Inherently, general-purpose players share more similarities with each other than niche players do with each other. All general-purpose players feature a design focused on browsing the classic ways like “Artists”, “Albums”, “Songs”, etc., feature a full-player, and maybe a few settings or a special “Home” discovery page if you’re lucky. Within that framework, there’s indeed a tremendous amount of variability, but by design not nearly as much as between any two niche players, which more or less do whatever they want at the intentional sacrifice of providing general-purpose functionality. Not so with Picky; Picky remains one of the few general-purpose players that offers a unique spin on the otherwise traditional tab bar browser design.
At first glance, Picky is as traditional as it gets; it features a stock iOS tab bar containing the usual suspects (“Artists”, “Artists”, etc.), a classic (if not aging) iOS 7-style design, and other trappings of a seemingly standard general-purpose player. Where Picky shines, however, is not in its initial visual appearance, but rather the powerful functionality carefully woven into each of its browsing pages.
Starting with the “Artists” page, there’s a curious filter button on the left side of the menu bar. Upon tapping, a novel slider view bounces down, allowing you to quickly and easily browse artists by the number of their songs in your library. For example, I can drag and drop the slider to easily just show artists that have 20 or more songs in my library. This ability is a game changer for listeners with massive libraries cluttered with singles and one-hit wonders, since Picky can quickly and easily filter them out at any time with a flick of a slider.
The “Albums” page is much the same, featuring a similar filter button, only this time yielding a slider to filter out albums that have less than an adjustable number of songs. Additionally, you can filter by genre using a horizontally scrollable list of genre buttons directly below the “number of songs” slider, a neat alternative to the otherwise standard “Genres” browser.
The filter button on the “Songs” page also features a filter slider and genre buttons, but the filter slider instead gives you the ability to filter out songs from artists with more than a certain number of tracks in your library, giving listeners the ability to easily browse the one-hit wonders and singles scattered throughout their library.
These fantastic filtering capabilities on each page make Picky one of the most compelling general-purpose browsing experiences you’ll find, despite its traditional appearance. The only player that provides similar filtering capabilities out of the box is Plum, and even then Plum’s offerings are incomplete (it doesn’t provide the filter slider on “Songs” and doesn’t provide genre filtering). Frankly, if you have a massive library filled with complete albums, singles, EPs, and everything in between, Picky is a requirement for controlled, sane browsing on iOS.
To tie everything together, Picky provides an exceptionally gorgeous full-player which continues to be among the finest available on any player. It features what appears to be a custom translucency blur effect, since to this day none of iOS’s stock blur effects are capable of replicating Picky’s results.
While the results are consistently rich and captivating, various functional aspects of Picky’s player are beginning to show their age. On iPhone “Max” sizes, the shuffle and repeat buttons are well past iOS’s safe areas, just barely away from touching the physical screen borders. Additionally, while Picky thankfully supports lyrics, its lyrics support is the now legacy approach of tapping the album art to fade in scrollable lyrics directly overtop the art, an approach hailing all the way back from the original iPhoneOS Music.app. In light of the many different approaches explored by Doppi, Power Player, and even Apple’s own Music.app over the years, it’s a shame to see Picky continue to pass on exploring alternative approaches that would allow either more lyrics to be visible or the album art to also be visible. To be clear, none of these issues are severe and the player is visually as beautiful as ever, but the time is definitely nearing for it to receive some attention after being neglected for the past few years.
Picky has its share of shortcomings elsewhere in the app, as well. It’s easily one of the most recognizably aging players, featuring an iOS 7-style design that looks increasingly dusty year after year. For listeners that value modern visuals or visual cohesion with the platform’s latest release version, Picky isn’t even up for consideration. While the recent introduction of discovery features with its new “Library Discovery” feature in the later half of 2021 is great, Picky still remains a decent step or two behind its peers in the discovery game; while Picky has five great discovery collections available now in its search page, most of its contemporaries by now have entire pages dedicated to rich library discovery features. Listeners that value discovery over filtering capabilities are therefore likely to not have their needs fully met by Picky.
Despite its shortcomings, Picky remains a fantastic general-purpose player, overall. Its age allows it to be instantly recognizable and understandable, its new discovery features are modest but are elegantly designed and do their job without issue, and the full-player to this day remains one of the most beautiful available anywhere. Picky is not the most “sexy” option, it’s not the most progressive option, but it’s undeniably one of the most powerful and accessible general-purpose players available today.
Picky offers full iPad support, but aside from a few visual tweaks does little to properly utilize the larger screen. Browsing in Picky (such as tapping into a particular artist in “Artists” and then drilling down into a particular album) does not utilize the iPadOS’s multicolumn browser, leaving every browser to comically take up the entire page even in landscape mode.
There were a few affordances made for the larger screen, particularly in the full-player; on iPadOS, tapping the mini-player launches an iPhone-sized modal which houses the full-player exactly as you would see it on an iPhone. While technically an iPad optimization, I’ve historically came down hard on teeny “full-players” on the iPad, and Picky’s iPadOS full-player is no exception. Picky’s legendary full-player design is practically smothered by taking up only a fraction of the available screen space the iPad offers, and the choice to display it in a slim modal instead of leveraging the entire screen to do something more compelling like display the lyrics or queue alongside it only makes the overall effect even more disappointing.
While there doesn’t appear to be much movement for Picky on iPadOS, the prompt extra-large widget support (an iPadOS-exclusive widget size) brings some hope that there may indeed be some proper iPad attention coming soon, but in the meantime, Picky’s iPad version just doesn’t cut it.
Aside from the introduction of extra-large widgets on iPadOS, Picky’s widgets remain unchanged from last year.
Picky supplies three unique widget collections: “Recently Added”, “Recently Played”, and “Random Pick”. Every collection features Picky’s signature orange as the background color in both light and dark mode. While it’s a fun color, it’s undeniably distracting and makes it difficult to comfortably put Picky widgets on the homescreen where their bright, orange-forward design will always fight for visual attention.
The first widget collection, “Recently Added”, displays a grid of your most recently added albums, and is available in every size except small. Each size offers the ability to customize the size of the album art it displays, providing a choice between “Regular” (which equates to four albums on the medium widget) or “Compact” (which equates to ten albums on the medium widget). Here’s what the widgets look like in “Compact” mode.
Regardless of the chosen album art size, no album metadata is displayed, only the album art and the widget collection’s title (“Recently Played”). Upon tapping a given album in the widget, Picky launches and immediately begins playing the chosen record.
The second widget collection, “Recently Played”, similarly displays a grid of your most recently played albums. This collection is identical in appearance and behavior in every way to the “Recently Played” collection, with the only difference being the contents.
The third and final widget collection provided by Picky is “Random Pick”, which is only provided in small. This widget collection is quite different in appearance and behavior to the other two collections in that only a single album is displayed (a random album from your library), its metadata is displayed (the album title and artist), and a special shuffle button is additionally accessible in the upper-right corner of the widget to immediately shuffle the album’s contents. It’s a delightful way to get a random suggestion for something to listen to, and its small size makes it easy to throw anywhere in the widget sidebar or home screen. Not to mention, its small size makes the predominantly bright orange design much less distracting.
New This Year
Charles kept plenty busy throughout 2021 with arguably the most substantial series of feature additions Picky’s received in years. The most notable among them are:
- “Library Discovery” collections on the Search page
- Rich multi-disc album support
- Extra large iPadOS 15 widgets
Picky’s new “Library Discovery” feature is easily the most exciting of the bunch and marks Picky’s first foray into the realm of discovery. Up until now, Picky focused exclusively on delivering a focused library browser with novel filtering capabilities that were accessible with just a tap in the menu bar. However, the minute you wished to step out of the strict filter-based browsing paradigm into something discovery-based like “Recently Added”, “Recently Played”, etc., you were effectively forced to switch players. With “Library Discovery” this is no longer the case; Picky now offers a set of five album-based discovery collections accessible from the Search page. Those five collections are:
- Recently Added: Albums most recently added to your library
- Recently Played: Albums or albums of tracks you’ve recently listened to
- Deep Cuts: Albums with the fewest number of listens
- Quick Plays: Short albums or EPs in your library
- Long Plays: Long albums in your library
Picky’s discovery collections are static; you cannot show, hide, or rearrange them. They are presented as medium-sized rows (a curiously modern move for Picky, which up until now strictly used tightly packed cells like earlier versions of Music.app). These rows feature tasteful iconography on the left and a randomly chosen album for the collection in question on the right. That randomly chosen record doesn’t just serve as a visual clue towards the collection’s contents, it’s also independently actionable; upon tapping the featured album art for a given collection, Picky navigates directly to that album’s page. Otherwise, tapping anywhere else in that cell directs you to an otherwise standard Picky browser page which contains all the albums Picky deemed appropriate for the discovery collection in question.
There’s a lot to love here. The mere presence of “Recently Added” and “Recently Played” alone are cause enough for celebration, leaving the other provided discovery collections to serve as icing on the cake. The feature was built with exceptional care; including a tappable “featured” album in the discovery collection cells themselves was a stroke of visual and functional brilliance, and the new iconography for each collection brings a flourish that breaths new life into Picky’s otherwise historically modest design. However, the choice to house these new discovery collections in the Search page instead of in a dedicated “Home”, “Activity” or “Discovery” view is questionable. While this is a great move in the sense that it’s incredibly non-disruptive, its presence in “Search” feels wholly out of place. In every other player, listeners tap search tabs or buttons for one thing and one thing only: to quickly look up a specific entity. That typical use has no inherent synergy with the more lackadaisical adventuring mood that fuels poking around discovery collections. This means listeners using Picky have to remember to recontextualize its search feature to be this abnormally multi-purpose page, and I unfortunately find myself often forgetting it’s there as a result. With that said, as a first pass into content discovery, there’s far more to love here than not.
Picky this year also released rich multi-disc album support. Not only does each disc in a multi-disc album receive proper labeling and separation, you can also discretely play, shuffle, or add to queue the discs individually. For example, if you tap the play button on “Disc 1” of a particular multi-disc album, playback would stop once all contents are played on that disc and would not automatically proceed to the rest of the album’s discs like with standard playback. While this is an exceptionally niche feature, Picky appears to be the only general-purpose player offering individual disc control like this, and it’s absolutely wonderful for listeners with sprawling albums containing unique and independent discs. A somewhat recent example of this is Kamasi Washinton’s The Epic, a 3-hour long jazz behemoth with three discrete album-length discs. In this particular case, separation of these discrete parts is sometimes ideal, if for no other reason than to provide a purposeful pause as an audible “palate cleanser” before beginning the next act. While some niche players like Vinyl Fetish also offer this separation, Picky is the first and only general-purpose player to do so, which by default makes it the ideal general-purpose player for playback of extra-long records or records where per-disc separation is desired.
Finally, Picky also provides extra-large widgets on iPadOS for its “Recently Played” and “Recently Added” widget collections. They are disappointingly identical in every way to their smaller counterparts, just horizontally stretched to fill the additional width the extra-large widget provides. While it would have been nice to see a bit more movement on Picky’s widget support this year, if nothing else taking quick advantage of the new extra-large widget size on iPadOS is appreciated.
- Beautiful or visually engaging full-player
While parts of the full-player are functionality starting to age, it’s still among the most consistently gorgeous players available today.
- Lyrics support
Picky’s approach is now firmly “old school”, but it does indeed support lyrics.
- Light & dark themes
- iPad support
Picky offers a performant iPad version, but the minified “full”-player and lack of proper screen size optimizations are disappointing. However, it’s perfectly useable with no critical issues.
- Discovery features
Picky’s new “Library Discovery” collections are exceptionally designed and inspiring (if not slightly held back due to being stuffed into the Search page)
- Apple Music integration
- Album-focused features
Picky disappointingly neither supports a grid layout nor my preferred sorting method (Artist > Chronological)