iOS 5: Downloading Music from iCloud Is Frustrating

One of the most frustrating apps in iOS that I’ve encountered is the Music app. There are many shortcomings that I’ve discussed before, but the most glaring issue since the introduction of iOS 5 and iTunes Match is not knowing just when the hell your albums have finished downloading.

As it stands right now, I have almost 3000 songs matched and synced with iCloud. When I’m on Wi-Fi I occasionally like to download a few full albums of music. Typically this happens at the office before I’m about to head out for the evening. Since I frequently ride the train downtown, it’s typical that I’ll want some music for the ride home — either that or podcasts.

Although I’ve been using iTunes Match since its release, I’ve only now started to take advantage of the fact that I can download any album in my collection from iCloud. While this is an amazing convenience to have in 2012, the experience while trying to do so in the Music app is an exercise in frustration. From a user experience perspective, there is absolutely zero indication or notification that any of your album downloads have completed. This is pretty damn important, and it’s surprising that Apple failed to ship a fully polished iTunes Match experience on iOS 5.

Let’s say it’s the end of the work day and I plan on leaving the office in half an hour. I decide that I want to listen to some music on the way home, so naturally while I’m on Wi-Fi I decide to download a few full albums for the ride home. Once the downloads start, there is no way for me to know when any of them have completed, save for actually opening the app itself. So what is the user supposed to do? You can’t seriously expect me to open the Music app and tap an obscene amount of times to spot check every album I was trying to download, then scroll down and make sure those spinning download indicators have gone away? Utterly preposterous!

A fantastic opportunity presented itself when Apple was building Notification Center for iOS 5. Simply displaying the album or song download progress inside of Notification Center would have been all that was needed. Expanding on this idea, these kinds of visual notifications are perfect for the lock screen. What better way of knowing I can now safely leave the Wi-Fi hotspot I was in with a friendly push notification: “Your iTunes Match downloads are done.”

I hope we don’t have to wait for iOS 6 to see this kind of improvement. I do think this is more of an iterative iOS 5.x kind of feature enhancement.