Fourth Annual iOS Music Player Showcase
Reflecting on Doppi at the end of 2021 fills me with great sadness; after many long years of service, Doppi officially went into maintenance mode on April 6th, 2021 after Radu Dutzan—Doppi’s developer—accepted a position at Apple. I’m thrilled his hard work paid off with an opportunity to continue his craft in Apple’s own apps (some of which like Music.app sorely need), but it’s nonetheless difficult to accept this sudden and bittersweet end for Doppi. However, this is where my grieving will end; what Doppi has earned and deserves after all these years is a celebration of its legacy as it enters indefinite retirement, along with a proper showcase of the new features that released earlier this year prior to Radu’s new career at Apple.
To describe Doppi as a general-purpose player with the usual suspects like “Albums”, “Artists”, and “Songs” accessible via tabs on a bottom navigation bar is both accurate and woefully inadequate. Despite leveraging a standard organizational foundation, there’s not a single visible element or intractable control in Doppi that I’d describe as “stock”. This in and of itself is not particularly unique (for example, both Plum and Doppler are also general-purpose players that opted for a custom UI), but Doppi is arguably the most successful in this approach. Doppi manages to strike the near-impossible butter zone perfectly situated between iOS’s native design guidelines and brand individuality, where every other player utilizing this approach arguably falls short of this goal to varying degrees.
For example, Doppi’s unconventional tab bar allows it to be completely dynamic and hold as little as one or as many as all tabs in Doppi, allowing for a surprising degree of customization. For example, I just display the “Albums” tab, while other listeners might opt to instead just display “Composers” and “Songs”, but someone else may want to display all tabs in the bar at all times. Whatever your preference, Doppi’s dynamic tab bar accommodates. Custom menu solutions like this tend to feel exceptionally out of place in iOS, typically due to utilizing a vertical menu hidden behind a hamburger menu and/or swipe gesture. However, Doppi sidesteps this issue entirely with its pill-shaped, horizontally scrollable list of tab labels. This provides instant access to users like myself that just want no more than a handful of tab bar items while still allowing all tabs to be a quick horizontal scroll away for users that want it all. No accursed hamburger menu or undiscoverable swipe gesture required.
Then there’s Doppi’s radical full-player, starting with it’s “minified” form. It’s the only player I know that successfully communicates draggability with a “notch” pill similar to the one used by stock iOS apps. In a stroke of genius, Doppi also leverages this draggability notch as the mini-player’s progress bar, which upon launching the full-player gracefully and dazzlingly scales up and into position as the full progress bar. The effect is jaw-dropping and needs to be dragged to be believed, in no small part due to Doppi allowing full gesture control throughout the entire animation. I cannot emphasize enough how much this smooth and magical flourish elevate’s Doppi’s experience, Doppi is worth the download just for the opportunity to try it out for yourself.
The full-player itself is just as startling as the gorgeous animation that launches it. Instead of a flat, singular view containing the album art and controls like nearly every other player, Doppi’s full-player features two discrete cards floating above a translucent album art background. The top card displays the album art, while the bottom card houses the player’s controls. The bottom card remarkably utilizes every square inch of its space without feeling cluttered; it features the textual metadata (song, album, and artist), playback controls (including shuffle and repeat), volume control, an airplay button, and even a “Love” button. That’s not all though, a quick button tap or swipe gesture sweeps the two cards up and away to reveal either the playback queue or the track’s lyrics. This makes the entire full-player experience feel alive, vibrant, and responsive in a way no other player has yet to capture.
In what is sure to be a tremendous feature for certain users, Doppi offers full independence from Music.app. Instead of forcing users to manage and sync their libraries with Apple’s music apps, users can instead add and manage music directly in Doppi. Doppi supports adding music directly through the Files app, Airport, or the Share Sheet from another app. While these are all still Apple-centric methods of adding your music, having any kind of alternative means of library management in Doppi is tremendous and sure to be a killer feature for users wishing to finally untether their iPhone from Apple’s shoddy music library solution.
In terms of customization, aside from allowing control over the tab bar’s contents, Doppi provides a respectable number of cosmetic and functional settings. While they’re nowhere near the level that Albums, Marvis Pro, and some other players provide, the few settings that are provided are tremendous, such as the ability to change the album sorting method, app accent color, app icon, and more. That means listeners that want to change the entire look of Doppi from the icon down to the accent color have full control to do so, a great boon for listeners wishing to express individuality with a consistent aesthetic or simply prefer Doppi in a different hue.
While Doppi’s journey comes to a close this year and will remain so for the indefinite future, the tremendous leaps in design and user experience briefly highlighted above that Doppi introduced through its life assures it will remain competitive for years to come despite its promised lack of activity. There’s no greater testament to Doppi’s legacy and Radu’s skills in the craft than that. Many people make apps. Few make them great, and fewer still achieve what Radu did with Doppi; making them timeless.
Unfortunately, while an iPad-aware release of Doppi with optimizations for larger displays was in alpha testing earlier this year, Doppi’s transition into maintenance mode following Radu’s start at Apple put those plans indefinitely on ice. While a few lucky testers caught a brief glimpse into what that potential release may have looked like, there’s no public Doppi version that supports the iPad, making it perhaps the biggest casualty of Doppi’s abrupt maintenance mode transition.
There was neither widget support introduced with iOS 14’s release in 2020, nor any inkling such features were in development due to their complete absence in the beta builds through 2021. While I can’t claim to know for sure, I’d wager there was no plans for widget support this year even if Doppi had continued development all the way through.
New This Year
There were three notable additions early this year that are worth highlighting:
- Support to sort albums by “Recently Added”
- Ability to create Doppi-exclusive playlists and import / “copy” playlists from Music.app
- Ability to view and edit track metadata
My single unadulterated complaint about Doppi last year was its continued lack of any kind of “Recently Added” collection or sort order, so I’m beyond thrilled to finally see it made its way to Doppi. It’s exposed as a sort option in the “Albums” tab alongside the existing sort “By Album Title” and “By Artist Name” options, and works exactly as described by sorting your entire library in reverse chronological order with respect to the date they were added to your library. While it’s disappointing we didn’t get a proper discovery page this year like in Cs Music, having any means of browsing now by recently added is appreciated.
Next up is the ability to now create playlists right within Doppi itself, though it’s important to note that playlists created this way are not created in the Music.app library. Playlists created in Doppi are Doppi exclusive, and are therefore inaccessible to any other apps. Seeing as Power Player introduced the ability to create playlists this year as well but did so by writing created playlists into the Music.app library (and therefore allowing playlists created in Power Player to be accessible in other players), Doppi’s take pales a bit in comparison. While the reason for the decision to isolate Doppi’s playlist creations from Music.app is most likely tied to Doppi’s optional support for independent library management, I can’t help but feel Music.app playlist integration could be achieved while still preserving the ability to make Doppi-exclusive playlists for those with independently managed libraries by separating the playlists into two groups like Power Player’s solution.
Finally, this year Doppi introduced a new “Get Info” track metadata editor. For users with independently managed libraries in Doppi, you now have the ability to edit track metadata like genre, album artist, and more right in Doppi itself. While users with libraries sourced from Music.app can’t edit these fields in Doppi due to Apple’s Music.app API limitations, that metadata is still available for you to view. While not an earth shattering feature for anyone that doesn’t independently manage their libraries, it’s nonetheless nice to see “Get Info” windows becoming an industry standard over the past year in Cs Music, Doppi, and others.
- Light & dark themes
Light and dark modes are supported, have the optional ability to respect the system’s appearance setting, and also support your choice of “Black” or “Gray” for the dark mode appearance. The degree of simple theming control provided by Doppi is exceptional.
- Beautiful or visually engaging full-player
It’s the most dynamic and fluid full-player available, an outstanding achievement.
- Lyrics support
The lyrics are full screen, editable within the app, and gorgeously accessible directly from Doppi’s dynamic full-player. The only thing keeping it back in my mind from being gold standard is the inability to read the lyrics beside the album art in landscape mode.
- Album-focused features
The grid layout in the “Albums” page is a great start, but a lack of my preferred album sorting method (Artist > Chronological) and any other album-focused features leave me wanting.
- Apple Music integration
- iPad support
- Discovery features
The release of a “Recently Added” sort option this year was necessary, but nowhere near sufficient.
Table of Contents
- Honorable Mentions
- 2021’s Players
- New This Year