Music Launcher from Cromulent Labs is pretty clever. It combines music, a launcher app and iOS 8's Today Widgets to let you launch your favorite music, podcasts and audiobooks right from the iOS Notification Center. It's terribly convenient, and easy to set up. I spent some time playing with it, and despite a few caveats, I enjoyed using Music Launcher. Here's my look at this handy app.
How it works
It's easy to get Music Launcher up and running. Once you've got the app installed, it leads you through the process by creating launchers for a few songs from your library. Next, it describes how to add Music Launcher to Notification Center's Today view. You can play with it right away to see how it works, and then create your own custom launchers.
The editing screen is pretty basic. To create a launcher, tap the edit button in the upper right, and then hit the green "+" button. Music Launcher then loads your library, which you can browse by artist, song, album or playlist. Once you've found a track you'd like to add, tap the red "+" and it's now attached to that launcher.
From there, you've got a few customization options. You can edit the launcher's icon. Select album art from an included track, a collage of art if you've made a multi-album playlist, or choose an image from your photo library. That last image is a nice touch. If, for example, I've made a playlist that reminds me of my kids, I can use their smiling mugs as that launcher's icon. Finally, you can name your launcher, re-order its songs and opt to have it shuffle on launch.
Back in the Today view, your new widget appears with all of your launchers in place. Simply tap anyone to begin playing. As I said, it's quite convenient. If you make a "Commute" playlist, for example, you're just a swipe/tap away from getting it started.
A few caveats
You can add episodes of a podcast to Music Launcher, but it won't grab the latest episodes and update itself. That's fine if you have a favorite episode, but I love to listen to podcasts in the car and a one-tap launcher that always had the freshest episodes ready to go would have been really nice. Also -- and this is a constraint of iOS and not the app's fault -- you only get 10-12 or so characters (depending on the characters you use) for your launcher's name, so choose wisely.
Finally, you can only add individual songs. I can't grab, for example, everything in my library by Van Halen.
I regret that I got that last bit wrong. Music Launcher developer Greg Gardner sets me straight:
"By the way, you can add all songs from Van Halen in one tap. If you click on Artists, then Van Halen, then just scroll down a little to expose the "Add All Songs" option at the top. You may want to update the review to let your user's know about this. I wish this option was more obvious, but currently I'm using the system music chooser and that's how Apple designed it."
Apologies to Greg and to you, readers.
Caveats aside, I think Music Launcher is quite convenient and handy. It's nice to whip up playlists and popping them into the Notification Center, where they're a tap away. Music Launcher is free, and an in-app purchase of $1.99 puts playback control buttons in Notification Center (very nice) and gives you more than three rows of launcher icons. You can get Music Launcher from the App Store now.