Better Player for Music (BPM)
Better Player for Music (BPM)
Dev Notes / February 6th, 2018 12:28 pm     A+ | a-
Welcome to my first developer blog post! The big question for us as we strike out in attempting to write blog posts like this is if we can keep it up, honestly because we love developing new stuff so much it’s hard to get ourselves to take time away from that to just communicate. But here goes...

So I’ve personally been working on getting CameraBag Cinema ready for Windows lately, which you know is coming if you subscribe to our newsletter. However, at the point it’s at right now where it mostly works but has a bunch of small bugs to fix here and there with different video file formats, it’s really pretty annoying to work on. I don’t get any of the joy of putting in new cool features or workflow speedups. So to reward myself and give myself breaks between slogging through the porting process, I’m allowing myself to make a small iPhone app on the side that I’ve always wanted to make, which I’d love to tell you a bit about.

It’s called BPM - Better Player for Music.

Here are my issues with the existing iPhone music app:
  • The next and previous buttons are waaaay too small to try to hit while driving. They should be giant, and on the screen at all times.
  • Takes way too many button presses to do the things I most want to do, like start a playlist playing or reshuffle the queue. Trying to find the suffle button can feel like taking crazy pills.
  • It’s pretty ugly - mostly just white backgrounds and red text, especially bad when driving at night.
  • Not very easy to tell what’s currently playing, again especially if you’re driving.
You can see in the video how I’ve addressed these issues in BPM, while also just trying to make a music app that looks and feels beautiful. Here are some of the things that I think are particuarly cool about it:
  • Giant next and previous buttons, especially easy to hit while driving. It’s a safety issue in addition to a cool visual.
  • The title of the song currently playing is also giant, because it looks cool and is easier to read. Album art is the worst thing to have happened to music player interfaces, in my opinion.
  • The next and previous buttons have a fun little animation that I still enjoy just staring at while songs play - sort of a reel-to-reel thing going on.
  • You’re always basically two taps away from loading a new playlist, and all the important buttons and info are on the screen at all times (or, if you’re choosing something like an artist’s songs, you’re just one dismiss button away). The navigation in extremely straightforward.
  • We’ve designed several color schemes that are pretty fun to use in different situations. I’m open to suggestions about additional color schemes. You can see most of the existing ones in the video.
I also want to mention, by way of venting, that the APIs Apple has made available for playing music in iOS apps are horrible, terrible, and very bad and buggy. They provide two separate music player types, one (MPMusicPlayerController) that can’t play non-iTunes files and is unnecessarily slow/buggy and has no support for duplicate songs in playlists, and another (AVPlayer) that behaves more reasonably and with less bugs but that can’t play older DRMed iTunes songs or non-local Apple Music files. So we’re forced to make lame compromises in designing the player because Apple has made such awful and buggy APIs to work with, and we’ve had to employ a million workarounds.

But I think we’re wrangling together something pretty great. Hopefully BPM will be finished within a month or so, we’ll definitely let you know!

- Tom
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