A while ago, Apple released the MusicKit application programming interface that helped third-party enthusiasts build their own Apple Music web players. I came across absolute gems like Musish, ThinMusic and tweaks that made great use of the API. And after an extended beta phase, Apple released its own web player.

You can now use the Apple Music web player, which is accessible via music.apple.com, to stream music from any device conveniently. But does it do anything different than the native music app on iPhone and Mac or iTunes on PC? And when should you use it? We will find answers to these questions below.

What does the Apple Music web player do differently

Turn off the Apple Music web player, and you can immediately start playing 30-second previews of over 60 million songs. If you already have an Apple Music subscription, you can listen to long-running music and albums by signing up with your Apple ID.

Once you’ve come with the web player, you get access to your entire music library, albums and playlists you’ve already added or created using the Music, iTunes or Apple Music app on iPhone, Mac, PC or Android.

If you access Apple Music’s web player from a desktop, you should look surprisingly similar to the Music app on the Mac, and to a slightly lesser degree, to iTunes on the PC. On the left side of the screen, you have the familiar sidebar consisting of the For You, Browse and Radio tabs, as well as the library and playlists.

The web player lets you manage the library by adding or deleting albums and tracks, although the ability to create playlists is absent. You can also like or dislike music, which helps you tweak Apple Music’s recommendation algorithm to your tastes.

The playback controls look the same as in the music app and iTunes, where you can shuffle and repeat songs, skip back or forward between tracks, adjust the volume, and more. However, it is not possible to convert the UI into a mini-player. The web player also doesn’t support live letter, which is a downsier.

On mobile browsers, the Apple Music web player lets you access your library and playlists through a burger menu instead of tabbed navigation controls in the Music and Apple Music apps on iPhone and Android. However, playback controls appear at the bottom of the screen, just like in real mobile apps.

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The mobile version of the web player also suffers from the same set of limitations as its desktop counterpart: you can’t create playlists or show lyrics live. And that goes without saying-nor can you download tracks in both desktop and mobile versions.

How about audio quality? I’m not the biggest audiophile there is, but the tracks I play through Apple Music’s web player are slightly lower. By default, the native music app and iTunes play songs at 256kbps, so the web player is likely to stream them to 128kbps, or even lower.

Maybe it’s because Apple wants songs to load faster on the web player. But still, an option to manually change the audio quality on faster connections would have been nicer. Third-party Apple Music players, like FeTunes, let you stream at 256kbps.

When should you use Apple Music Web Player

To Apple’s credit, the Apple Music web player works well. But being a web app, it feels sluggish compared to native music apps on the iPhone and Mac. However, it works almost on par with iTunes on Windows. Also found to work better than Apple Music app on Android.

The biggest advantage of using the web player is the freedom to listen to music on any device that supports internet browser. That means you can also use it on devices other than your own—just sign in your web browser, start streaming, then sign when it’s done. Plus, it’s a great way to stream music on platforms (like Linux) that don’t sport support for a native Apple Music app.

However, it’s hard to recommend Apple Music web player over native music apps, or even iTunes on Windows. You can’t create playlists, you don’t have live chart support, and their nature just makes it impractical to use cellphone data while on the move. And to make things worse, the tracks also sound lower with no option to adjust the audio quality.

Unless you have serious problems playing your music with Apple Music’s specific apps, or you want to quickly stream it on someone else’s device, I see no reason to use the web player. If you want a better experience playing tracks outside of a browser, do it yourself with third-party Apple Music players such as Musish and ThinMusic. Compared to Apple’s web player, they’re much better at what they do.

By Peter

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