Apple Music Now Available on Roku
Good news if you’re an Apple Music subscriber who prefers Roku’s software to tvOS in your living room: Roku now has an Apple Music channel. Roku already features an Apple TV channel and includes built-in support for AirPlay and HomeKit, so Roku-equipped streaming media boxes are a good budget alternative to the Apple TV (see “Roku Express 4K+ Provides an Affordable Alternative to the Apple TV,” 7 February 2022).
The easiest way to install Apple Music on your Roku is to press the Home button on the main screen, select Search, and type in Apple Music. To log in, scan a QR code with the Camera app, which presents a link to an Apple website where you can authenticate with Touch ID or Face ID. Unfortunately, Roku’s Apple Music app doesn’t work with the Apple Music Voice plan that’s focused on HomePod owners.
Timely news! I’d set aside May to compare Apple Music with Spotify, and I was keenly missing the Roku client (since that’s attached to my room-size speakers).
The sound quality seems to be identical (although it’s hard to set up an instantaneous A/B comparison.) Apple Music’s lyrics display is excellent – takes up more than half of the screen in great big letters I can read.
Two issues I’ve noticed already:
Spotify on iPhone/iPad/Mac shows a “Connect to a device” icon to the left of the volume control. Click, select the Roku streamer as my destination, and the Roku’s Spotify client is totally in control. If my Roku is off, that one click turns on the Roku (as well as TV and speakers). I can close Spotify on my Apple device. I can use the Roku remote to pause and skip between songs with fast-forward.
But when I’m playing Music on my Apple devices, I can only connect to Roku with Airplay. The Apple device is still connected to Music and controls what’s playing. To control Music on the Roku, I have to launch Music in the Roku interface. I have to use the Roku mobile app to get a keyboard interface to Roku’s Music.
Once the Roku’s Apple Music client is playing, the Roku remote acts differently than many other Roku clients. Use the left and right arrows to skip between songs. Up and down arrows scroll the lyrics. The fast forward and fast reverse buttons accelerate within the current song.
The Spotify Connect seems to be a subtle difference, but it bridges an important accessibility barrier for my old eyes. I need to switch glasses to see Apple devices under my fingers and the Roku device across the room.
I’d love to know where I should send my request for improving Apple Music client on Roku.
Interesting. I’ll take a look. I’ve been using the Roku as an AirPlay receiver to get my computer to play through my sound system. I’m guessing that will still be a superior interface for playing albums. I almost never use playlists.
Incidentally, AirPlay on the Roku never worked reliably with my 2015 iMac, especially attempting to play video. I assumed it was a flaky implementation on Roku’s part. But it works great with the new Mac Studio. So the final need for my 3rd-generation Apple TV is gone. All my streaming channels (Apple TV+, Disney, Amazon, MST3K, MLB.tv, Kanopy, occasionally Paramount) are on Roku.
Join the discussion in the TidBITS Discourse forum