After a long period of neglect, Google recently started sprucing up its music app. It's getting to be quite a respectable experience with a snazzy card-based UI and Google Play All Access built-in. The new update still makes some long overdue improvements, but that's how we feel every time.
It looks like the folks at doubleTwist are hard at work on a new version of their music playback/syncing app for Android, but we're not supposed to know that yet. Someone seems to have jumped the gun a little bit and posted the news on the doubleTwist blog. The post was locked down almost immediately, but not before we spotted it. The news? As the post says, the future is Holo(graphic).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.