Pixel’s Now Playing needs to be thoroughly modernized  | Phones

Now Playing Cover.jpeg

Now Playing on the Pixel is my favorite example of ambient computing that we have right now. Dating back to the Pixel 2 and 2 XL in 2017, it shows what song is playing on the always-on display, lockscreen and notification shade without requiring you to do anything. It’s “better than instant.”

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Looking at the landscape, the iPhone 15’s Action Button set to Shazam requires manual activation, though it could be argued that the explicit activation leaves you with a more curated history.

This flagship Pixel feature is due for an overhaul. The last major update was in December of 2021 with the ability to favorite songs and perform cloud-based searches.

Last year, Google looked to add a “Summary” feature with stats like top songs, artists, and genres, but that never actually rolled out. That would have been a nice feature, but I’m looking for more fundamental improvements to the experience.

This core Pixel experience needs Material You. The current bottom bar uses a weird tab switching animation, with everything feeling very old. Compared to Shazam, Now Playing feels so barebones. (Speaking of Shazam, the Apple app is quite nice on Android. It’s fast, fluid, and modern with a modern widget and nice Quick Settings Tile. It also just got a major Wear OS update.)

At a more basic-level, how you launch it from your homescreen is so inelegant. You access the “Now Playing history” app icon from the widget picker…

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