For someone with so little musical talent, I have a large affection for music. I’ve done piano on and off for over 10 years, and while I should be an advanced level player, general laziness has relegated me to the intermediate level for a long time. Or at least, I think it has. I tend to just pick up pieces and figure them out, but that in and of itself shows the power that music has over me. It’s no wonder that most of the space on my iPhone is consumed by music of all genres, ranging from hip-hop and R&B to instrumental and EDM. As a firm believer in the superiority of Apple mobile devices (when it comes to desktops I’m a PC fanboy), I’ve loved the accessibility that iTunes has given me to all of my favorite music. Apple Music in particular has been an interesting beast to tackle.
For a monthly price of $9.99, Apple Music grants its users access to the entire iTunes music library, whenever they want to. Users can stream music whenever they want to from Apple Music, and even download songs onto their device of choice. This type of versatility is one that is employed by services like Spotify, but I tend to trust sources like Apple Music more simply because I feel that it has more credibility. Despite your feelings about either service, I do feel that the platform that Apple Music and Spotify employ is one that anime streaming sites should take advantage of. The mobile market is growing at a fast rate, increasing the amount of time and money that people put into their mobile devices. Most (legal) anime streaming services do offer apps that will allow you to stream onto your device, but they tend to lack key elements that both Spotify and Apple Music have included into their services.
– Easy to Use Interface –
One of the most important features of a music streaming service is ease of access. How easily can users find and listen to the music that they like? This is a high priority on the desktop versions, and more so on the mobile platforms given that most users are on the move when using the service. Apple Music and Spotify both have fairly intuitive interfaces on their mobile platforms, but anime streaming services have had some notable struggles. Funimation in particular had a very clunky app until as recently as spring of 2016, and while Crunchyroll and Daisuki each have easy to use interfaces, I do believe that they could all take inspiration from the clean look of Apple Music and the way that Spotify organizes its information. The option to search by voice actor, studio, or origin (manga, visual novel, original story) should be a standard for all anime streaming services, as well as auto-generated suggestions based on ones’ watch history. In fact, watch history is a simple and somewhat intuitive service that I’ve wanted from both Crunchyroll and Daisuki for a long time, and yet it’s still absent.
– In-App Social Features –
One area where Spotify shines over Apple Music is in the area of social features. Spotify allows users to share playlists, recommend songs, and even has a limited chat feature when sharing music. Apple Music, on the other hand, is more focused on uniting artists and fans. Apple’s Connect feature allows users to see upcoming music videos, backstage photos, and even the ability to share songs and messages from the artists they follow – who can in turn reply to if they so wish. Unfortunately, social features are pretty much completely absent in most anime streaming apps. While full sites like Funimation and Crunchyroll do offer extensive forums and reviews on their full sites, their mobile platforms lack any type of social interaction. A Friend List system could go a long way in helping users connect and see what others are watching, and user-created “playlists” of anime could do a lot to increase overall watch time and foster a growing community of users.
– Offline Watching –
Both Spotify Premium and Apple Music allow users to download music onto their own devices, allowing playback of favorites even when not connected to wifi or cellular data. It’s a feature that’s incredibly useful, allowing the user to download new artists on a trial basis or allowing them to collect music from their favorite artists that they might not already own. This is the type of feature that would come in handy for mobile users, especially for reviewers, as it would make both checking back on completed shows and keeping up with simulcasts a lot easier. Even being allowed to download only a specific amount of episodes of a show (perhaps relative to your storage size) would be a simple way to keep viewers coming back to the service.
– Family Sharing –
One of my favorite features in both Apple Music and Spotify Premium is Family Sharing. For $14.99 per month, up to 8 users on Spotify and 10 users on Apple Music can all share the same music library and streaming privileges. It’s an extremely convenient way to share music with people close to you, and it saves me the trouble of telling my close friends/family about a song when all I have to do is tell them to download it from my Recent Purchases list. I’ve often wondered why this type of service hasn’t been implemented by anime streaming services, as it would allow for a high yield of return among viewers for a somewhat low cost of entry. Some video streaming services like Amazon Instant Video do something similar, but most “account-sharing” is really just sharing passwords, which most companies try to discourage. Allowing users to share their premium status with other users for a slightly elevated price would give more users the flexibility to enjoy more anime, and increase the use of legal sources for anime streaming.
Are anime streaming services going to change just because I made a nicely notated, well-written list? No. Anime streaming services are often somewhat slow to change or introduce new features, but I do hope that I’ve at least helped to point out some shortcomings in the systems that we currently have. Streaming in general is a form of media consumption that is still in its adolescent stages; the successful streaming platforms know what the consumers want and learn to integrate and streamline the processes that take place within their services. Here’s hoping that anime streaming learns the same.