Third Annual iOS Music Player Competition

"Plum" iOS app icon Plum

Image of "Plum" light theme album view Image of "Plum" light theme player view
Image of "Plum" dark theme album view Image of "Plum" dark theme player view

I somehow managed to miss the delightfully named Plum the past couple years, originally releasing all the way back at the start of 2018. It’s a general-purpose player with a twist; instead of presenting its standard browse views (“Albums”, “Artists”, etc.) in a tab bar or left-side hamburger menu like nearly every other player, it hides these views in a hamburger menu at the bottom of the screen. While this is simply UI salad dressing and doesn’t change the fact the app is functionally another general-purpose experience, it does wonders for making Plum stand out among its peers.

Its individuality doesn’t stop there; the player view is also unique, featuring a thick, custom progress indicator and volume slider, massive track metadata, and a jetAudio-style hidden toolbar tucking away ancillary controls and features. Visually, the player takes a radical approach of neither using a solid color nor incorporating the standard translucent album art background nearly every other player uses. Instead, it opts for an edge-to-edge gradient featuring a primary color from the album art. While I don’t find the effect as stunning as other players’ approaches, the effect is always pleasing and its shear novelty makes it a treat to the eyes.

Image of the light mode player view with a predominantly red record in the 'Modern' appearance Image of the light mode player view with a predominantly green record in the 'Modern' appearance Image of the light mode player view with a predominantly blue record in the 'Modern' appearance Image of the dark mode player view with a predominantly red record in the 'Modern' appearance Image of the dark mode player view with a predominantly green record in the 'Modern' appearance Image of the dark mode player view with a predominantly blue record in the 'Modern' appearance
The “Modern” player view appearance.

While its hidden toolbar is nowhere near as feature-rich as jetAudio’s, it does in comparison have a lovely visibility animation and a respectable number of features, notably star ratings, a “Favorite” button to add tracks to the in-app favorites list, and a “Lyrics” button to toggle showing the track’s lyrics.

There’s more yet to discover in Plum’s player view; Plum is the only player available today that offers two radically different player view designs for you to choose from: “Modern”, which is the design demonstrated above, and “Classic”, which is strongly reminiscent of Music.app’s player view design in iOS 8. While I personally prefer its original “Modern” appearance for its novelty, I’m trilled to see players provide appearance customizations like this. It not only provides a means of visual personalization, but also provides functional value for users that may prefer more immediate access to controls in the “Classic” appearance that would otherwise be hidden the “Modern” appearance’s toolbar.

Image of the light mode player view with a predominantly red record in the 'Classic' appearance Image of the light mode player view with a predominantly green record in the 'Classic' appearance Image of the light mode player view with a predominantly blue record in the 'Classic' appearance Image of the dark mode player view with a predominantly red record in the 'Classic' appearance Image of the dark mode player view with a predominantly green record in the 'Classic' appearance Image of the dark mode player view with a predominantly blue record in the 'Classic' appearance
The “Classic” player view appearance.

Both player views suffer from an unusual dismissal and summon gesture; instead of sliding up from the bottom of the screen (an interaction utilized by most music players, nowadays), the player view slides out from the right upon tapping the “Now Playing” bar. This also means the player can’t be dismissed by swiping down, instead requiring a “swipe from the left” gesture. While this seems minor, it’s positively infuriating in practice since most modern players have trained users to expect a completely different interaction to dismiss, and I continuously find myself attempting to dismiss the player first with a swipe-down gesture followed by a swipe-right gesture in frustration.

Issues with gesture implementations aside, Plum’s primary issue is its relatively poor performance, resulting in janky animations that make the gestures it calls for (particularly for the “Modern” player view) unpleasant to enact. If this was a brand new app released this year, I would expect performance issues like this as a matter of course, but with Plum reaching two years old soon it’s quickly running out of excuses to not match apps like Doppi and Picky in smoothness and performance.

Plum’s tremendous support for album listeners like myself make its gesture and performance issues much easier to overlook. The album views incorporate Last.fm summaries, a much-appreciated addition for listeners that love pouring over album liner notes and other literature while listening. Plum also supports both list and grid views for each of its main views, along with the ability to pin any of those main views as the player’s “Home”, therefore allowing me to assign the “Albums” view as the player’s primary page. Finally, there’s a decent amount of discovery features; Plum provides a “Recently Added” section in addition to an area on each of the main views for user folders. This allows users to create personal collections like “Current Favs”, “High School”, and more as a supplement above that view’s contents. While there’s no support to populate these folders automatically with filters like in Marvis Pro and Albums, the ability to create collections in any form is always appreciated. I honestly found it refreshing manually sifting through my library to fill out a few personal collections instead of exclusively relying on automated systems.

Despite its issues, Plum’s robust feature set and unique design make it a compelling option for listeners interested in a mordern, general-purpose player. In light of the many uninspired, store-brand player view designs out there, I have no doubt its radical player view alone is enough to draw attention. If more features with similarly refresh designs are to come, I’d say Plum has a bright—dare I say “ripe”—future ahead of it.

Widgets

None.

Personal Score Card

  • :trophy: Beautiful or visually engaging player view: Plum sports both a truly unique “Modern” appearance in addition to a “Classic” appearance, the only player to provide such a feature.
  • :heavy_check_mark: Lyrics support
  • :heavy_check_mark: Light & dark themes
  • :heavy_check_mark: iPad support: I must note I truly dislike the current iPad player view implementation, but Plum does indeed support the iPad.
  • :heavy_check_mark: Discovery features: While there’s no support for filter or rule-based collections, support for manually creating your own collections with the “Folders” feature and the first-class “Recently Added” and “Favorites” views do the job.
  • :heavy_check_mark: Album-focused features: While lack of proper sorting is a big disappointment, rich grid view support and the ability to pin the “Albums” view as Plum’s home page help make up for it.
    • :x: Proper sorting
    • :heavy_check_mark: Album grid view
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