Playlists are an integral part of any music junkie’s life. There are playlists for rainy days, road trips, and weddings, and each song serves to compliment an overall theme. Unfortunately, I find that the second half of my playlists are often neglected due to lack of time. The iPad music app doesn’t allow me to add a bookmark to a playlist, so I find myself starting over every time I return to my playlist.
Sticky Playlists is a universal app by Mysterious Trousers that attempts to address the forgetfulness of the native music app by allowing the user to pick up exactly where he or she left off.
Sticky Playlists works with the native music app to provide an enhanced listening experience. It allows the user to access the playlists available on his or her device as well as easily create custom playlists. The app uses playlists as containers, saving the user’s place in each playlist, as well as the playlist volume. This is especially useful for audiobook listeners, since most audiobooks are separated into tracks, and the native music app doesn’t keep up with which track the user is listening to.
Since Sticky Playlists depends on the native music app, the standard music controls such as pause, next, and play are available in the menu tray. The app also allows the user to skip fifteen-second intervals, which is less tedious than using the scrubber.
The user controls the track volume via a simple finger swipe to the right or left on the album artwork.
Design and Interface
Mysterious Trousers is no stranger to quirky and well-implemented design, but Sticky Playlists relies on a minimalist layout to stay out of the user’s way. The album artwork is the focal point of the layout and it pops against the light-wood background. This provides a focus on the track, unlike the native music app, but it begins to get ugly when a track is missing album artwork and the user is faced with the default image.
Creating a new playlist is as easy as tapping the plus button atop the “Playlists” menu. Unfortunately, the act of creating a playlist reveals some major flaws in the app design. My distaste for popover menus leads me to rely almost exclusively on landscape mode, and while the app supports a landscape player, creating a playlist presents a portrait-only window. This bizarre omission breaks the flow of the experience, and the developers should have done a better job of fully implementing landscape mode.
Sticky Playlists’ feature set is simple, but honed, and the developer makes it clear that this app’s sole purpose is to keep the user’s place and volume settings within a playlist. The app allows the user to create a playlist, but these playlists are only available within the app and can’t be accessed from the native music player or synced with iTunes. If users plan to use Sticky Playlists exclusively this won’t present a problem, but those who wish to access their playlists elsewhere are out of luck.
Remember the awkward portrait-only creation screen? iCloud tracks have download buttons next to them, but pressing a button merely grays it out and doesn’t actually download the track. iCloud tracks can be played in the app, but the download option is broken.
On top of this, the creation screen lacks a search option, so all tracks must be located with the alphabet bar, which can be painful for those with large libraries. Once playlists are created, they cannot be edited, unlike the native music app. This won’t be an issue for short audiobook playlists, but be careful when creating extensive music playlists.
Fortunately, the app does an excellent job at what it promises; to remember playlist location and volume. Switching back to a playlist displays the album artwork and track data for the last song played in the list, and hitting the play button resumes the list at the previous volume and position. Sticky Playlists will remember the position and volume even if it’s closed, but it will not return the user to the last-played playlist if the app is restarted.
To put it frankly, Sticky Playlists is frustrating to use. This isn’t because it’s ugly or has a terrible UI, but because it contains a myriad of visual performance issues. Tracks pause, play, and skip flawlessly, but the visual changes are glitchy. It’s common for the play button to refuse to change to a pause symbol when a track is playing.
Album artwork often fails to display, and artwork and metadata fail to change when a track changes. It is rare for Sticky Playlists to show both the correct album artwork and metadata at the same time. The track length on the scrubber often sticks between tracks, so tracks extend beyond the length of the scrubber into negative lengths. This wouldn’t be a problem if the user is only listening to a track and ignoring the interface; but let’s be honest, it’s inexcusable for a music player app to consistently display incorrect or incomplete information, especially when that app has a $2.99 price tag.
I reached out to Mysterious Trousers regarding the issues with the iPad app, and I received a response within the same day. The representative was incredibly friendly and was able to reproduce the issues that I experienced while using the app. The developer is working to address these issues, and based on Mysterious Trousers’ track record, I’m sure that the app will receive a swift update to address most of these bugs. This review, however, is not a review of the app that will be, but the app that is, and the iPad version of this app is lacking.
Through extensive use of the app, I’ve discovered that most of the issues and glitches mentioned in this review are absent in the iPhone version. Sure, universal apps are favored to iPhone or iPad-only apps, but I would rather have an app that works well on one device instead of an app that works on one device and is broken on the other. The developer should have withheld a universal version until the experience was fully baked.
The player interface in Sticky Playlists is elegant, and I see myself using this app regularly contingent upon some major bug fixes. There’s potential in Sticky Playlists, especially if the developer includes iCloud syncing in a future update; imagine being able to resume your playlists on any device. For now, however, Sticky Playlists by Mysterious Trousers is stuck in the mud.