The early versions of Google Play Music earned a dubious reputation at launch for aggressively eating through cellular data in the name of providing the "highest quality" sound. After a few optimizations and an option to control audio quality on mobile connections, the situation got much better. However, being more responsible with cellular data alone wasn't very helpful to users with capped home Internet service or slow Wi-Fi. The latest update to the app aims to fix that with new settings to control audio quality when streaming over Wi-Fi or downloading music for offline playback. Read More
An update to Google Play Music began rolling out earlier this week, but there aren't any signs of changes in the UI. However, a couple of interesting things did turn up during a teardown. We can look forward to new settings to control audio quality for each of the major situations for downloading music. Additionally, there will be an option to allow the app to begin playing music as soon as it launches. If you're eager to grab the latest version before it comes to your device naturally, there's a download link at the bottom. Read More
There's no shortage of Internet radio options available on the Play Store, but we're still waiting for all of them to get on the bus (so to speak) with Android Auto. Today Deezer, another streaming radio option, gets official support for Android Auto baked into the Android app. It's live in the Play Store now, though it may take a while for the rollout to reach every user. According to the change log, Android Auto support is only available for users who subscribe to Deezer's Premium+ option.
Deezer's Android Auto interface allows users to start "Flow" radio, mixes, playlists, or albums directly from the Auto menu, plus all of the standard playback management options. Read More
I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to review the V5PF (Play-Fi) Wireless Speaker from Wren. The sound quality was absolutely immaculate, and everything about the physical product more than justified its fairly high price tag. The one unfortunate dark spot in the nearly perfect experience came from software – an Android app built by DTS to run its proprietary Play-Fi protocol. It was ugly, amateurish, and unreliable. Two years have passed, and Wren has released the V5US, a new model that not only fixes some minor issues from previous products, but it also combines the features of its three existing variants to produce a single speaker with support for Play-Fi, AirPlay, and Bluetooth. Read More
There's a surprising lack of options when it comes to Android audiobooks. Sure, there's Audible, but its metered subscription service isn't an ideal solution for a lot of people, and other services tend to be light on content. Audiobook enthusiasts now have another alternative: Barnes & Noble. NOOK (ALL CAPS) Audiobooks is available as a free download on any Android 4.0+ device, though I'm betting that only those in the US can actually buy books.
Nook Audiobooks is fairly straightforward. Search for books or browse via the featured titles on the opening page. Select one. Pay for it via a credit card (sorry, no Play Store or PayPal options here). Read More
If you practically live out of your car like I do, there are probably cables loosely hanging from just about every outlet, and at least a couple awkwardly laying across the passenger seat. Even if you're not sporting a ride with a Bluetooth-enabled stereo, you can get rid of at least one cable by adding your own car kit to the mix. You could already get the GOgroove SMARTmini AUX Bluetooth Audio Receiver Car Kit for just $24.99 from Amazon, but now you can also knock another $5 off with a coupon code at checkout.
The SMARTmini receiver is a simple dongle that can be plugged directly into the AUX port on your dashboard, or into an included base for mounting just about anywhere. Read More
In the last few years, wireless speakers have exploded onto the scene with prices ranging from sub-$100 utility speakers up to a few thousand dollars for large home theater packages. A fairly new competitor, Wren, is trying to place itself in the ever more lucrative high-end bookshelf market. With a lineup of 3 wireless speakers priced at $399 each, the company is trying to take some attention away from the current leader, Sonos. Having spent a bit of time with the V5PF, the model intended for use with Android devices, I'm definitely impressed with the quality and looks, but the control app turned out to be a disappointment in an otherwise fantastic package. Read More
Streaming internet radio is far from a new concept, but if you're a doubleTwist user who longs to journey outside the realm of your personal collection, it has previously required the use of another service, like Pandora or Spotify. If, like me, it's your druthers to unify everything, today brings about some good news: doubleTwist now has its own built-in streaming radio.
Dubbed Magic Radio, the service takes your existing collection and essentially builds off of it to give you more music that you love. Much like with competing services, you can create stations based on specific tracks or genres of music, but dT takes discovery a step further with addition of "intelligent stations" that can find music based on keyword searches, like "Brazilian music" or "Woodstock." Neat stuff. Read More
While Android 4.2 may have brought a number of enhancements, it also brought its fair share of issues to the platform. Among those, there has been a real problem with Bluetooth – especially when it comes to A2DP streaming audio. Basically, audio lags and cuts out constantly, making a streaming experience far more frustrating than enjoyable.
Good news, though – Google has just confirmed that this issue will be fixed "in the next release," which should be Android 4.2.2. Here's to hoping this fix also has a positive effect on other Bluetooth devices – like game controllers and the like (most of which simply don't work on 4.2). Read More