Apple Revamps Apple Music, Adds Intelligent Search to Apple Photos

Apple Music gets a new user interface in response to user input, while Photos gets artificial intelligence to find images by description.

Apple Music, iOS 10, Apple Photos, macOS Sierra, watchOS 3, WWDC 2016, updates

Apple has announced an all-new user interface for its year-old Apple Music streaming service and some key innovations for its Photos app, including the use of artificial intelligence to accurately search for photos by topic.

The new capabilities were unveiled at the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco on June 13, along with a host of other software updates to its iOS, macOS and Apple Watch operating systems. The announcements included previews of the upcoming iOS 10 and macOS Sierra operating systems, and the unveiling of the new watchOS 3.

The Apple Music redesign, which has been rumored for more than a month, includes an all-new design that Apple expects will be easier for users to navigate as they search for music. The Library, For You, Browse and Radio tabs inside Apple Music have been redesigned for ease of use, while a new Search tab has been added to make it easier to find music. Also new is the addition of visible lyrics when listening in Apple Music.

The changes are aimed at helping Apple further increase the user base of its Apple Music subscription service, which now has 15 million users. The original user interface had received complaints that it was hard to navigate and not user-friendly.

Apple Music was launched in June 2015 as the company dove into the growing streaming music market with a $9.99-a-month service that aimed to take on established competitors such as Spotify, Rhapsody and Pandora. A family membership for up to six users is $14.99 a month. About 10 million users signed up in the first six months, but the service didn't grow as much as Apple had expected.

Apple Photos Updates

Also receiving key upgrades is Apple's Photos offering (pictured) in iOS 10, which is getting advanced search tools to make it easier for avid digital photographers to make their way through their images when they have thousands and thousands of photos to peruse for just the right shot. The new search capabilities use artificial intelligence to scour images and identify them based on search terms chosen by users. For example, a user could search for beach photos, taxi photos, dog photos or photos of horses to display images of those subjects. In addition, the search capabilities will be able to find images using facial recognition and scene recognition, based on searches such as a person's name or terms such as beaches, cities or farms.

Also included in the new photo app capabilities is a feature called "Memories," which scans a user's photos and videos and automatically organizes them into collections of memories that include old, forgotten images of people, places and things. Also coming is a Memory Movie feature that will automatically edit the images into a movie with theme music, titles and cinematic transitions, according to Apple.

The iOS 10 operating system will be available as a free upgrade to Apple users in the fall.

Two analysts who spoke with eWEEK about the Apple Music and Photos changes had varying reactions to the updates.

Jan Dawson, chief analyst for Jackdaw Research, called the Apple Music changes "mostly cosmetic," adding that there "wasn't much about new or better functionality, and it was mostly about the same stuff in new packaging."

The addition of lyrics in Apple Music is "nice, but not a game changer," he wrote, but Apple didn't do much to improve the recommendations that Apple Music makes to users, added Dawson. Also missing was any mention of a new user interface for Apple Music users on the Mac, he said.

Meanwhile, Apple's Photos app is getting "some interesting changes," he said, "but I wonder to what extent people want Apple to do more organizing of their photos versus doing that organization wherever they're sharing the pictures, like Facebook."