Xbox Music is pretty terrible on Windows Phone 8.1, but an update is near

Despite the fact Windows Phone 8.1 has been garnering some fantastic reviews from both tech pundits and the masses, it’s not all roses and ponies. I was reminded of this last night when playing with the Xbox Music app that comes with 8.1.

On the surface, the app looks decent. It’s a continuation of the new app structure started late last year by Microsoft, which replaces the ‘built in’ Music + Video hubs of the past. Microsoft is changing the architecture so that the Windows Phone Team can quickly add new features and fix bugs, all without an OS update.

But let’s not mince words: the music experience on Windows Phone 8.1 is subpar, and it has become worse since 8.0.  In fact, it sits with a pathetic 2.5 stars (out of 5) on the Store, which is awful for a Microsoft app.

Here are a few complaints of the 'new' Xbox Music app, many of which are extensively documented in our help forums:

  • Slow loading, sometimes glitchy, bad scrolling
  • No recent music
  • Can’t swipe between tracks
  • No look ahead for forthcoming tracks in now playing (used to be dimmed)
  • No album title data when playing
  • Favorite/heart icon is gone
  • Confusing playlist support, with doubling of lists, no way to delete
  • The now playing drop down screen (when tapping the volume controls) is a shortcut to a blank, black screen instead of the Now Playing section in the app
  • The Tile is no longer live (on the Hub version, it showed the currently playing artist on the Tile)

We’re sure there are more bugs that you have experienced, some of which you can share with us below in comments. The point is, it’s a terrible experience, and it’s leaving a lot of users not particularly pleased.

New 8.1 app inbound

Now for the caveats. The app we now have in the 8.1 Preview for Developers is, in fact, basically the old beta version released late last year. It has not been optimized for 8.1, and it obviously needs some polish. That’s good news in the sense that Microsoft is not ‘shipping’ this as the final product.

Last night, Microsoft head Joe Belfiore even tweeted that a new Xbox Music app was on the way:

“Lots of questions about apps…Many 8.1 updates coming (eg Facebook, Skype, Twitter).  I don't know dates, sorry.  Also, Music app too.”

Actually, the bigger news is perhaps that 8.1 optimized apps for Facebook, Skype and Twitter are also forthcoming.

The question is, how much of an improvement will the new Xbox Music app be over this current buggy beta build? That remains to be seen, though considering how good the OS for 8.1 is, we at least have some faith that the refreshed Music app will also be much better.

Let’s hope so, because the Music experience has been steadily declining since the good old Zune days, and Windows Phone 8.1 certainly deserves – and needs- better in 2014.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.