hands-down the best way to stumble upon new music and have recommendations presented to you that are based on your listening preferences.
I’m also a big fan of the scannable codes that Spotify uses. These QR-like codes look similar to a waveform and when you scan them, they can take you to an artist, album, or playlist. Basically any Spotify URL. I’ve seen these used in a bunch of creative ways, including literally added to clothing.
Compared to others on the list, Spotify has a unique collaborative mode. Playlists can be created together with others and you can all join together for a party mix when all together. This brings everyone together as you jam out and everyone contributes songs they want to hear.
Finally, Spotify has a lot more going on for it than just songs. They’ve also built in podcast support with several big names exclusive to the platform. There’s a Netflix integration to queue up songs from your favorite shows. Spotify has just done a lot of work to craft a lot of unique functionality that no one else offers.
A pretty music app
With Door, graphics and UI are front and center. That’s not to say Music itself has been pushed to the side — discovery is big with Soor, but it’s appearance is what helps set it apart. It has a gorgeous interface with three theming options — so far.
This premium app has loads of premium features beyond Apple’s such as advanced sorting, hundreds of parameters for smart playlists, new release alerts, and universal search. Soor has a unique gesture-driven interface where you can swipe to access frequently-used actions like liking a song or sharing it.
Of course the app has full of Home Screen widgets that are lovely. You can choose based on what’s coming up next, your top playlists, favorite songs, new releases, and Magic Mixes based on your predefined parameters. I never get tired of using these widgets, or the Soor app as a whole.
Own your music
Ok, hear my out… you don’t have to stream all your music. It’s true. For ages, people would buy music, playing it off CDs or ripping it to their computers to save on their devices. You never had to worry about an artist pulling rights or finding the very specific version of a song you were in to.
For those users, Doppler is a perfect app. You can load all of your FLAC, MP3, AAC, and other audio files. It kicks out the rest, shunning audiobooks, movies, and podcasts to other apps that can handle them better.
Music can be imported a variety of ways such as third-party apps using the native Share Sheet, the stock Files app, or with Wi-Fi transfer. If you have a PC or Mac handy, you can import audio that way as well. Then you can listen any way you’d like with full support for AirPlay, Siri, and CarPlay.
This app is full of useful features for those who own their music and want full control. You can edit meta data on device, favorite songs, use an Up Next queue, create playlists, and integrate with last.fm that even works offline.
Stream your tunes
With Musi, you have a ton of control over your music. You can add music from various sources to the app where you can then mix, listen, and organize how you wish. This app was built from the ground up to be customizable and easily usable without any upfront or monthly fee.
There’s a helpful search engine to help you find music you want to listen to, an eye-catching orange color scheme, and plenty of playlist control. You can add songs to any number of playlists with custom artwork and names. Tracks within the playlist can be reorganized, edited, and renamed to your heart’s content.
This app has a great looking UI with a big emphasis on album artwork that frequently sits below hovering on-screen elements. There are large, easy-to-press buttons that allow you to get directly into the music. Plus, it supports many native iOS features like system-wide dark mode and AirPlay.
The growing, go-to streaming app
It’s hard for Apple users to ignore Apple Music these days. The app which started a bit rough has slowly but surely become much more robust with an ever-growing feature set.
The native experience is second-to-none with Apple incorporating Apple Music into all of its products from the Mac, to Apple Watch, to Apple TV. The app has near feature parity across those platforms and syncs everything you do so no matter the device you use, it carries over your usage.
As I said, Apple has been adding features over time as it seeks to become more competitive. Recently, we got support for lossless audio — something Spotify still only hopes to offer one day — as well as Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio. Karaoke is another new feature where the lyrics animate on screen as they’re sung and you have the option to lower the lead vocals to let your singing shine through.
Apple has issues with discovery but at least it has a robust set of playlists. These playlists are also curated by real people with vast musical knowledge. They’re still worth a listen. As a last benefit, App
Apple Music on steroids
There’s a lot of Apple Music I love, but Marvis has somehow created an even better app experience than Apple. Once you use it, there will be no going back to the stock app. This gives you the best of both worlds: using Apple Music and a better app experience.
To start, the interface of the app is incredibly clean and modern. The background is light (or dark) with small on-screen elements with no drop shadow or other depth effects. The album artwork is inset slightly with additional white space below that just looks lovely. When you rotate your phone, you’ll see a new landscape mode, something that should be so hard for Apple to pull off.
One of my favorite features is drag and drop. Want to move a song to a playlist? Just tap and hold on it, drag it to the playlist icon, then drop it on the playlist you want it included in. It’s simple and elegant. Another useful feature are the smart rules. You can use these to create smart playlists on the fly to filter songs or albums based on rating, when they were played, and more. Music can be sorted and grouped for easy browsing and you can view all the metadata for a song, another feature not possible with the stock Music app.
Marvis Pro uses a ton of native iOS features and has been frequently updated for new iOS features and devices. For example, it uses the new Live Activities API with iOS 16. You can see the album icon and favorite icon in the Dynamic Island which expands as you hold on it. You can also see the song playing on the Lock Screen. There are also Home Screen widgets full of beautiful artwork. On the Lock Screen, new Lock Screen widgets let you jump directly to your playlists, artists, or search.
I could go on and on about Marvis Pro but if you use the Apple Music app, I just implore you to give it a shot and try it for yourself.
Create content together
With Mapify, you can explore the world by yourself, or with others. It’s a supremely photo-centric app that will help you discover unique experiences. When searching for what to do, an Instagram-looking wall of photos will appear rather than a list of text. It’s definitely effective in encouraging you to get out there.
Unlike most apps that focus on you, Mapify brings together its own social network of sorts. You can add your friends and trip members to the app so you can all add photos and plan the trip together. You can also connect with fellow travelers. They can update their photo spots and travel journal for you to peruse. Mapify awards them — and you — with badges to display on your profile as well.
As you traverse the world, you can create your own personal scratchmap. Like those ones you’d hang on your wall? As you “scratch off” a country, you can add photos to that location letting you go back and relived your favorite memories from each location.
But enough about other people's apps.