Apple Music Pings

Image source: Apple (2018)

Earlier this week, Shortcuts specialist Matthew Cassinelli published a quick piece about how Apple News notifications can quickly get out of hand, particularly if you don’t interact with the app regularly and very deliberately.

Matthew’s experience was certainly my consistent with my own use of Apple News. When I used the app—I’ve since turned back to Reeder—I had only selected ABC News (Australia), The New York Times and Vox to send me notifications, however they added up very quickly on my lock screen and in Notification Centre. In some cases, I couldn’t see why certain stories even justified a push notification. To my mind, stories should only be shared as push notifications if they are emergencies or major breaking news.

As annoying as this may be, it does come down to a degree of subjectivity around what is important to share and how frequently you should annoy users. From a usability perspective, not being able to deal with notifications in an easier way is also frustrating.

What is even more concerning to me, however, is the way that the company sometimes handles notifications for Apple Music. Here is an example of a notification that I received recently from the app on my iPad Pro and Apple Watch.

iOS notification for Beyoncé’s album ‘Lemonade’
watchOS notification for Beyoncé’s album ‘Lemonade’

What’s the issue here? The issue is that I did not request any notification about this album or sign up for a pre-order. These two notifications are purely promotional and as others have written, fly in the face of Apple’s own rules for developers. This album was once exclusive to Tidal and although it’s a big deal that it’s now available elsewhere, I did not need or want to be pinged about it.

Many tech commentators are concerned about what it means for Apple to transform into a services company; I don’t share that pessimism. As its products mature, emphasising services to engage with and earn more money from existing users is a predictable and sensible step. I went into further detail about this in my recent piece Apple and the Craftsmen, following the recent services event.

The question must be asked: is Apple learning from its earlier mistakes?

For example, who could forget the outrage over Apple’s insistence that every iTunes customer should have U2’s album Songs of Innocence in their library? For a company that apparently values privacy so much, Apple should understand that privacy is not just about leaving user data alone and encrypted… it is also about respecting users’ space and not forcing promotional messages upon them.

I love Apple Music, its playlists and integration with HomePod, however this has taken a few years of refinement. Apple once introduced another kind of Ping that didn’t go so well; it didn’t seem to learn that lesson when it tried to push Connect with the launch of Apple Music. Personally, I’m hoping that these notifications are a brief services experiment. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we won’t have to endure a whole new world of unwanted promotional pings.

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