Posts Tagged ‘ Streaming ’

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.

Skyfire Browser 4.0 – Is it Skyfire 4.Woah or Skyfire 4.Blow?

Skyfire Browser 4.0

A while ago we reviewed a beta version of Skyfire and despite its potential it just wasn’t quite up to the task of replacing the default Android web browser. Since that time Skyfire has gone through a number of iterations and has morphed into version 4.0 which brings with it a number of hefty improvements. It seemed like a good time to give Skyfire another chance.

Click the magnifying glass next to your Google results to open this handy results 'gallery'.

The layout makes for a good first impression, it’s feature packed but also tidy and intuitive. The top of the screen includes the address bar and a search box. Below this is an array of buttons for page navigation, home, bookmarks and tab management. Yes, Skyfire does tabs and it does them well. Also included is a handy switch to alternate between Android and Desktop mode which helps with avoiding those annoying limited ‘mobile versions’ of your regular web haunts. There’s also a drop down menu that offers similar choices to your average Android browser (share page, find, select text etc.) as well as the settings menu.
Using the Search box on the top right of the screen opens up some interesting search results. Searching for an item brings you the standard Google results but also displayed is a row of buttons that can scour for your search on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Videosurf and Digg. It a genius idea that turns a simple query into a whole range of varied search results. Excellent stuff.
The biggest selling point of Skyfire is the SkyBar, a customisable tool that is capable of offering all kinds of extra web content with the minimum effort on the user’s part. There are buttons for Facebook and Twitter which allow use of the social networks within Skyfire itself, they’re not as complete as their standalone app counterparts but it’s nice to have them handy if needed. A Facebook ‘Like’ button is also included so you can quickly share while you surf. There’s a ‘Popular’ button that can scan the website you’re currently visiting and show you what content from it is being shared the most and the ‘Fireplace’ button will scan your Facebook news feed for any photos or links your friends have posted.

The 'Popular' button is a great way to find content you may have missed.

These last few features combined are great for those moments of web surfing when you’ve ‘gone blank’ for things to look at. There are also buttons for sharing pages, viewing Google Reader and content related to news, sports and finance. In this latest version Skyfire really goes all out to deliver everything in one package.

Worthy of additional note is the ‘Video’ button, this is a feature that hunts down any video link on a page and optimizes them for playback. If you have downloaded Skyfire before you will get this feature for free however new-comers to Skyfire will only get a 3 day trial before it requires unlocking for a fee. So far I’ve not had much luck with this feature, videos take too long to buffer (even over wi-fi) and the playback quality could be better. I seem to have a better time relying on Skyfire’s built in flash capabilities, maybe I’m using the wrong sites (I’m open to suggestions here). Seeing as this feature costs £1.85 to unlock I recommend thoroughly putting this feature through it’s paces before committing to it.

Away from all the bells and whistles, general browsing on Skyfire is a breeze, web pages load in good time and the zoom / text-wrapping functionality is much improved from the beta. There’s even a built in pop-up blocker which so far has done a great job of staying on top of those ever-annoying rogue interruptions.
Despite the good stuff there are a couple of small downsides to Skyfire. So far I’ve been unable to find any way of organising my bookmarks, they only appear in the order I save them. There’s also a lack of an ‘incognito’ function, something that is becoming a more common feature on many browsers. These aren’t deal breakers and hopefully are simple things to be picked up on future updates.

Skyfire has definitely surprised me.

Skyfire does a fine job of handling flash content (and blocking pop-ups).

Usually a new web browser can take time to get into but I found Skyfire easy to get the hang of and it’s handling my everyday web browsing with ease. It’s the first mobile web browser I’ve come across that can play an active role in helping you find new content to enjoy rather than just sit back and let you do all the surfing. For me it’s earned the ultimate accolade on my HTC Desire, it’s become my default web browser and with that, I tip my hat to the team at Skyfire.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 4.0.3
  • Requires Android : 2.0 and up
  • Category : Communication
  • Size : 1.7M
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : A great web browser with some unique features that make surfing even better than before. Excellent stuff!

TubeMate – My mate, your mate, our mate, TubeMate

TubeMate

A while ago on Android Apt we reviewed the Youtube download app JetVD. It proved to be one of the more popular reviews on the blog, clearly people prefer the convenience of downloaded videos over ones that you have to stream. Sadly JetVD has refused to work in recent weeks, this wasn’t totally unexpected as Youtube have a habit of making background changes in order to disable programs that can download videos. A replacement was needed and I found Tubemate, dubbed as ‘The Fastest Youtube Downloader’.

Now you can download 'How Indy 4 Should Have Ended' and watch it on your phone.

Tubemate takes the standard Youtube front-end (you can switch between the standard web or mobile version) and adds a couple of handy buttons that allow you to download content as well as share and search for videos. Pressing the download button gives you a selection of video sizes (plus an MP3 download option) that caters for all flavours of Android right up to the latest tablet resolutions (depending on the source material obviously).
Downloading content is a devilishly quick process when TubeMate is used over wi-fi. You get a handy kbps counter as the video downloads and unlike JetVD the handset doesn’t slow down to a crawl when downloading HD videos. Tubemate also supports multiple downloads so you can build up your local Youtube library in next to no time.
TubeMate is a tidy, functional and easy to navigate app that only clocks in at a tiny 500k install size. It’s definately worth a download, lets just hope it doesn’t go the same way as JetVD any time soon.

About This App – Version Reviewed : 1,04.04
Category : Multimedia , Price : Free

Links : At the time of posting TubeMate has been taken off the Android Marketplace but it is available here.

Bottom Line : Hooray! Downloading Youtube videos is back on the menu. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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.

Droid Streamer Pro – So Long Productivity, Nice Knowing You

Droid Streamer Pro

If there’s one thing I take for granted on the internet it’s video streaming. It’s easy to forget that less than 10 years ago watching the latest movie trailer online meant a 40 minute wait for a Quicktime video to download. Now we can digest stuff and move on to the next video before the current one even gets a chance to bore us, thanks to wi-fi and 3G it’s now the same for mobile phones. I remember the big fuss O2 made when they were streaming trailers for ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ to my N95 in ‘super-crap-blocky-resolution-ovision’, these days we can load up a Youtube clip of a cat playing a keyboard in HD in mere seconds.

It may not have everything but at least it's got the good stuff.

The app that bought me to this nostalgic realisation was ‘Droid Streamer’, an app that streams all kinds of commercial video content to your handset for free. Within 30 seconds of opening the app for the first time I was watching the classic Simpsons episode ‘Marge vs The Monorail’ over a 3G connection in a pleasantly acceptable quality. The content itself is streamed from Youtube and other lesser known video sites that are tucked away on the internet so the range of media on offer could very well fluctuate particularly the ‘Movies’ section which may thrust the app under a murky legal spotlight.
‘Droid Streamer’ is currently in Beta so do bear in mind that the program itself isn’t flawless. The UI is basic but perfectly functional, there’s no tweakable settings and videos in 4:3 aspect ratio are displayed to one side of the screen (rather than the centre) but to be honest after 30 seconds of viewing it doesn’t become noticeable anymore (this should be fixed in a further update anyway). I did come across an issue when watching Iron Man 2, it was clearly squashed into 4:3 size despite being the kind of media that could easily fill the entire screen. Whether this is an issue with the source or the app itself is unclear. Speaking of the source, the selection of tv episodes on offer isn’t complete by any means but it is growing all the time and when you’re getting something for nothing (especially when it’s something this good) it’s slightly churlish to complain.

Note : On my handset the launch icon for ‘Droid Streamer’ would not work, I have to open it via the Marketplace. This may be due to my handset running an MIUI rom. If you try this app on a standard Android rom do let us know how you get on.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Not perfect by any means but when it works (and when the media supplied is up to snuff) it’s a great app to have handy.

mVideoPlayer – Don’t hate the player…..

mVideoPlayer

All video's are clearly displayed in the browser menu so everyone can see your endless downloads of cats playing keyboards.

If you’ve read our previous review (for JetVD) you may have spotted a nod towards mVideoPlayer as our Android video player of choice. Since installing it months ago it has happily performed its function as our default choice for video playback to the point where’s there’s been no need to search for an alternative (of which I am sure there are many). Thanks to its pleasant UI and solid performance (even when playing 720p videos from Youtube) mVideoPlayer pretty much fulfills all the requirements of a mobile video player.
Selecting a video is done via the excellent browser which features details on video length, format, size and a thumbnail. Simply choose a video to play it or long click to access a number of options (rename, delete etc) including the ability to create playlists for your clips.
Playback is crisp, clear and smooth, subtitles are supported and the on-screen controls are easy on the eye. During playback you can bookmark the current position of a video and also lock the controls so accidental button presses don’t get in the way of your viewing.

720p videos look brilliant on the Desire's OLED screen.

Some people have complained about the lack of divx support, apparently this is down to the handset rather than the app but to be honest I’ve had no need for divx since moving over to my HTC Desire.
If you’re looking for a nicely presented and dependable video player (and I’m sure you are given the lacklustre default option that comes with some Android handsets) then mVideoPlayer is a recommended download.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Easy to use and it works perfectly. mVideoPlayer is my Android video player of choice. Do you prefer an alternative? Let us know in the comments.

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.

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