Third Annual iOS Music Player Competition

"Picky" iOS app icon Picky

Image of 'Picky' light theme album view Image of 'Picky' light theme player view
Image of 'Picky' dark theme player view Image of 'Picky' dark theme player view

Picky is a filter-focused twist on the traditional, general-purpose player paradigm. Atop the standard “Artists”, “Albums”, and “Songs” views are Picky’s unique filter button, which can hide albums or artists from their respective views that have less than an arbitrary number of songs. The “Songs” view provides the reverse, allowing users to hide songs from artists with more than an arbitrary number of songs. While a few players like Marvis Pro and Albums technically support features like this with their smart filters and rules, they both require user customization to be accessed, whereas in Picky it’s a first-class feature built right into the app, and it’s the only app that does so. This unique feature suite is presented over an otherwise traditional (and at this point, aging) no-nonsense iOS 8 aesthetic.

Last year, I expressed disappointment in Picky’s quiet, nearly nonexistent development throughout the year. However, I acknowledged that this may not be a concern for other people, since the app itself was still fully functional and continued to deliver on its advertised promises. Nonetheless, the slowing rate of progress in the app left me concerned that Picky’s heyday was behind it, leaving ahead a future of maintenance-mode patches and nothing else of interest. I’m pleased to say in 2020 Picky has proven my concerns unfounded.

With a major version bump to 4.0, Picky now features—among other things—new widgets (which is more than I can say for half the players featured in this showcase), a rewritten search engine to provide modern, library-wide search, and redesigned player view navigation which allows access from the new “Now Playing” bar at the bottom of every screen (as is common practice, nowadays). While these changes aren’t radical like we’ve seen in Albums this year, they’re still non-trivial and far exceed what I’d quantify as mere “maintenance-mode” updates. It’s a positive sign Picky is not only alive, but continuing to thrive.

The rest of Picky not addressed in the 4.0 update remains the same as it was last year; the player view continues to be among the most beautiful available in any player thanks to its custom translucent background effect.

Not only is it gorgeous, all interactions and canned animations regarding the player are buttery smooth, just like in Doppi. In fact, the entire app is buttery smooth, and I can’t say I’ve ever noticed a dropped frame in my use. This level of polish is something I’ve found lacking in other players like Plum as of late, and should be commended.

While Picky isn’t the most radical player right now, I think this year proves it doesn’t need to be. With the measured, calculated improvements in 4.0, Picky continues to provide the filter-focused value it has for years, but now with a handful of new features and enhancements to help keep the app fresh and relevant into the new year; for the first time in a while, I’m not only happy with Picky as it is, I’m excited for its future.

Widgets

Picky provides a respectable array of widget collections to choose from, although at the moment their customization and size options are fairly limited. Unfortunately, I have the same issue with the overall design as I do with Music.app’s: Every single widget is a bright, loud orange that tears attention towards itself on any home screen page it’s on, much like Music.app’s hideous bright red widgets do. While I completely understand the desire to brand widgets like this, it’s not conducive towards maintaining a harmonious home screen like I strive for. At the very least, an option to tone down the brand color while in dark mode would be appreciated.

The first widget collection provided by Picky is “Recently Added”, offered in both medium and large sizes. Presentation-wise, there’s not much available to customize, although Picky does allow you to display the widgets in either “Regular” or “Compact” sizes, where “Regular” results in a 4-column arrangement and “Compact” results in an information-dense 5-column arrangement. Tapping a given record in this widget class immediately begins playing that record and drops users off at that album’s view in Picky.

The second widget collection is “Recently Played”, also offered in both medium and large sizes. It functions as you’d expect and supports the same “Regular” or “Compact” setting as the “Recently Added” widget collection.

Finally, there’s the “Random Pick” widget, which comes exclusively in small and displays a random record from your library. I personally love this widget, it’s incredibly simple (no customization and only one size option), but is nonetheless a great discovery option for listeners like myself that sometimes find themselves stuck with analysis paralysis on what to listen to.

Personal Score Card

  • :trophy: Beautiful or visually engaging player view: It remains one of the prettiest player views available.
  • :trophy: Lyrics support: While I’m generally not a fan of the “tap the album art to see the lyrics overtop” approach to lyrics support, Picky is by far the best implementation of this approach thanks to its silky-smooth show/hide animations and translucent background.
  • :heavy_check_mark: Light & dark themes
  • :heavy_check_mark: iPad support
  • :heavy_check_mark: Discovery features: Picky not only has world-class filtering capabilities, but a suite of widget collections that provide the kinds of discovery features I tend to expect nowadays (“Recently Added”, “Recently Played”, etc.). While it’s a shame these discovery collections aren’t meaningfully exposed in the app itself, Picky's overall discovery feature support is keeping pace.
  • :large_orange_diamond: Album-focused features
    • :large_orange_diamond: Proper sorting: While Picky technically supports sorting albums alphabetically by artist and then by release year, it only supports this in the “Artists” view. The “Albums” view is still stuck without it.
    • :x: Album grid view
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