App

From new ways of playing to helping you discover top tunes, these are the best apps to download

Apple Music is a great service. For ten bucks a month, you get access to 60 million songs, which can be streamed to your iPhone or downloaded for local playback. Apple isn’t alone in this field, but arguably competes for top spot with Spotify — and in our experience is extremely strong when it comes to helping you discover new music.

That said, the Music app is these days geared more heavily around the service than your music collection. So this selection of apps explores replacement players and related apps that help you get more from your favorite tunes, by rethinking how you access Apple Music and play songs — whether they’re stored on your iPhone or streamed from the cloud.

C’s Classic Music Player

$2/£2 • v5.1.6 • 4.6 MB • By Mike Clay

The original iPhone Music experience was geared around your mp3 collection, rather than the millions of tracks sitting in Apple Music. That’s what C’s brings back to your device. In that sense, it being dubbed a ‘Classic’ music player is apt: instead of the tab bar sending you off to the likes of For You, Browse and Radio, it instead provides fast access to Artists, Albums, Songs, and Playlists.

And we really do mean fast. There’s no lag or cruft. Taps instantly switch you between tabs, and you get subtle haptic feedback when an item is selected. It all feels very efficient — whether the app’s getting you to tunes you love, or presenting your collection in a readable, coherent manner.

Everything looks quite basic, but C’s is packed with clever details. At the top-left is a button for toggling whether all your music in the cloud is displayed, or just whatever you’ve downloaded to your iPhone in the Apple Music app. This choice persists across all tabs, and is better than Apple Music forcing you into a sub-menu to access your downloaded music.

Head to the settings, and you discover you can swap out existing tabs for Genres, Composers, and Search. There are alternative themes, too, and options to adjust list sorting, such as hiding albums in the Artists tab (which then just lists a selected artist’s songs alphabetically).

For the low one-off price tag (the listed IAP is merely for if you fancy sending the creator a tip), C’s is a great download. It’s ideal for going a bit old-school in your iPhone music playback — but with a modern and smartly conceived app.

Download C’s Classic Music Player

SongOwl

$2/£2 • v1.1.2 • 4.8 MB • By Mike Clay

Start using SongOwl as a C’s owner and you’re going to get a touch of deja vu, because the apps are in some ways very similar. In part, this is because they’re by the same creator — Mike Clay. But as you explore SongOwl, you soon recognize its unique focus, which centers around a flexible browsing experience.

In the Library tab, two buttons at the top-right of the screen enable you to choose how songs are grouped, and then how they are sorted. So you can, for example, list albums alphabetically, or songs by play count. With the Paths button at the top-left, you can create and save multiple ‘paths’ — useful to store a range of custom views. (One negative: saved paths cannot be locked, and so be mindful of that if you’re using one and update its view/sort settings.)

Elsewhere, SongOwl builds on the C’s framework in other key ways, such as with bespoke buttons for Play Next/Play Later, and a heavier emphasis on favorites. Ultimately, you might surmise the creator should pick the best bits of his apps and combine them. But we’re happy both exist — C’s and SongOwl are each very affordable, but they also cater to different audience types. Since they’re equally impressive, why not try them both to see which best fits with how you’d like to access and interact with your music collection?

Download SongOwl

Ecoute

$1/£1 • v2.5.7 • 4.5 MB • By Julien Sagot

In some ways, Ecoute echoes C’s Classic Music Player, in primarily being about accessing your music collection (local or cloud-based), rather than concerning itself with the wider Apple Music service. However, the interface is flashier: instead of tabs, a Filters button tilts back the main view, allowing you to select from a range of options — Albums, Artists, Songs, and so on. The albums view looks especially smart, packing your display with large thumbnails.

One aspect of Ecoute that really stands out — even though it’s not that obvious — is its support for gestural input. The app’s not alone in letting you skip tracks by way of horizontal swipes in the main player view; but you can also do this on the miniature player at the bottom of the screen, and it feels like a feature that every other app should steal.

There are some niggles. Notably, the app’s settings all sit within Apple’s Settings app — an archaic, awkward approach. Also, switching between views looks pretty, but is noticeably slower than performing the same task in Mike Clay’s apps. Still, if you’d like a player that puts artwork front and center in its album view, lets you swipe between tracks, and costs only a buck, Ecoute comes recommended.

Download Ecoute

Doppler 2

$16/£16 • v2.1.1 • 20.9 MB • By Brushed Type Ltd

This is the first app in this round-up that won’t stream Apple Music tracks from the cloud. Instead, Doppler 2 is all about offline playback, and demands you get music on to your iPhone before you play it.

There’s optional integration with tracks downloaded to Apple’s Music app (tap the cog and then go to Manage Library > Show songs from Music app). But Doppler 2 will also import from cloud services and URLs, from Files, or over Wi-Fi — and is compatible with a wide range of file formats.

This means that if you’re a bit of an audiophile, you can get FLAC and WAV files on to your iPhone, and use Doppler 2 to play them, which it does with no trouble. In other areas, the app’s perhaps best described as workmanlike, but if your ears demand high-quality FLAC audio alongside your Apple Music picks, Doppler 2 is a solid buy.

Download Doppler 2

VOX

Free or $5/£5 per month • v2.4.3 • 133.1 MB • By Coppertino Inc.

VOX is the only free app on test. It’s very smart — all moody black, with view settings that understand what music fans want. For example, album sort options include ‘Artist then Title’ but — importantly — ‘Album then Year’ for chronological lists.

It’s responsive during playback. The mini-player mirrors Ecoute’s swiping smarts, and the full-screen player has a big waveform you can drag to adjust your position in the current track. Along with pulling in downloaded Apple Music songs, VOX can connect to SoundCloud and Spotify, thereby widening your source options.

There’s a premium tier, which gives you cloud storage, high-quality playback (for FLAC files), offline streaming, cross-device sync, and editable EQ presets. Even for audiophiles, it feels expensive, although the Parametric EQ tool is flexible and great fun. Still, we’ve found no better custom EQ option on iPhone, and that alone might be worth five bucks a month to you; and if you don’t care about its premium features, VOX is a pretty great alternate music player for no outlay at all.

Download VOX

Meows

Free • v1.1.4 • 81.8 MB • By Igor Kravchenko

This one’s all about discovery. On loading the app, you’re presented with a random selection of playlists. Drag the screen down and release and the selection is refreshed. Can’t decide? Tap the dice at the bottom-right to kick off playback of a random playlist.

Should you have a more targeted approach to your music, you can of course perform manual searches as well, along with digging into your recently played items.

Download Meows

Miximum – Smart Playlists

Free • v1.3.3 • 6.1 MB • By Mike Clay

Yep, this is a third entry in this list from music app maestro Mike Clay — but Miximum does something very different. This one’s all about rules-based playlists of the kind you can fashion in Apple Music/iTunes on a Mac/PC.

The range of filters gives you plenty of power without the hassle of manual curation as you add and discover new music, and playlists can be combined into larger mixes for lengthier listening sessions.

Download Miximum – Smart Playlists

Music app – Unlimited Music

Free • v2.3.1 • 48.2 MB • By Alexander Petis

Should you find yourself in a music bubble, but have a desire to immerse yourself in what’s popular, Music app is ideal. You select a service, filter by country, and can then browse and play anything from the top 100.

If you find a track you particularly like, you can mark it as a favorite or fish it out of the sidebar’s Recents list. You can opt to create bespoke playlists as well.

Download Music app – Unlimited Music

snd.wave

Free or $2/£2 • v2.8.5 • 32.7 MB • By Lucas Klein

On a Mac or PC, Apple’s software lets you keep track of what you most often play. snd.wave brings similar functionality to iPhone. You get charts for top artists, albums and songs — although note that with larger collections, the app can be slow to respond to taps and scrolling.

Fancy checking out what your friends are into? Get them to install snd.wave, and create a network with ‘leaderboards’ for all your favorite tracks.

Download snd.wave