The official arrival of iOS 16 has made a handful of audio updates available for iPhone users, the main one being Custom Spatial Audio, a feature that taps into the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera to create a profile tuned for the listener’s ears when using AirPods. Pro (1st or 2nd generation), AirPods Max headphones, AirPods 3 or Beats Fit Pro. Apple Music subscribers may already be familiar with the benefits of Spatial Audio, but there are other Apple Music-specific features coming with iOS 16 that make the service easier and more enjoyable to use.
Full screen music player
When playing tracks on Apple Music, the app’s lock screen widget now shows which Apple devices (eg AirPods Pro, AirPods Max) are connected via Bluetooth. But this is just a small change. You can now long press on the widget and it expands, giving you a full-screen preview of the album artwork, along with controls like a button to jump to the Playing Next screen and the “3 dots” that display options to Add to Library or List. Playback, Show Album, Create Station and Love (or dislike) tracks.
This change isn’t big by any means, but it does improve the speed at which you can run various Apple Music functions on your phone. More importantly, it works the same for some of the other best music streaming apps like Tidal and Spotify, as well as internet radio and podcasts.
Expanded volume HUD
Another Apple Music tweak – and one you’ll see when you tap to access this full-screen player – is an expanded volume HUD. The volume slider now matches the full width of the track’s playbar, which is not just an aesthetic improvement, but makes it easier to adjust the volume and allows for more granular volume changes. The bar also grows and brightens as you make adjustments, which further improves usability.
Is this a consequential change? Not necessarily, but I’m often frustrated by the lack of on-screen controls to adjust the apps’ volume, which leads me to – gasp! – press the hardware volume up/down buttons on the iPhone side panel. Notably, since the Tidal music service that I also use regularly doesn’t have a volume slider in its full-screen iOS app, I’m forced to press multiple screens to access this control. So the new, easily accessible expanded volume slider is a good example of why Apple Music is amazing.
Another useful feature that has been added to Apple Music with iOS 16 is playlist sorting. Previously, playlists created in the app reflected the order in which tracks were added to it: first track first, last track last. Now pressing the three-dot button at the top of the Apple Music screen in the playlist view accesses a sort control with Title, Artist, Album and Release Date options. Oh yes, and there’s also an option to go back to the original playlist order.
Why is it important to sort playlists? I have a huge playlist that I created in the early days of the pandemic, when suddenly there was time to do these things. It’s basically the soundtrack of my life and reflects the music that has been most important to me at various stages from childhood to the present. After upgrading to iOS 16, I immediately thought of using the new rating feature, which would allow me to listen to these tracks in chronological order. This is something I wanted to do previously, but then found myself without the time (or desire) to reorder the tracks in a new playlist.
Another iOS 16 audio change
While there are several other updates for Apple Music, they are almost inconsequential to mention. But there’s an overlooked iOS 16 audio update that I think is worth pointing out, mainly because it’s something I’ll be sure to make use of. When you ask Siri’s voice control to tell you the name of a song that’s playing, that information is now synced to the music recognition app Shazam. Not only that, but it also syncs with Music Recognition in the iOS Control Center, so you can quickly access a list of songs you’ve searched for by any means by pressing that icon.
Again, not a game-changing update, but a thoughtful and meaningful update from Apple.
If you want to know more about your music listening options, check out our list of Best Streaming Music Services.