It's been a few days now, and the reality of the iOS 10 music ecosystem is beginning to settle. The redesigned Apple music player has been polarizing, to say the least, and one of the most dismayed groups are users who rely heavily on star ratings.
In iOS 10, ratings in general are buried deeper in the UI. Apple has made it a little more tedious to access their proprietary Love/Dislike algorithm, but the older 5-star system has been removed entirely. For many this is a big upset to their established listening habits, and they're looking to third party solutions to preserve their system. If you're wondering exactly how ratings work in iOS 10, here's what you need to know...
Third party apps have
very limited access to the iTunes Library.
And this is probably a good thing. iOS 10 also resolved an earlier security issue, where apps didn't have to get explicit permission to access the user's Media Library. That limited access keeps shady developers from doing really crappy things. You wouldn't want to open up your music app and discover every song had been renamed to "Upgrade to My App Pro." It's not tough to see the wisdom in Apple's decision.
Unofficial music apps do not have write privileges to the iTunes Library database itself. That's why they can't properly download songs (can't mark them as local), and why they can't create/modify proper iTunes playlists. Third party apps can only change a very narrow range of things: ratings, groupings, and play data like play counts, last played date, skip counts, etc.
That includes the iCloud Music Library.
Similarly, third party apps do not have write access to the iTunes Library in the Cloud (which sounds angelic, but is decidedly not). The unfortunate but simple truth is that you should not expect any changes made through a third party app to sync to the cloud or across devices. Depending on the app certain fields (like play count) may sync, but as of right now the reports I'm getting and seeing are inconsistent.
So now what??
First, star ratings aren't entirely gone from iOS 10. Siri can still give tracks a star rating, and this should sync to the cloud and across devices.
You can only set Love/Dislike from stock. The Love/Dislike feature does not have a public API as of now, so no third party apps or widgets can provide this functionality. Maybe one day...
Old School sync still works perfectly. Sometimes the old fashioned stuff is the most reliable. If you do not use iCloud Music Library and still sync your devices to iTunes via cord or WiFi than none of this impacts you. Ratings set in Cesium will sync back over, just like they always have.
There are lock screen options. Third party widgets like Music Rating Widget allow you to set track ratings from the lock screen. If you can hold out a bit, I'll be incorporating a similar widget into Cs as soon as possible.
Apple might listen to you. If the redesigned Music.app proves anything, it's that Apple hears – and is very reactionary – to widespread complaint about the app. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see star ratings be brought back if the outcry is strong enough. You can leave your opinion with Apple here.
Hopefully this clarifies how ratings work in iOS 10. Email me if I've missed anything and I'll update this post.