I’m excited to launch a big 2.0 update to my album-focussed music player, Longplay. If you’re interested in the app itself and what’s new, head over to longplay.rocks or the App Store. In this post I want to share some of the story behind the update.

The idea for 2.0

Longplay 1.0 was released in August 2020. I had used the app for years before that myself, but I didn’t know how it would be received by a wider audience. I loved the kind of feedback that I got which helped me distill the heart of the app: Music means a lot to people, and Longplay helps them reconnect with their music library in a way that reminds them of their old vinyl or CD collections. It’s a wall of their favourite albums that has been with them for many years or decades. It’s something personal. The UI very much focussed on that part of the experience, and I wanted to keep that spirit alive, keep the app fun, while adding features that people and myself found amiss.

The main idea behind 2.0 was to focus on the playing of music beyond a single album. 1.0 just stopped playback when you finished an album, but I wanted to stay in the flow – to either play an appropriate random next album or the next from a manually specified queue.

The new features

Collections (Video)

With that in mind, I focused on the following features:

  • Collections: Create collections of albums and playlists, which is a great way to group albums by mood or language, and to tuck those sleep or children albums somewhere.
  • Album Shuffle: Automatically continue playing a random album, either by the selected sort order or by your selected collection.
  • Queue: Long-tap or drag albums to the queue to continue playing those, if you don’t want to shuffle.

And while building this, a few things lead to other things:

In order to control the playback queue, I switched from the system player to an application-specific player. That meant I also needed an in-app Now Playing view. This also meant that playback counts and ratings were no longer synced with the system, so I added a way to track those internally. That and the collections meant it was time to add sync using iCloud, and so that the playback counts don’t just stay in the app, you can connect your Last.fm or ListenBrainz account.

Under-the-hood a lot changed, too, which isn’t visible to the user, but will make it easier to support more platforms – see further below. It let me add CarPlay support to this update, and, as a tester put it:

Love how Longplay keeps getting better - the new CarPlay ability is so wonderful.

Screenshot iPhone
Track list
Screenshot iPhone
Colourful Now Playing

Polishing the UI

Longplay is a labour of love, and I enjoy polishing up the UI. This meant a lot of iterations (especially on iPad where I was goind back and forth), and I particular want to call out the constructive and great feedback I got from Apple designers during a WWDC Design lab, and the feedback from my beta testers. Special thanks here to Adrian Nier, who has provided lots of detailed feedback and some great suggestions.

A particular fun feature to build was adding a shuffle button to the Now Playing view. This is a destructive action, so I wanted to make it harder to trigger than just a button press. I ended up with a button that you have to hold down, for it to start shuffling through the albums akin to a slot machine, and it then plays the album where you let go. It comes with visual and haptic feedback, and if it whizzed past an album that you wanted to play, you can also drag left to go back manually. In the words of Matt Barrowclift:

That “shuffle albums” feature is insanely fun, it’s practically a fidget toy in the best possible way. Longplay 2.0’s the only player I’m aware of that makes the act of shuffling fun.

Shuffling (Video)
Screenshot iPhone
Little dictionary of sort orders

Pricing model

Initially I was aiming for a paid upgrade, but when I compared my past sales to the effort, I decided to use that time for other things. So the app stays paid upfront for now, making 2.0 a free upgrade, but I bumped the the price a bit. I’ll likely revisit this down the track, though, as it’d be nice for potential users to have a way of trying (parts of) the app.

What’s next

I’m glad this update finally makes it out, as it’s been a long time in the making.

Look out for another update coming soon for iOS 17, making the home screen widgets interactive.

I love hearing feedback about the app and also suggests for features, so please get in touch with me or post on the feedback site. As for bringing the app to more platforms, macOS is in the works, seeing a life-size album wall in Vision Pro is pretty amazing, and people are asking for AppleTV support.

Get the app/update on the App Store.

Developing this app is incredibly fun, as it’s something I use myself almost every day. Here are my playback stats since I added the internal playback tracking middle of 2022:

Thoroughly tested