Third Annual iOS Music Player Competition

"Sathorn" iOS app icon Sathorn

Image of "Sathorn" light album view Image of "Sathorn" light player view
Image of "Sathorn" dark album view Image of "Sathorn" dark player view

Sathorn’s a thoroughly unremarkable player that earned scathing marks last year both for its uninspired functionality and “uncanny vally” design. While in broad strokes Sathorn’s UI is perfectly sufficient, it suffers from dozens of micro-failures to properly adhere to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, resulting in a product that’s substantially worse than the sum of its parts. I’m disappointed to say that at the end of this year there’s been no changes that I can detect from last year, leaving it just as poorly designed as its initial release.

In an effort to avoid copy/pasting my issues with the design from last year (which would be more effort than Sathron’s developer gave towards their own app this year), at a high level my primary issues with Sathorn are:

  • Poor dark mode support. The “Dark” mode option is a blindingly bright gray, and the “True Black” mode misses just enough of Apple’s guidelines to feel uncomfortable and wrong compared to other apps. To top it off, Sathron doesn’t respect the system theme setting, forcing you to manually change it yourself in the app every time the system’s theme changes.
  • Poor player design. Aside from a woefully boring “Solid” option, there’s three equally shoddy alternatives to choose from (“Light Blur”, “Deep Blur”, and “Dark Blur”). I’ve yet to find an album whose art looks good with any of them.
Image of the "Light Blur" player design Image of the "Deep Blur" player design Image of the "Dark Blur" player design
“Light Blur”, “Deep Blur”, and “Dark Blur”. Pick your poison.

Where the design doesn’t disappoint, the app’s disjointed functionality does. At it’s core, it’s a general-purpose experience with the expected tab bar containing “Albums”, “Artists”, etc. However, Sathorn makes the fatal mistake of aping Music.app by attempting to integrate support for the Apple Music streaming service as well. Like Music.app before it, this results in a bloated and confused interface that does both local library browsing and Apple Music browsing poorly, and in Sathorn’s case worse than Music.app’s attempt. In my opinion, Sathorn would be much more pleasant to use had it gone for a precise and deliberate implementation of just the local-browser model like Picky or Cs did to great success.

Unfortunately, there’s not much else to say about Sathorn. There was barely any movement of note this year, and for an app that needed it as badly as Sathorn did, next year’s prospects look grim.

Widgets

None.

Personal Score Card

  • :large_orange_diamond: Light & dark themes: Partial credit awarded for having any kind of light and dark mode support, despite their rough design and lack of respect for the system setting.
  • :large_orange_diamond: Discovery features: With the bar for minimum acceptable discovery features set higher by other players this year, Sathorn’s single “Recently Added” discovery feature doesn’t cut it, anymore.
  • :x: Lyrics support
  • :x: iPad support
  • :x: Beautiful or visually engaging player view
  • :x: Album-focused features
    • :x: Proper sorting
    • :x: Album grid view
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