At the start of this review, I was simultaneously excited and frustrated. Now I'm just plain excited. For a bit of context, I have been bouncing between cloud music services since Lala was still a thing. I had one simple desire: I wanted to pay a monthly fee for unfettered access to a large library of content, but still wanted to be able to bring my own. I know that $10/month is not going to get me every song in existence, but if I can pay for most music, and then supply the rest, I'll be happy. Today, Google finally gave me what I wanted and, make no mistake, this is the model that other apps are going to follow for a long time to come.
Today, Google brought it's A-game with a subscription service for Play Music. Now, you can pay a $9.99 monthly fee to get unlimited access to a library of music. It also comes with a new, updated Play Music app that doesn't look like complete garbage. There's also a host of features including the ability to turn any track into a radio station.
The one key way that this service distinguishes itself from other subscription services is that this includes all of your own personal music. In other words, the MP3s you've purchased and own are in the same app as all the music you've added to your library via your subscription.
TuneIn Radio is one of the most popular streaming music services on any mobile platform, but it has just gotten a new feature for Android users. From now on when you hear a track you like, tap the Google Play button at the top of the 'now playing' screen to head right to Google Play and buy it. See the before and after images below.
For those not aware, TuneIn Radio streams over 70,000 radio stations live, and it's not just music. There's general talk and sports radio, as well. The podcast directory also contains a huge number of feeds to peruse.
Spotify's bringing it down to the flo'. Nah, not really, but kind of. The crew behind the venerable music service has released an app update on Google Play, and among bug fixes and a playlist-sorting enhancement, a unique feature is listed in the changelog: "This app looks great in trousers."
The most significant change is playlist and track sorting. The app also now remembers what you were listening to when you last logged out. Couple that with playlist view improvements, and the new Spotify is perfect for a party in your... living room.
Professional musicians, you are free to sit this one out. DJ space is probably not going to fill your needs. Unless you need to play god, turning the planets themselves into musical instruments as you conduct a cosmic electronic orchestra with naught but your fingertips. If that's something you've needed, then yes DJ space will serve your purposes quite nicely.
FL Studio this is not, however as the saying goes, "If you want to mix sweet tracks from scratch, you must first invent the universe." The app functions very similarly to Garage Band in that you select from pre-recorded loops of music and assemble them into tracks.
Back in October Subsonic was updated with a Holo interface, which was a vast improvement over the old UI. However, that update also included ads. There was a $4.44 in-app purchase to remove them, but now that's a thing of the past. The new version of Subsonic for Android is completely ad-free by default.
The upsell in the app didn't really make much sense in the first place. Subsonic is a streaming service that runs from your home PC to give you access to your media on the go. However, the server software is not free if you want to stream to a mobile device, so charging again in the app felt a little unnecessary.
Whether due to neglect or a topsy-turvy set of priorities, Android developers sometimes leave out basic features like lock screen or notification (I'm looking at you, Spotify) controls. Well, Pandora is fixing at least some of its problems with an update that brings the ability to pause or skip tracks from the lock screen. Unfortunately, notification controls still aren't available but, hey. One step at a time.
Here's the full change log:
What's in this version:
- Lock screen controls for devices running Ice Cream Sandwich and later
- Added elapsed and remaining timestamps to the track progress indicator
- Reduced startup time
- Bug fixes and enhancements
Aside from the lock screen controls, it's not a huge update, but it's always encouraging to see a prominent developer truly take advantage of what Android can do.
Nothing brings a smile to my face like the words "Tablet Optimized," and thanks to SoundHound, I'll be walking around with a little grin all day long. The music recognition service has updated its Android app to include a fully realized tablet UI and a few other performance enhancements. Here are a few screenshots for comparison (taken on my Nexus 7):
The new tablet UI replaces the boring stretched out rows with drag-able lines of large cover art, making much better use of space on the main screen, discovery, and song pages. In landscape mode, history and bookmarks now stack songs into two columns instead of one, but appear otherwise unchanged.
We've all played the "Wait, who is that guy again?" or "What song is that?" while watching a movie. Now, with the latest update to the Play Movies app, if you want to get the answer to that question, all you have to do is press pause. Info cards will then pop up with face recognition of actors on screen, what other movies they're in, and what music you're hearing.
The feature only works on "supported movies" and it's a little unclear which ones those are (there doesn't seem to be any icon or indicator that shows whether any given movie in your library can show cards).
A few days ago, a pair of apps called RemotePlay and RemotePlayM by new Android developer Piddas21, a subsidiary of Taiwanese Quanta Computer, hit the Play Store ahead of SXSW. The idea is great - media and document sharing in real-time, across multiple platforms, such as Android, iOS, and Windows 8. Want to easily stream a video from your Nexus 4 to your iPad? No problem - it should be as simple as dragging it to a bucket with your iPad's name on it, and voila - you're watching a video on the big screen.
Note: At the time of this writing, both the iOS and Windows 8 versions were still in development, though they should be coming soon.