Apple Watch Music Guide | WatchOS 7’s 4 Big Revolutionary Music App Changes

60 Million Songs On Your Wrist

Hi friends,

Happy Saturday! Welcome to edition #4 of the in-depth Apple Watch -> Wrist Computer Series.

I decided to focus on Music, because I have been so blown away this week by the improvements WatchOS 7 brings to the Music app.

I still remember seeing my first iPod. I had just finished a game of squash, and there was a group gathered around a corner of the changing rooms. I wondered what the commotion was. Turns out, someone had purchased an iPod. 

What’s an iPod? I wondered. I went my way.

Next day. Same commotion. Turns out my next league match was with the person who had bought this “iPod”. I asked him what it was all about after our match. He explained how that little white gadget stored all music. In high quality.

I couldn’t believe it. I asked if I could give it a try. He gave me that sheepish “you and everyone else” look, but kindly obliged. I was used to clunky MP3 players with impossible to navigate menus. Which held 64 songs. 

One swipe of the scroll wheel. One listen of my favourite song. That’s all took.

The very next day, in 2002, I had my iPod.

I loved the idea of a wrist iPod so much I was truly one of those pioneering cool kids that owned one of these:

6th gen square iPad Nano retro-fitted into a Watch. With headphones trailing down your wrist and everything.

Fast-forward to 2020. 

You know what’s better than “A thousand songs in your pocket”? 60 million songs on your wrist.

Why Watch? Untether yourself from your phone

  1. It feels like living in the future

  2. Life untethered from your phone is a good life.

Our phones feel increasingly like black holes that suck up all our attention with an endless barrage of notifications, commitments and distractions. Your Apple Watch frees you from your phone.

Maybe you, like me, like listening to music at work. Turns out, the last thing you need when you really have to knuckle down and focus is your phone in your pocket. 

Checking your phone always starts innocently. You just want to change the song. You want that album to play next. You want to look up “just one thing”. You need to make a note of a brilliant idea. You need to capture a task. 

You unlock your phone, and the next thing you know you’re 5-10 minutes into a “phone-spiral” where you have not only changed the track, but also replied to 3 messages, checked Reddit. Then Twitter. Then Reddit again. Did I mention you checked your email twice in the middle of all this and wondered why you haven’t got a response yet?

Hold on... What was it that you were working on again? 

You see, I don’t think this is just me with this issue. We are living in the age of distraction. Our attention, and our data is now more valuable than oil. Studies show just having your phone in the same room reduces your cognitive function

The brightest minds of our generation are engineering apps to best capture our attention.

It is time to take back control of our attention. Time to put the phone away.

The Apple Watch Solution

WatchOS is explicitly designed around quick interactions. In, and out. No space for distractions. This makes it, for me, truly, the computing device in 2020.

When I am working on my Mac or iPad, I still prefer using my Watch for Music. Why? Two main reasons:

  1. No interruptions in workflow. If I am writing or reading on my iPad/iMac, I don’t have to switch to my music app, then switch back to my writing app back and forth. This seems trivial doesn’t it? Turns out in practice this kind of constant task-switching and multi-tasking is worse than you think. To your brain, it isn’t just a “quick change”, it’s an interruption to the flow of what you were doing. It’s called attention residue. Every time to switch contexts, you start again. Most good things require constant focus and attention. Using a dedicated separate device for Music means I don’t have to constantly go in-and-out on my primary work device.

  2. Fine volume control This isn't so much of a problem on a Mac, but on an iPad, I just find it nicer and easier to turn the Digital Crown on my Watch instead of hunting for Control Centre and changing the volume there. I find the volume buttons too crude.

Revolutionary WatchOS 7 Music App Features

Up to this point, using the Watch for music was... “okay”. Not ‘great’. Four features features added in WatchOS 7 change everything 

  1. Smart auto-plays/ endless curated music

  2. Search

  3. Queue and playlist improvements

  4. 'Listen Now’ section

(1) Smart auto-play / endless curated music

This is honestly such a game changer. Once you get used to it, you can never go back. Why? It changes changes the listening experience. Each song auto-magically transform into many more. You get a personalised station with a mix of both new song you will like and your favourite hits. For the last year, I have been paying for both Apple Music and YouTube Music, just to have access to this smart auto-play please. 

I know Spotify and YouTube Music did this first. But unfortunately, I seriously doubt their ability and motivation in developing a first-class WatchOS App. 

Apple has gone and done it. And it is fantastic.

(2) Search 

Up till now, the only way to play or search for new songs was by talking to Siri. Not so great when you are in a library or in a group. 

Now you scribble for text. You can even type using an iOS device, but I don’t use this for the reasons mentioned above.

The search results interface is surprisingly full-featured. Not only do you have songs, you also have entire albums, artists and playlists related to the search. 

(3) Queue and playlist improvement

Up Next was kinda available in WatchOS 6, but I found it to be very limited. 

  1. There weren’t many places you could add to up next.

  2. You couldn’t add to ‘Play Later’ instead of ‘Play Next’.

Both are available now. In practice, this now means you can continue on a endless curated Coldplay track whilst adding just the one Billie Eilish song.

(4) Listen Now Section

This new section gives you access to:

  • Recently played

  • Top picks

  • Stations for you

  • Curated playlists

  • Suggestions based on artists you like

You can now also add specific songs to any playlists that you have made. I use this to keep adding to a ‘discovery’ playlist.

How This All Comes Together

You’re out for a run, free from your phone. You are doing the dishes. Or you are just laying down on the grass after a long week at work.

You’d like some Music. Now you dont have to worry about making a playlist. You don’t have to have your phone with you with its endless distractions and commitments.

You just need to choose a song. And let your wrist computer do the rest. It will automatically play both new exciting songs you will like, and your favourite hits.

Just relax. Enjoy the music.

60 Million songs on your wrist. Welcome to the 2020.

Thank you for reading this. This post is part of a series of in-depth deep-dives into how to make the most of the Apple Watch. If you are interested in reading more of this, please subscribe to receive full-length ad-free posts via emails every Saturday.

Apple Watch -> Wrist Supercomputer series