Posts Tagged ‘ Music ’

Vevo – Viva La Vevolution

 Vevo

Vevo is a website that allows you to stream music videos from three of the ‘big four’ major record labels. Since it’s launch in 2009 it has become one of the most visited sites in the U.S and as expected app versions have been created in it’s wake. The Vevo app has been around for a while on the Android Marketplace but it has only recently just started working here in the UK.

It's not all pop-pap on Vevo. At least there's some Beastie Boys.

The Vevo app for Android allows the user access to over 25,000 videos from over 7,500 music artists. Tucked away in it’s tidy interface are pre-built playlists, ways to share videos via Twitter or Email and the option to purchase songs via Amazon.
Vevo’s strength lies in it’s intuitive and information packed interface. Making your way around the app is second nature and over wi-fi it’s easy to be streaming videos in just a few short presses. Even better is how well the app runs over 3G, it’s understandably by no means perfect but with a strong signal you can get some decent enough results.
So far so good, Vevo makes for some very strong first impressions however digging a little deeper brings to light a few problems and some glaringly missed opportunities.
The biggest issue is with the music catalogue itself. 25,000 videos may sound like plenty to get through but considering that that source is the major record labels fans of more independent music may struggle to find content they actually care about. To make matters worse the only ways to access the content are by using the preloaded play-lists / charts or via a direct search. There seems to be no way to browse the music via genre which for some people would be the first method they would want to use. This wouldn’t be a problem if the default play-lists covered a lot of ground but sadly for the most part they only offer the predictable choices of ‘most popular videos’ or ‘top artists’ which in turn places the commercial content ‘front & centre’ and even then there’s bizarrely only 12 video results per topic.

Nice U.I., shame it doesn't cover all the bases.

This leads into the next problem with Vevo, how it’s not possible to personalize the app to your own tastes. There’s no option to build your own play-lists which is very odd given how you can do just that on the main Vevo website. What’s even stranger is how the app totally ignores the original Vevo website and it’s users. If you have a Vevo account there is no way to access it via the Vevo app, as a result you cannot sync up your Vevo experience across platforms. It truly is an opportunity wasted.
Even within the confines of the app itself there is also no way of accessing your recent play history or bookmarking your favourite videos. If there’s a clip you want to go back to time and time again and it’s not on the main charts you’ll have to search for it every single time. On the subject of repeat viewings there is also no video cache function. It would have been great if Vevo could have automatically cached data to the sd card to speed up repeated playback or to allow you to use the app when there is no network. Sadly this is not the case. No network? No Vevo.
Ultimately Vevo is a well made, information packed app and may be worth the free download just to see if it chimes with your tastes in music. It’s just a shame that it totally drops the ball when it comes to realising its full potential.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 1.06
  • Requires Android : 2.1 and up
  • Category : Music & Audio
  • Size : 941k
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Vevo is good, but it could’ve been great. It could have been personalised music video jukebox in your pocket but sadly it’s lacking the tools to fully accomplish that task.

Songbird – Not Tweeting, Not Angry, Just Singing.

Songbird

It’s been a while since a new music player caught my eye and this week it was nice to stumble upon ‘Songbird’ to try out as an alternative method of listening to music.
Already a popular desktop application, ‘Songbird’ comes to Android bringing with it it’s stylish purple design to take on the likes of Winamp and PowerAmp.
Everything about Songbird is tidy and clean, exploring your music collection is quick work and surprisingly flexible. Like Winamp, the ‘now playing’ screen can be accessed via a slide-up drawer which works excellently. The ‘now playing’ screen features all the usual controls as well as a unique Flickr button which activates a photo stream of the artist that’s currently playing. There’s also a Facebook ‘Like’ button that allows you to inform/annoy your Facebook chums about what music you’re listening to.
One of Songbird’s main strengths is the ability to easily create playlists. I’ve seen other music apps completely fumble the method of playlist creation but Songbird seems to have nailed it perfectly.
Sadly it’s not all thumbs up for Songbird, the home-screen widget kept locking up and would only come back to life with a handset reboot. Bear in mind this may not solely be an app issue, it’s possibly a compatibility issue with my Cyanogen rom.
Songbird is also lacking some of the cooler functions when compared to more established apps like ‘PowerAmp’ but the creators have promised a number of new functions and plug-ins in future updates (lock screen controls are top of my list).
Songbird may not yet be the ultimate Android music player but the potential is definitely there. It’s pleasant on the eye, simple to use and allows a strong degree of freedom on how you listen to your music.

About This App – Current Version : 1.0
Requires Android : 2.1 and up , Category : Music & Audio , Size : 1.2M , Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : It’s not quite up to the benchmark of the leading Android music apps but given a bit of time (and a few updates) Songbird could be the music app everyone is chirping about (groan!).

HottMix – So Hot Right Now

HottMix

For anyone who enjoys electronic music the ‘Soundcloud’ website is a great place to discover new material. Producers, record labels, DJ’s and fans use the site to upload music that they have either created or found. Every track or DJ set on the website can be streamed and some are also available to download.
‘Hottmix’ by Rocudo attempts to bring the ‘streaming’ element to your Android device therefore offering the potential of thousands of new songs for you to check out whilst on the move.
It’s main feature is the ‘HottMix’ key which initiates a playlist of the 50 hottest rated tracks on Soundcloud. It’s a great idea and I found all kinds of good music that caught my interest. The ‘now playing’ screen is pleasant enough with a good use of cover artwork and song information. The standard play controls are clearly laid out along the bottom along with a useful ‘add to playlist’ key that allows you to bookmark any favourite songs for easy access at a later time.

The 'Now Playing' screen does the job nicely.

If you’d rather find music yourself there’s also the search function where you can use normal search terms as well as more specific factors such as song tempo or date. It’s a pretty good tool which can come up with some great results.
Streaming over 3G works pretty well although the sound quality may not be to a good enough standard for any serious audiophiles out there.
Sadly despite all the good points there’s also a few things that let that app down, mainly when the app is used on 3G. Within the first 15 minutes of using HottMix I counted at least 7 occasions of the app hanging and Android stepping in to save the situation. The app is also occasionally slow and unresponsive, skipping onto another track in the ‘now playing’ screen can result in an awkward wait before anything happens. As soon as I was on a Wi-fi connection these problems went away.
Navigating the app isn’t the most intuitive process either. Ideally with a media player you’ll generally want easy access to the controls no matter where you are in the app. In HottMix the controls live solely on the ‘now playing’ screen and annoyingly there’s no option to jump straight there.

You'll be seeing this screen a LOT whilst using HottMix on your 3G connection.

HottMix is both 50% excellent and 50% infuriating. It looks great and in terms of what it can do it’s excellent for picking up on music I would otherwise not come across. Sadly it’s flaky stability when mobile and non-intuitive UI puts it some way behind other Android media players. App makers Rocuda are looking to add all kinds of fancy functions in future updates but I would happily trade all of that for some solid basic functionality.

Links : HottMix on Android Market

Hottmix on AppBrain

Bottom Line : An excellent music discovery tool that’s badly let down by force close issues, occasional unresponsiveness and a lacklustre UI. If these are fixed in future updates then HottMix would easily become an essential app.

XiiaLive Lite – No, I don’t know how to pronounce it either

XiiaLive Lite

The obligatory 'Now Playing' screenshot

Way way-a-ways back, long before Android existed, I used to own a Nokia N95 and for me it was the best phone in the world ever. One of the reasons I loved it was for the excellent Nokia Internet Radio app. It was made by Nokia themselves and it was a superb application that, in typical Nokia style, was never pushed into the spotlight like it deserved to be and it remained largely ignored.
One of the first things I looked for when I got my HTC Desire was the Android equivalent and I found it in DroidLive, now known as the unpronounceable (and therefore much harder to remember) XiiaLive Lite. XiiaLive is an app that gives you free access to the thousands of internet radio stations that make up the SHOUTcast.com network, whatever genre of music you’re looking for (not forgetting the talk, sports and community broadcasts) SHOUTcast and it’s directory of over 35,000 stations has more than likely got what you’re looking for. With so much content to deal with XiiaLive does a great job of helping you stay on top of it all within the confines of your Android handset’s small lcd screen.
The first thing you’ll notice is the UI, it’s pretty striking stuff with black backgrounds and glowing text, it may not be to every-one’s taste and it’s slightly tricky to navigate your way around the app at first but it operates at a quick pace and once you’re settled in you are good to go.

The timer function is ideal for when it's Dreamy Sleepy Nighty Snoozy Snooze time.

From the home screen you can browse the top stations, genres or perform a search as well as browse your favourites, history, settings and tracks you have previously tagged. Performing searches bring back countless results complete with information on current listeners and bit-rate; once you’ve found something you like a single click will take you straight into the listening screen. This screen contains pretty much everything you need, there’s on screen volume controls, track details, a handy ‘timer’ function that closes the app after a certain time (perfect for listening when you’re tucked up in bed) and a ‘tagme’ button. If you hear a track you like you can press ‘tagme’ and it’s details are saved to the ‘tagged’ list of songs which is accessible from the main menu.  There’s also a simple one bar widget to throw up on your home screen which lets you choose or play/stop your station of choice.
Streaming works as well as you’d expect over wi-fi and even on 3G I could go for at least 30 minutes without a single dropout although this is more down to network reception rather than the app itself. In the wake of ‘PowerAmp‘ it’s a shame that there’s no EQ but this doesn’t ruin the app for me. The paid version of XiiaLive claims to cut out the adverts but in all the time I’ve usedn the Lite version I’ve not heard any ads at all, maybe that’s more to do with the stations that I’m listening to.
In conclusion XiiaLive Lite is an app that’s worth downloading, it’s ideal as an alternative source of music away from what you may already have stored on your handset.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : XiiaLive is a great app for music lovers looking to have access to free internet radio wherever they are. Recommended.

PowerAMP – Forget the Llama’s Pyjamas, this is the Cat’s Knackers.

PowerAMP Music Player (Trial)

A wise man once said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”, this rule could also apply to the Android Marketplace. Less than two weeks ago I was singing the praises of Winamp for Android to the high heavens but now, out of nowhere, a new app has appeared to completely ruin the Winamp party. PowerAMP is a music player (currently in a trial period) loaded with features missing from other media players such as EQ control, album art downloading and support for a wide range of audio formats.

The 'Now Playing' screen even adds a background effect to match your album artwork

One of the main plus points of PowerAMP is it’s ability to offer numerous options to the user without losing them in a wealth of menus and buttons which is quite a feat considering how wonderfully flexible this app is.
On first start up PowerAMP will scan your SD card for media folders (once you tell it where to look) and it impressively takes an instant to complete this process. Once set up, your media library is clearly listed (either sorted by folder or by Android’s system media library) with album art and once you’re inside an album folder you can control whether to play the whole album, play a single track, add a track (or all of them) to a playlist, make it a ringtone plus much more. The main ‘now playing’ screen is excellently designed, from the clear controls, to the album art (which scrolls deliciously when you change albums), the simple access to your music library and the option to adjust your EQ.
That’s right, EQ.

AT LAST! EQ on an Android music player

Ever since buying my Android handset I have mourned the lack of being able to adjust the EQ when listening to music, having to put up with flat sounding audio was never fun. Not anymore, PowerAMP boasts a 10 band graphic equalizer complete with presets. You can also adjust the parameters yourself and easily create excellent results thanks to the fast, responsive interface. Speaking of interfaces, PowerAMP gives you a choice of three skins as well as a selection of homescreen widgets and a fully tooled up lock screen all of which work superbly. Headset support is also included, when you remove your headset the music stops. Plug your headset back in, the music picks up exactly from where you left off, excellent.
PowerAMP also supports Last.Fm scrobbling as well as mp3 tag editing and comes complete with numerous ‘under the hood’ options to give you plenty of room to make the app work the way you want it to. (Tip : If your album tracks appear in the wrong order (ie. alphabetically) try going into settings>sorting> and tweaking the options until you get the desired result)
Given the choice between this and Winamp right now I think I would have to go for PowerAMP, it does lots of things Winamp doesn’t do (as yet). One feature Winamp does have in it’s favour is the wireless streaming which would have made it a closer call, had I been able to get it to work. PowerAMP is a hugely impressive application and one that is quite rightly generating a lot of excitement in the Android community. As yet there are no details of what will happen when the free trial version expires but for the right price this app could well be an essential purchase.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom line : It looks good, it works even better and it sounds superb. So far this is the best music player I have found on Android. Try it asap before the trial expires.

Global Radio – “Radio Goo Goo, Radio Ga Ga”

Global Radio

Global Radio are the company behind some of the UK’s largest commercial radio stations such as Xfm, Galaxy, Heart, Capital FM and Gold. They have also made a respectable entry into the Android Marketplace by releasing a range of internet radio apps that give you access to their whole range of stations.  As you can see here, each app is named after each station but thankfully they all do the exact same thing so, unlike Pokemon, you don’t need to grab them all; it’s simply a choice of whichever station you want as your default choice when the app starts. Each app gives the choice to stream from a number of commercial radio stations from all over the UK covering all kinds of aspects of popular music directly to your Android handset. The only downside is that many of these are local variations of the same radio station (Galaxy Manchester, Galaxy Birmingham etc) and therefore have the exact same playlists, still for a free app it’s not a bad deal.

Visually the app is pretty bare, just three self-explanatory buttons along the top (favourite, channel lists and power on/off) leaving the rest of the screen free for station info and the inevitable pop up ads. Luckily the pop-up ads don’t get in the way of using the app or listening to the music, the adverts on the station itself may be another matter however.

So what shall we listen to, some Heart? How about some Heart? Can you get Heart on this thing?

You can easily leave the app playing in the background and on a wi-fi connection it’ll confidently stream content with no hassle, on 3G however the connection can drop out from time to time. There doesn’t seem to be an option to optimise the stream quality for 3G connections, in fact settings are limited to just one option, whether you want the screen to always stay on. This aside the app operates very well, scrolling through and cueing up new channels is quick and hassle free and the audio quality sounds perfectly fine. You can build up a list of your favourtie stations simply by playing a channel and pressing the ‘favourite’ button in the top left of the main screen. You can remove stations from your favourites list with a simple ‘long press’. There is also a widget which, despite looking plain, gives you access to your favourites list, the app itself and a simple play/stop button; not overly flashy but perfectly functional which in many ways sums up this series of apps.

Bottom line : For something that is free (albeit ad-supported) this is actually a pretty solid app. Regarding the content, there’s a lot of overlap but it’s simple to use, it’s runs smoothly and (if you don’t mind commerical radio) offers a varied range of music to listen to.

Winamp Beta – It’s The Llama’s Pyjamas

Winamp Beta

If, like me, you rock an Android handset then I guess that, also like me, you’re thinking it must be Christmas right now. At the time of writing this we’ve had Angry Birds, Tweetdeck, an updated YouTube app, all in the last 10 days and now Winamp Beta has popped up on the Marketplace to a rapturous reception from the Android community.

Hello old friend, it's been a while. My, you're looking nice.

I’ve always struggled to find an Android based music player that I’m 100% happy with but the Winamp team, thanks to their talent for appealing and intuitive design, have ported their popular media player to the Android platform with great success. This truly is the trusty old Winamp experience scaled down to your Android handset right down to the familiar ‘Winamp, It Whips The Llama’s Ass’ soundclip when you first start up the app; it’s like meeting an old friend who happens to have kept themselves in great shape.
Hands down the UI on Winamp is the best I have found on Android so far for playing music. It’s not overly flash or fussy but it helps you get the job done with ease. From the home screen you can access Artists, Albums, Songs, Playlists, History or the Search function, menus are responsive and the program runs perfectly. Wherever you are in the UI you can usually get to wherever you want to go with a minimal amount of navigation thanks in part to the excellent ‘drag-up’ Now Playing screen. For me, the Now Playing screen is the most important part in any music player and should be accessible as easily as possible (take note Audiogalaxy), the ‘drag up’ feature of Winamp makes this possible.

In this case the Now Playing screen also includes some shameless cross promotion.

The Now Playing screen features everything you need, play/seek controls, album art, access to the current playlist, a list of all tracks / albums by the current artist, shuffle/repeat controls and the all important home button. Creating and editing playlists on your handset is easily done via long pressing on songs when in a tracklist. Also tucked away in the long press menu are options to use a particular track as a ringtone and a search function to find the track on Youtube or the Internet. For widget fans Winamp also comes with a very tidy widget with all the basic controls you need to control your music from your home screen, there’s only one size at the moment but I would assume that more will be developed as the program moves closer towards a final release.
Scrobbling to Last.fm is also possible, you’ll need to install the Last.fm app on your handset; as yet there are no options to share info on currently playing tracks to Twitter or Facebook.
If you install the new Beta version of Winamp on your PC you can also stream your music library to your handset via Wi-Fi. Sadly I could not get the Winamp Beta program to install on my Windows 7 installation. That’s the downside of a Beta I guess, someone will always be at the worse end of the testing experience, in this case it just happens to be me. Even without the streaming capabilities Winamp Beta has easily pushed aside all other media players on my handset, if they include shoutcast radio or video playback in future versions then I could be finding myself throwing all kinds of other apps on the scrapheap (or should that be Appheap?, sorry).

Links : Install via AppBrain, Official Winamp Blog Post

Bottom line : Boasting a superb and robust UI with easy to access features; this is the best audio player app I’ve used on Android so far. As a music player it ticks all the boxes, if you can get the streaming library to work then it’s an utterly essential app.

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