I love music. That alone doesn’t make me strange or special in any way. I also collect music on CDs and have been “scrobbling” my habits on last.fm non-stop since 2006. Now that separates me from a fair number of people. Oh, and I use Apple Music. Yeah. Weirdo.
But the thing is, there are quite a lot of us there. Who is “us” exactly? Let’s say people who require a bit more of their music player than most. We like to tinker, we love customizing, and we shiver at the sight of a song with a “Remastered” tag. And for us, the default Apple Music app for iOS and iPadOS doesn’t cut it. In fact, it’s barely functional as it is.
Thankfully, indie developers come to the rescue by doing what Apple could not: expanding the feature list and improving the default app in every imaginable way. And Marvis Pro has been at the forefront for some time. Let’s see if it’s as good as they say it is.
Time to face The Music (app)
I’ve been using the default Music app on iPhones and iPads for a few years now. It’s functional but neither convenient nor feature-rich. I find it especially disappointing that it doesn’t support last.fm services in any way: if you, like me, need to scrobble every track you listen to, it’s a disaster. The only way out was using the official last.fm app that hardly ever worked.
Marvis Pro fixed this problem by having a fully-fledged scrobbler installed. It even has an additional module (which costs extra) for automatic text replacement so that you can once and for all get rid of the pesky “Remastered” tags.
Since Marvis Pro is a shell for the Music app, it can access everything in your library. The API somewhat limits it, but not much. In my few weeks of using it, I never had the urge to return to the default app.
Marvis Pro is quite different from Apple Music. You can customize it to your liking, changing the order of UI elements and eliminating the ones you don’t need. This functionality harkens back to the times of WinAmp when we had complete control of our software. Do most users need that? Hardly. But Marvis Pro has been created with power users in mind.
The star of the show is the flexible Home page. The amount of things you can put here is staggering, and the sorting options alone are something else. The modular nature of the UI makes it possible to create something unique just for you.
You can also change the amount of metadata you see. Add as many fields as you need: artist, album, track title, album year, the date of the release, the amount of listens, etc. — the list is endless. You can also use Smart Rules that function basically the same as iTunes’ forgotten Smart Rules (remember iPods?), allowing you to filter out anything you don’t need by toggling the mind-staggering amount of options.
The UI is clean — it’s better than both the default app and Albums (another power user-centric app). Even when overburdened with customization, it never slows down or starts looking unwieldy, which is a feat in itself. And if you think that the app looks a bit bland, nothing stops you from tinkering with the theme engine, adjusting colors and effects.
The navigation is also straightforward: you can control the app with one hand, changing the categories with a flick of your thumb. Not everything is better, mind you: the lyrics viewer is much more nicer in the default app, but that’s hardly a deal breaker for me.
Read also: Balance for Mac review: Time to clock in
iPad app and widgets
Many developers either forget about iPads or take an easy route when porting their apps. Not here: ever the perfectionist, Mr Aditya “Addy” Rajveer made sure the iPad experience lives up to the hype. The iPad version makes smart use of the screen estate.
Widgets are another little feature that I always take a close look at, and Marvis Pro does not disappoint. Not only do they look nice, they also offer the same degree of customization as the app itself, allowing you to change the way they look or work entirely. Change the design, remove or add toggles, or the overall behaviour — it’s up to you.
Also, the app does work on Mac (M1+ machines) but just barely. I’ve encountered a lot of crushes that led me to believe that this version is (sadly) not ready yet.
One app to unite them all (for a price)
There are a lot of sleek Apple Music alternatives on the App Store. Some of them have most of the features Marvis Pro has, but none have them all. In fact, in some way, Marvis has managed to take the most popular features out of every app I tested and combine them in one neat package. A package that, admittedly, is not free: the base app costs $11.99, and the last.fm + integration is $6.99. But there’s no subscription model, and the price seems more than justified considering the number of features.
I find the whole “industry” of iOS music players fascinating. Every year we get new fantastic additions that are almost impossible to discover on your own due to App Store’s weak search capabilities. But the choice is there, and many apps, just like Marvis Pro, have become successful and attracted small passionate communities. In my experience, Marvis Pro deserves to be considered one of the best options for those who want more control of their music.