Smartphones for All chapter excerpt: Music for iPhone Explorers

From Smartphones for All (draft):

In our family music has been problem-free entertainment. I think this is a general rule — music doesn’t show up on anyone’s list of smartphone concerns. Fifty years ago elders feared the corrupting influence of rock-and-roll, now that seems quaint. Music we can handle.

There are broadly speaking, 3 ways of getting music to an Explorer’s iPhone: iTunes sync, buying music from Apple Music, or using a streaming service. I’ll review each briefly with a focus on Guide support and costs, then I’ll briefly review Restrictions for music consumption.

The iTunes sync method of getting music to an iPhone is the oldest and potentially the least expensive — but it is now almost forgotten. It a Windows or Mac computer. With this approach a Guide assembles music files in Apple’s iTunes app, then the music can be copied (“synced”) to the iPhone, usually with a physical cable[1]. The music can from a CD (by “ripping” in iTunes) or from a file collection that is not copy protected.

This iTunes method has three disadvantages. It requires a personal computer — and those are slowly going away. It requires an Explorer’s iPhone be physically connected. Lastly “ripping” large number of CDs is pretty time consuming.

iTunes sync has advantages though. If a Guide already has the music files, and is willing to disregard copyright laws or to buy and rip used CDs, the music is inexpensive. Listening to this music doesn’t use up expensive cellular data since it’s already on the iPhone.

There’s a variation on iTunes sync that eliminates the need for access to the Explorer’s iPhone. For $25 a year Apple’s iTunes Match[2] service will provide internet access to an iTunes music library. In theory a Guide could use this to manage Explorer music without access to an Explorer’s iPhone. This is method may use up an Explorer’s cellular data though, and it’s more troublesome and complicated. If an Explorer is using iTunes Match a Guide will usually want to disable cellular data for, an Explorer will download the music over WiFi.

The second way to get music on an Explorer’s iPhone is to buy it from Apple using the Apple store. At $1.30 a tune this can be an expensive way to build a music collection[3]. The music may be available to other users by a shared Apple Store ID or “family sharing”. This method will use cellular data unless initial downloading is done over WiFi. Some Explorers do enjoy making purchases this way and Apple Store purchases can be combined with iTunes sync. I reviewed how to manage iTunes store dollars in Smartphone choice and managing costs. In my family we share one App Store account and track credits and debits in a spreadsheet.

The third way to get music to an Explorer’s iPhone is through a “streaming service” like Spotify or Apple Music. These services typically cost $100 to $120 a year for the non-student and about $60 for students. Shared “family” plans can be more economical, Spotify makes it easy for up to 6 people to share streaming costs. Spotify also has a “free” ad-supported service, but it burns cellular data quickly. I don’t recommend it for most Explorers.

Streaming services will use up expensive cellular data unless music is downloaded over WiFi. WiFi downloading is easier to understand with Apple Music but Spotify supports it as well. If cellular data use is disabled in iOS restrictions most Explorers will quickly learn how to download over WiFi.
Spotify’s paid version (Premium) with cellular data disabled is the easiest and most economical solution for most Explorers — particularly if they can share an account with friends or family. Apple Music streaming is a bit simpler to use, but cost sharing is more restrictive. It’s a good alternative to Spotify.

[1] Or by local WiFi, but that method can be quirky.
[2] iTunes Match is also bundled with Apple Music for $120 a year. Apple Music can be shared with family for a higher fee, but iTunes Match doesn’t do family sharing. It’s complicated! Also, I think Apple is eventually going to discontinue iTunes Match.
[3] Historically building a music library was expensive, but many people bought used CDs or records for less

iOS 12: Restrictions becomes Screen Time with “family” support, definition of “child” is a concern for vulnerable users

Two years ago Apple’s iOS had better family restriction options than Google’s Android. In the past year Google has forged ahead and Apple has stood still. In my testing third party apps that claim to manage iPhone use fail badly — due to lack of Apple support.

With iOS 12 Apple is redoing “restrictions” as “Screen Time”. Reports claim support for remote management of “child” users.

This could be real progress for special needs iPhone users — or it could be a disappointment. It all depends how Apple defines “child”. I’m afraid Apple will arbitrarily set “child” as someone under age 18.

I say that because there’s a worrisome precedent in iOS 11 family sharing. In iOS 11 a family sharing manager can require purchase authorization for family members — but only for family members under age 18.

If Apple adopts this same rule, without consideration of vulnerable adults, Screen Time won’t be as useful as it could be. A month ago, for what it’s worth, I wrote Tim Cook about this — though I think it’s too late now to make changes for iOS 12. There might be a chance to make changes for iOS 13.

It’s not all bad of course. Screen Time will be an improvement for Explorers under age 18, and maybe Apple will provide better support for third parties to extend Screen Time.

There’s an important context to this problem. In our culture there’s some popular support for persons with disabilities that fall within the scope of the ADA. Apple, for example, has often done a good job, particularly in iOS, of supporting limitations in vision and hearing. That support doesn’t extend to persons with cognitive disabilities. There is no cognitive disability section in iOS Accessibility settings. If Apple thought about cognitive disabilities the way they thought about visual limitations, there would be a “vulnerable adult” toggle that would eliminate the “over 18” rule. There would be a “simplify interaction” toggle that would support one-tap activation of the dozens of simplifications I describe in “Smartphones for All”. There would be explicit support for a “Guide” user that managed two-factor authentication issues.

I haven’t seen any signs of either Apple or Google engaging with the cognitive disability community. These are corporations that value intellect; perhaps they find cognitive disability distasteful. Government regulation and/or ADA litigation may be needed.