Xbox Music for Windows Phone 8.1 is Finally Usable

Xbox Music for Windows Phone 8.1 is Finally Usable

Yes, this is the update you've been waiting for

Microsoft on Friday issued another major update to Xbox Music for Windows Phone 8.1, adding a number of new features. But the biggest change in this release, I think, is the performance: Views like Songs, Artists, and Albums now display almost immediately, instead of slowly filling after displaying a blank screen. Yes, Xbox Music is suddenly usable again.

Also interesting in this release: One of the new features requires Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. You may recall that when Microsoft announced Update 1, it promised to include a major update to Xbox Music, leading to questions about whether users would need Update 1 to get new versions of the app. It appears instead that Microsoft has chosen a simpler path: Keep updating the app for both Windows Phone 8.1 and 8.1 Update 1.

Here's what's new.

Performance. App performance is dramatically and noticeably faster, especially in the Songs, Artists, and Albums views. This alone makes this update a big deal: The app is suddenly usable for the first time.

Recent Plays. A new Recent Plays view in the initial app panorama provides access to the music you've played most recently.

Kid's Corner support. This is the feature that requires Update 1. You can now determine which music your children can listen to via the Kid's Corner parental controls feature, Microsoft says. I'm a bit confused by this, as such a thing is possible in both Windows Phone 8.0 and Windows Phone 8.1 (without Update 1) already. Anyone know what's changed here?

Bug fixes. Microsoft says it fixed bugs related to album art and metadata reliability, unexpected app exits and some black screens, and playlists (where playlists now shuffle from everywhere and not just the first 100 songs).

So this update is huge. But there are some problems, too.

The big issue is that podcasts from the Podcasts app are showing up in Albums. I don't want that, and I doubt most others will either.

There are weird display glitches sometimes, but some of that appears to be related to the app reconnecting to your cloud collection, which can take a while when you have several thousand songs as I do. For example:

Cough. Not my music. No, really

That one did fix itself. And as noted, I'll take it as-is: This update really does make the app usable again.

Xbox Music 2.6.186 is now available from the Windows Phone Store. If you're already using the app, it will update automatically.

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