Here’s Why Apple’s iOS Music App Should Not Load Artist Photos

Apple’s iOS Music app no longer contents itself to just sync music from iTunes, or download music from the cloud; it gets in the way of your identifying your music easily. Whenever you sync your iOS device, it connects to the iTunes Store to download artist photos and other information. (And this seems to be the cause of some sync problems.) While Apple thinks this is a good idea, there’s a very good reason why it’s not.

ArtistsIf I look at the artists on my iPhone, I see a lot of names where an album cover is used to illustrate that artist, but I also see lots of photos. The iTunes Store has photos of many artists which it then feeds to iOS devices. Curiously, some artists, such as The Rolling Stones or The Beatles, don’t get these photos. But many artists do. To the left are some examples.

The problem is that these photos are tiny. And I don’t really recognize most of them. I can’t see the faces of the members of The Clash; the Coldplay photo is full of shadowy faces; I’ve never known whet the guys in New Order looked like; I think there’s a woman in the Kate Bush photo, but it’s hard to see. And while the guys in the Pink Floyd photo have 70s haircuts, they could be the Allmann Brothers for all I know. Perhaps the worst is the Ultravox photo. I’m a big fan of early Ultravox, with John Foxx, but I don’t really care for the band after Midge Ure replaced Foxx on vocals. I have a feeling that the photo might be of Midge Ure, long after he joined the band, but he’s not on the albums on my iPhone. (I actually did see that incarnation of Ultravox live, back on the Vienna tour, and all I remember was that the band members were all wearing those long, dark, new romantic coats while playing.)

On the other hard, I’d recognize any of the Ultravox album covers, or my New Order artwork, and certainly Pink Floyd’s covers. Adding artist photos is good if you can see the artist, but Apple’s photos are designed to be displayed in iTunes, not as tiny thumbnails in the Music app.

I saw that another iOS music app, Vox, does the same thing; it pulls artist photos from its server, instead of showing album artwork. As such, many of my artists have no photos, when I view them in that app, since it doesn’t replace missing photos with album artwork.

Few people are able to identify all the artists on their iOS devices by these pixel-challenged photos. If Apple really thinks this is a good idea, they should at least offer the option to use artwork instead of photos. And for third-party apps; this is an even bigger mistake, because they don’t have anywhere near enough photos for all the possible artists people have on their devices.