Skip to main content

Cider review: Apple Music on your PC that lets you ditch iTunes

Just about anything would be better than iTunes on a PC, but Cider does more than beat Apple's horrible first-party offering.

Cider Review Lede
(Image: © Windows Central)

A new Apple Music client called Cider recently launched on Windows through the Microsoft Store. The app provides an alternative to the much-hated iTunes and the Apple Music web interface. At first glance, Cider may appear like a web wrapper, but after spending some time with the app, it's clear that the developers added quite a bit of functionality to the application. It supports audio customization, themes, and a long list of other features that show promise.

I hadn't used Apple Music before this review, so I took time to try the service from Apple's own offering (including iTunes) as well as the third-party client Cider. The review period served as a chance to check out a promising third-party client and to remind me of how terrible iTunes is on Windows.

Cider is still in alpha, so we'll skip scoring for now. If the app builds off its strong start and is released in a stable state, I foresee it earning high marks, potentially joining the best music apps for Windows.

Cider: Price and availability

Cider Microsoft Store

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Cider is available for free through GitHub. You can also download it through the Microsoft Store for $1 if you'd like to help the app's developer. The Microsoft Store version of the app has a free trial that lasts one day.

The app is downloadable on Windows 11, Windows 10, and macOS.

Cider: What's good

Cider

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Cider features an attractive interface that's easy to use and navigate. The app has a home page and several sections for finding and browsing through music. Apple Music has an extensive library of content, so it should be easy to find most artists and songs. Cider also makes it easier to find your favorite songs and other audio with a customized home page.

A compact mode allows you to pop the music player into a tiny window with controls. This is relatively standard on well-developed music apps but isn't an option on Apple's apps. You can also hover over the app in the Taskbar to control audio, but that's an option on just about any app, including iTunes.

Speaking of which, the biggest endorsement of Cider may be that it is not iTunes. As I wrote this review, I often popped open Cider and iTunes to double-check my comparison. In my testing, iTunes was clunky, slow, and didn't even render text well in some cases. It's just embarrassing that Apple hasn't released a better alternative on Windows. Cider is in the alpha stage of development and is already ahead of iTunes in several areas.

The disastrous state of iTunes on Windows makes any alternative worth looking at.

One of the strengths of Cider is its level of customization. You can tweak audio settings, pick your own themes, and even snag themes for the app off GitHub. I found myself diving deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of customization the more I explored the app.

Cider: What's not good

Cider Listen Now

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Cider is in alpha, so it's important to take any criticism with a grain of salt. Bugs and other issues may be ironed out or improved in the future. That being said, I looked at Cider as it was, not what it could be in the future.

There are some Apple Music features missing in Cider, such as lossless audio and Dolby Atmos support. The app also lacks AirPlay functionality and doesn't work with Smart Playlists. It's worth noting that many of these limitations are due to Apple, not the developers of Cider. This is par for the course with third-party clients for big-name services, but having a reasonable excuse for lacking functionality doesn't fix the fact that some features are missing.

Cider: Alternatives

iTunes Windows 11

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The primary alternative to Cider is iTunes, which is almost a win for Cider by default. I haven't used iTunes for years, so I thought the memes and jokes about it being so poor may have been an exaggeration. They're not. iTunes is terrible on Windows. It would be shocking if Apple didn't have such a bad track record of delivering apps on Windows.

From installation to general use, iTunes is a ringing endorsement for any app that attempts to replace it. Apple couldn't even manage to update iTunes to render text cleanly. It's slow, clunky, and isn't up to date. The only thing iTunes has going for it is that Apple Music does work on it. If you don't care about the interface of your music app, I suppose iTunes is serviceable. You could just play music in the background and never touch the app or interact with it.

Of course, another alternative to Cider is to use a different streaming service for music. Apple Music isn't the only app on the block, after all. Our friends at Android Central have a comprehensive breakdown of the best music streaming services that compares Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Tidal, Apple Music, and Deezer.

Cider: Should you get it?

Cider

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Answering this question is complicated since Cider is an app for streaming audio. If you're the type of person that just wants to click a button and listen to your playlists, albums, and radio stations, the Apple Music Web player or shudder iTunes, will work. A beautiful interface, customizable look, lyrics, and many of Cider's features won't matter to people who only play music in the background.

But even for those that never plan to look at Cider, the app has features that make it worth it, such as audio equalization and normalization. Cider also integrates better with Windows 11 than alternatives, allowing you to control playback using a mini player.

Cider offers a free trial, so I'd suggest anyone that uses Apple Music on their PC at least gives the app a try. The more you explore through the app's settings, the more you'll discover what it can do. Between the app's native features and its support for plugins, it's an impressively versatile music player.

Cider: The bottom line

Cider

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Cider has the makings of a solid Apple Music client. Even in its alpha stage, the app performs well and has features to differentiate itself from the Apple Music Player. The disastrous state of iTunes on Windows makes any alternative worth looking at if you subscribe to Apple Music. I think with time, Cider can become a viable app for Apple Music fans on Windows PCs.

There are some noteworthy limitations in Cider, only some of which can be fixed by the app's developers. The app does not support lossless audio or Dolby Atmos or use Smart Playlists. It also does not work with AirPlay, which is disappointing. While some of these limits are due to APIs not being available or other factors outside the control of the makers of Cider, they're still restrictive.

If you find iTunes clunky or don't like the web experience for Apple Music, Cider is worth a try. It has an attractive interface that integrates with Windows better than Apple Music's web player. Support for custom themes, a nifty web remote, and a long list of other features also make Cider stand out from the competition.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.