Archive for April, 2011
Twitter addicts have plenty of choice on Android. There’s TweetDeck, Seesmic, Plume, TWIDROYD, HootSuite, TweetCaster, and others, so no matter what your Twitter habits you have an app that that fits your needs. Yet I’ve run into something a bit frustrating in the past few weeks. Even though I have stored plenty of apps on my SD card, I’ve been getting that obnoxious “your phone is running out of space” notification. Clearing data works temporarily, but it always seems to get back to that 20MB warning level. It has led me down a path I didn’t think I’d take. I’m back to using Twitter for Android.
Back in December I enumerated the reasons why I didn’t use the official Twitter app. At that time it was a clunky app that had way too many bugs. With all the alternatives, most of all TweetDeck, I found no need for the official app. There was only one catch: I couldn’t delete the official app. That made for some space issues.
One feature we’re starting to see on nearly every new smartphone is a front-facing camera. This was actually a pretty big deal back in 2008, when RIM was reportedly going to place on on the original BlackBerry Bold. That never happened, though, and it was two more years before front-facing cameras became a fad. Now they’re out in the wild, which makes video conferencing a cinch. You have a few options when it comes to this, and Qik might be the best among them.
Qik started as a mobile video sharing platform, which made plenty of sense. Before there were front-facing cameras there were rear-facing ones, and people used these to create videos from their smartphones. While uploading to YouTube was a clear option, Qik created its platform strictly for mobile. It has since been acquired by Skype, and so it has expanded its reach. Now it covers video calling, and it might be the most complete solution on the market.
Nothing in life is free. Everything comes with a cost, whether direct or hidden. So when I get press releases that claim users can get premium apps for free, I automatically do the calculation in my head. Is it worth my time? Is it worth the possibility of being added to a mailing list? Those things cost time and incur frustration. That makes them not free, at least in my book. But if you have some free time and want to keep your wallet fatter, check out OfferedApp. You just might find the app you’re looking for.
It’s a pretty simple idea, one we’ve seen executed in different forms throughout the internet’s history. Instead of paying for the app with money, you fill out a survey. Once you finish, OfferedApp provides you with the premium app, usually valued between one and 10 dollars, for free. It sounds like a good deal if you’re an app hound on a budget, but it’s important to realize the cost of it all. Again, just because the app doesn’t make your bank account lighter doesn’t mean it’s free.
Android users who stream a lot of media will inevitably run into battery issues. The faster the bitrate, the more battery the function will consume. I know plenty of people who counteract this by carrying multiple batteries — one friend carries two in his pocket. But for most of us, the best solution is to implement practices that help save battery life. Via Phandroid, there’s an app that can help you in many ways. It’s called WiFi Status, and it makes sure that you turn off WiFi when you’re out of range.
When you’re around a WiFi network, it’s always best to connect. It actually helps save battery life, since your handset isn’t constantly receiving signal from the mobile network (a signal that varies in strength a bit more than WiFi). But if you forget to turn off WiFi when you leave, you can experience substantial battery drain as your phone searches for another open signal. The more you move around, the more it searches, and therefore the more it drains your battery.
Why start your own music service when you can partner with an existing one? It appears that Google might have asked itself this question. Last week we heard that Google’s talks with music labels were slowing, perhaps to a halt. Apparently they keep wanting more, and the idea of adding a subscription service to its already planned storefront and music locker is causing some issues. While I still think a deal will get done, Google has to explore other options in case one does not. One possibility, as Greg Sandoval of CNET reports, is a partnership with Spotify. That could certainly make things intersting.
For those unfamiliar, Spotify is a service that provides unlimited streaming music. It is similar in many ways to Grooveshark, except that the music is licensed. Well, that, and it is only available in some European countries. The company has stated its desire to enter the US market, though. What better vehicle to bring them there than Google and Android? Spotify, of course, denies this, but that’s to be expected. When you talk to official spokespeople you rarely get answers. Considering both Google’s and Spotify’s current positions, it’s not difficult to imagine that they’ve spoken, at least casually, about a partnership.
As I’ve repeated ad infinitum, the one area where I think Android most sorely lags behind Apple is in music management. It’s not that Android lacks options. There are plenty of media players that have desktop sync apps as well, and most of these also sync with iTunes. That makes things a bit more convenient, but it’s not quite like Apple, which has made ubiquitous its iTunes media player (at least on Apple computers) and its iTunes store. Android doesn’t have that native function. There was hope, and for about a year we’ve been anticipating Google’s next move in that regard. It was a disappointment late last week when we learned that Google’s talks with record labels stalled. Yesterday we got further disappointing news.
This was more of an emotional disappointment than an actual setback for Google. Though their talks with record labels might have hit a temporary impasse, I expect something will still get done in the near future. It’s really in everyone’s best interests. Google needs to deliver its Android users a better music experience, and record labels, perpetual whiners about declining income, stand to make significant bank on the deal. But to have Apple beat them to the punch? That just hurts. According to a Reuters report, that just might be the case. Commence sobbing.
Seriously, this happens to me all the time. I’m listening to a song on my Android, since it’s my primary MP3 player, and I’ll run across a lyric I want to look up. Maybe it’s because I find the line particularly meaningful, or maybe, because I listen to a lot of metal, I can’t understand it. Either way, this oftentimes means a run-in with the worst types of sites on the internet. No one wants to visit a lyrics site. They flash, they pop up, and they’re generally obnoxious. That’s why I’m immediately installing Lyrics App. It shows me the lyrics to my currently playing song.
Now, instead of going to a lyrics site, I just have to drag down the notifications bar, and there it is. I can click right into it, and there are the lyrics to the song. Then I can have satisfaction in knowing the lyrics, either for my own knowledge, or, if I’m feeling a bit expressive, for the knowledge of my Twitter followers. Either way, it’s a simple way to get lyrics when you want them, without having to look up something in the browser — never mind having to navigate to unpleasant sites that make me cringe every time I visit.
Note about Grooveshark included after the jump.
If you use Last.fm as a music discovery and recommendation tool, then |OP| of the xda developers forums has a must-download app. It’s called PlaylistR, and it lets you build playlists from your Last.fm favorites. This includes your charts, recommendations, friends, and overall charts. Then you can import those playlists into one of a few services. It works best with Grooveshark, MOG, and rdio, since you can import those playlists right from your Android device. There is also a level of support for Spotify and Deezer, though you can’t really build playlists for them. You can, however, stream individual songs.
With streaming apps, playlists are where it’s at. This is especially true of an app such as Grooveshark, which can get a but cumbersome when searching. Last.fm does a great job of pinning down music that you enjoy, and so it works well for playlist creation. If I still used Grooveshark, or had any of the other streaming services, I’d be all over this one. The more ways to generate playlists, the better. The app takes that further, automatically generating them for you. I like making playlists as much as the next guy, but sometimes you just want to automatically create one.
For nearly a year now Android-toting music lovers have waited for Google to launch a music service. It seems to be one of the few missing pieces of the platform. While there are alternatives — the Amazon MP3 store being one of them — I can only imagine that Google itself could provide the most robust music interface for its own platform. There have been encouraging signs of late, as we know Google is in talks with representatives from many music labels. But our hopes were met with disappointment late last week, as All Things D’s Peter Kafka reported that, “There’s definitely a problem with the Google music conversations.” Crap.
We’re lacking specifics on the situation right now, but early speculation points to Amazon’s cloud storage and streaming service as a potential roadblock. Record labels weren’t exactly thrilled that Amazon launched the service without their approval. Then again, I’m not sure the record labels really enjoy it when anyone plays one of their tracks. At least, that’s how they’ve come across in the past decade-plus. There was also mention of Google changing its terms in the past few weeks, perhaps to differentiate itself from Amazon’s service. Again, this is all speculation, and it gets us no closer to the root of the matter.
When cloud storage, file sharing, and media streaming come together, it’s usually a thing of beauty. Two weeks ago one such site, 4shared.com, released an Android app that allows users to manage their accounts. But that was just the start. Now, via Android Central, we learn that they’ve released a dedicated 4shared Music app, which will give you another way to find and stream music on your Android. Because it’s a file sharing service, it does give you the opportunity to expand your music library.
With the 4shared Music app you can search around to find songs you like, and then addd them to playlists. That way you can stream songs without having to search for them every time. According to the reviews you can’t download music from others, which makes sense. There are so many issues surrounding music file sharing, but it seems that straight downloads are a pretty big no-no.
Services such as this are going to gain more prominence, especially as 4G networks become more widespread. The music industry will probably have something to say about that, but when the dust settles I’m certain that cloud-based storage and streaming services will play a big part in how we experience music.