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Replay – has Apple FINALLY nailed it in 2022 or is it STILL missing out?

It’s December, and that means review time.

Replay from Apple
image courtesy of Apple

Ding-dong merrily on high

Replay is finally in the play!

It’s December, which for us Apple Music users, has always been a bit of an embarrassing month. Why? Well, because all, and I do mean all my friends who are Spotify users, bang on about their Spotify Wrapped playlists. They are intolerable.

And as if the constant sharing on socials is not enough, it always starts the inevitable conversation about “why do you use Apple Music”?

The answer, is, actually, pretty simple. Only a portion of my listening, is streamed. On Apple Music, I also have a huge collection of my music, that is not available to stream. It’s personal, and it has memories and emotions attached to it. In itself, that will always make Apple Music a winner for me.

But, that is not to say that I’d love not to feel like a kid with no friends every December. It’s that feeling all over again, of being the last kid to be selected for the team at school – and yes, I was that kid. So, this is personal!

But praise be, this year is different. Us Apple Music disciples now have a juiced up version of Replay – and it came out this week.

What’s the deal?

You may be forgiven in thinking that Apple Replay is new this year. Well, it was first around in 2019, but to be honest, it has never been anything to really get excited over. I was going to say, make a song and dance about…but I thought the best of it! Until this year, Replay, was pretty much a lame playlist-like review, and certainly came nowhere close to what our Spotify brothers & sisters were served every year.

Apple has clearly been hard at work this year, to come up with a much better annual review of our listening habits. So, what do you get?

To find your Replay, grab your iPhone, and at the bottom of your home screen, click on ‘Browse’. There, you’ll find a blue thumbnail. Clicking on it will open up your year in review. It is not as intuitive as the Spotify version, and requires a fair few clicks to get any meaningful data and info.

After ‘Getting Started’, you are first invited to play your highlight reel, which does, pretty much, what you’d expect. But, if you scroll down instead, you start to get a better picture of your year in music. You’ll get categories such as top song, or top artist.

There, you can either scroll to the right for a top 5, or by carrying on down to the bottom, you’ll get a far more socially shareable list. The last screen, it gives you, is a link to a mix of your favourite listening from the year. And with that, they have done a good job. Just looking at mine, it’s a great throwback of what albums I have picked out to listen to this year.

One oddity that I have just found, is once you have played the mix on your iPhone, the Replay playlist doesn’t appear in my Apple Music playlists on my Mac.

But, even after all this work and effort, has Apple still missed the mark?

Music matters

Music, is indeed, the soundtrack to our days, months, years, and lives. It lifts you up or soothes you. It makes bad days better, and great days memorable. Music is also highly sociable too. I’d love for my girlfriend or daughter to know what I’ve been listening to this year. And that is what these year reviews should be all about. Sharing.

There would seem to be a major, and fundamental difference between Apple’s Replay and Spotify’s Wrapped, and that is the central focus of each.

Now, Apple may have made the choice intentionally, but the focus for them has been on the music. It almost seems as they have made this a personal playback, rather than one to be shared. With Spotify, on the other hand, it is all about the socials.

Getting those songs, artists, and playlists out to as many friends and all over Twitter, is where Spotify wins out, hands down. Wrapped is focused on creating a musical family, where you can get an insight to what your family on the other side of the world have been listening to. And it does it well. So well, in fact, that many other platforms, have simply, just directly copied them. Pocket Casts, YouTube Music and Soundcloud, all have got year reviews that look and feel remarkably similar to Wrapped. Imitation is sometimes the highest form of flattery.

Sharing is caring

Spotify’s Wrapped has become a bit of thing. The moment it is out there, you can’t help but know about it. Crucially, they have made it easy, and fun, to share. Wrapped, alone, has won over many listeners to Spotify, just so they can share their Wrapped summaries every year. To many, it signifies the start of the holidays, and festive season.

Spotify has made sure it is super simple to share your year, whereas Apple have missed that trick. For Spotify listeners, there is one easy card, that spills the beans on all of your big hits of the year. Apple’s Replay, missed that one critical area. For us over in Apple land, it is a case of messily, cobbling together, and uploading numerous screenshots.

Many sharing their Replays, or Wrapped’s, will be the Gen Z. They expect to be able to share and upload with one or two swipes. Their playlists will be sent to TikTok, Insta and Twitter with a singular flick of the thumb, if on Spotify. If Apple wants to appeal to that generation, then, by this time next year, they need to look closely at this. If anybody has the resources to nail this, then it is Apple.

Keeping an eye

Apple are masters in marketing. This overhaul to Replay, was clearly, not a quick job, or a rushed afterthought. So, I’d imagine that the responses they are seeing online will not be pleasing them.

The feedback is generally along the lines of ‘nice try, but must do better’. For some, it even seems to have been the final nail in the Apple Music coffin. I have read some threads, with folks saying, that’s it, they’re off to Spotify. Unpersonal, cold, clanky, and complaints of a poor UI are reasons that many loyal Apple Music listeners feel short-changed.

I have written this blog, whilst playing my 2022 Replay playlist. OK, I am biased, and it is a great set, but, it kind of validates the points I’ve been making. I am enjoying reliving the year, but the ability to share this with anyone is pretty much a non-starter. My daughter works for a record label, and we have always shared music memories. I know any day soon, I will see her Wrapped set for the year. I only wish Apple made it easier for me to let her see what I’ve been listening to.

I think the ‘good start, but could do better’ take-away is a fairly accurate summation. Replay is much better than it’s ever been, but what Apple now need to do, is build on this for next year. They shouldn’t live fearing being seen to mimic Spotify, rather just making Apple Music boys and girls have something to crow about too come next December.

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