The Nexus Q has had a tough life so far – that goes without saying. Things just got a little worse for the handful of us that use (and enjoy) the Q though – Google has seemingly sliced streaming support from the latest Play Music update, further reducing the impact of the Q's admittedly very limited use case.
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.
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.
A handful of cable TV providers have been working to bolster their offerings in an effort to keep customers content. Among the top requested features is streaming of content to screens that aren't directly tied to our cable boxes, particularly tablets. We can welcome Cox Communications to the streaming club with the recent release of Cox TV Connect.
The app is intended for homes with Cox TV Essential or AdvancedTV packages, plus Cox Preferred, Premier, or Ultimate Internet service. Subscribers can stream 30+ cable and local channels (availability varies by location) to as many as 5 devices at once. An interactive guide provides access to check out the full list of channels, including those that cannot be streamed, and schedule reminders or DVR recordings.
If you're reading every word of this post and running it through an internal translator to output a language your brain understands, DISH has something for you. The DishWorld app has launched on Android, bringing over 90 channels in 12 (non-english) languages to your device over the internet. It requires a subscription, but no hardware on the roof.
DishWorld programming is currently offered in Arabic, Bangla, Brazilian (Portuguese, presumably), Cantonese, Filipino, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and Vietnamese (Mandarin and Taiwanese are coming soon). The channels cover a wide range of interests including sports, movies, news, and drama. While the service is aimed at live TV, there is also an "8-day replay" option to rewatch any program that has aired on any subscribed channel in the last 8 days.
HBO has been completely uncompromising in its approach to locking up content in pay-for-TV. If you want to watch what are arguably the best TV series currently running, you need to pay your cable provider. The HBO GO and MAX GO apps have provided a little more choice for existing subscribers by streaming to tablets and phones, but the new 2.0 update finally unlocks HDMI video output.
Before this update, the ability to output video over HDMI was blocked for both these apps, so this is kind of a big deal. Anyone with an HBO/Cinemax subscription already has at least one TV with access to on-demand content, but this app update lets you take that programming with you to any big screen – be that elsewhere in your house, on vacation, or whatever.
As if there weren't enough contenders out there for music subscription service, Slacker Radio has updated its business model. You can still get the standard ad-supported radio station features that were always available. However the company has added a Spotify-like buffet option for $10/month. Pony up the dough and you can remove all ads and listen to as many tracks as you want.
The combination is pretty powerful, as one of the biggest complaints over Spotify is its discovery problems. Slacker Radio never really dethroned Pandora, but it did offer some stiff competition. There has been relatively little overlap between radio and subscription services.
Can we be honest with ourselves? Plex kinda sucks. Hard to blame it, most third-party media centers on Android do at the moment. As a lengthy blog post by the developer points out, part of that has been due to Android's inflexibility and lack of a coherent UI in its history. That's changed over the last couple years and now Plex has been rebuilt from the ground up to be a lot more beautiful and a lot more functional.
The new version has followed the Android Design Guidelines very closely and it shows. While most of us here at Android Police are of the opinion that Holo alone does not make a good UI, the addition is most welcome, given the way the old version looks.
While it's not a major Android version update, Sprint is rolling out a pretty good upgrade to Evo LTE customers. The over-the-air software will add the ability to stream audio/video to a television set or other display via an MHL cable. Neat!
The update will also bring a variety of improvements, including to WiFi, Bluetooth compatibility, and the proximity sensor while listening to voicemail. So hopefully you won't have to worry about your face pressing buttons now. Additionally, an issue where certain processes or applications shutdown unexpectedly should be resolved.
The OTA (3.16.651.3) is rolling out to users right now.
Two weeks ago, we took a look at the invite-only beta of Redbox Instant. In that article, we gave a brief glimpse into what the fledgling service's library had to offer. Of course, the inevitable question had to be asked: how does it stack up against Netflix? Or Amazon Instant Video for that matter? While we're at it, how does Google's Play Store compare? Those are pretty big questions! So, they deserve pretty big answers. Today, we have them.
With Oscar season upon us, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings laying down some serious smack talk recently, and the public release of Redbox Instant right around the corner, the time feels right to give the various services a close examination.