I’ve never tried a secondary music app. The iOS Music app has always been enough for me, but I started to wonder if maybe there could be something better out there. Something different, cooler, that would make me give up the default Music app for good.
There’s gotta be something pretty special going on to make me turn my head, and that’s what in:play is — pretty special. Fancy gestures and a minimalist interface make for a pretty sweet experience. Will all that really make for an experience to rival what I can get right out of the iOS box, though?
Now You’re Thinking With Gestures
There’s a tutorial when you first launch in:play, but like every time I get a tutorial like this this, something that teaches me a lot of different gestures and how to do a whole bunch of different stuff all at once, I forgot it all immediately. Some of the in:play gestures are really intuitive, and some of them just aren’t, so pay attention during the tutorial, guys!
So you’ve got a song playing with in:play and you want it to stop, or maybe it isn’t playing and you want it to get going. Tap the screen. That’s maybe about the most obvious thing I can think of and feels really natural, since I already pause videos on my Mac by clicking anywhere in the player.
I’m going to be honest: there was a bit of a learning curve for me when I first started trying to navigate the main player window. To move forward to the next song, swipe to the left and swipe right to get that last song back. Easy enough.
But in:play let’s you browse through your songs in lots of different ways, too. If you tap and hold the artist’s name until it’s highlighted, you’ll be listening to all the songs by that artist. Tap and hold the album name, and you’ll have all the songs from just that album at your fingertips. If the song title is highlighted, in:play will cycle through all of your tracks in alphabetical order.
Pull down on in:play, like you’re dragging down Notification Center, and you’ll get a list of all of your songs, artists or albums, whatever was highlighted at the time. Use the menu at the bottom of the screen to also scroll through genres and playlists. When you’re done, just fling it back up to get the music player back.
You can also scroll through all of that without leaving the music player. Highlight the artist, album or song, and double tap. Swipe left and right to find what you’re looking for or tap a letter at the bottom to move more quickly. If you don’t select anything, in:play will return to the regular player after a few seconds.
There’s lots of fancy track selection, but in:play also gives you the normal stuff you’d expect from any music player. Tap the volume icon, and you’ll get a sort of wheel in your display; move it back and forth to control your volume. You can also tap and drag the time display on your song to scrub forwards.
The shuffle icon is obvious at the bottom of the screen, but drag up and you’ll find the repeat icon, as well. It seems in:play focuses more on shuffle, as the app plays all the songs on your phone by default. You’ll have to direct it to an album or artist and away from playing everything ever.
There are a few things you have to accept with in:play. The first is the color blue. There’s no choice in this. Everything is black, white and blue. There’s no cover art, no images, no setting that will change this. I hope you’re okay with blue. The design is stark, which is nice, but when you’re used to seeing an album’s cover art, as I am, it’s somewhat disconcerting. The design doesn’t always match the music, but hopefully you manage to get your music rolling and don’t end up staring at the interface the entire time, anyway.
Every time you open in:play, it’s going to cache your songs and start with the first in your library. For me, that’s “A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend. It’s a good song, but it’s not my favorite, and I don’t necessarily want it to autoplay every time I start up in:play. There doesn’t seem to be a way around that though, so get ready to hear whatever song is alphabetically first in your library. It’s in your library in the first place, though, so you probably like it.
I’m not naming names, but I’ve got some friends who really miss the click wheel. They miss it a lot, and this comes out especially when they’re listening to music. While I don’t think gesture-based music apps like in:play are going to soothe the savage beast that is the click wheel lover, it goes a long way. It’s never going to be the same as those bygone days of yore, but using in:play feels incredibly similar to me.
And in:play just makes a lot of sense — once you figure it out, of course. “What am I even supposed to be doing here?” I thought at first. There’s a steep learning curve when it comes to figuring out exactly what it wants out of me. When I finally did learn all the nuances of in:play, it just felt so easy and natural, like I should have been listening to music like this all along.