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.
It has been a few weeks since Play Music formally launched its take on podcasts, so it goes without saying that there are probably a few things left to be done. An update to version 6.9 takes care of one of the bigger gaps in the functionality by putting podcasts onto its Android Auto interface. Also on the list for this update are some small-to-medium visual tweaks. As usual, the apk is available for download at the bottom of this post if you're interested in jumping ahead of the normal rollout.
Music creation on Android has been given a major boost as of Lollipop 5.0 thanks to latency reduction, and IK Multimedia (best known as the manufacturer of the popular iRig series of professional musical adapters for phones and tablets) has decided to take advantage of it. The company has released two new Android apps, iGrand Piano and iLectric Piano, meant to give players a portable and highly technical way to create the sound of famous brand-name pianos.
That experience won't come cheap: each app is a whopping $20, and they don't even include the full range of simulated pianos and keyboards (20 are included with each app, and you'll have to use in-app purchases to buy the rest).
April was a bit sparse when it comes to new apps - there aren't any real standouts, though Facebook certainly made a splash with its self-branded phone dialer. The rest of the best picks from last month are mostly advanced tools for power users, or in the case of the impressive edjing, experienced music producers. Here in no particular order are our picks for the best of the lot, plus a few honorable mentions that might have broader appeal.
Are you looking for a local music player that fits in with your oh-so Material Android 5.1 custom ROM? Then let you fingers do the walking to Gramophone, now available on the Play Store. This stand-alone music app has been in private beta for some time, but now you can grab it without even messing with that awkward Google+ community invitation system. It's a free download for Android 4.1 or later.
Gramophone is fairly standard as far as music players go: album/artist/genre/playlist views, slide-out hamburger menu, search function. The only part of the interface that isn't immediately obvious is the "now playing" button that brings you to the main playback screen.
Oh Pandora, how I wish I could quit you. I pay the folks at Google Music for their services, and I know they work hard. They even include music controls in the notification bar and the lockscreen, which you seem to take absolute joy in withholding from me. But on a roadtrip or an exercise session, I always come back to you - years of curated music stations are hard to let go. At least you seem to be updating regularly. The 5.8 update to Pandora adds the 3rd-party Google Now card that was teased back in January.
The actual implementation seems to be pretty similar to the notifications that Pandora sometimes gives you, offering up your own stations or curated playlists.
Considering how popular the various high-profile music services have become on Android, it's a little strange that none of them have offered something like NextSong built in. It's strange, that is, until you remember how slow most of them are to conform to new Android functions like heads up notifications. In any case, music fans should definitely check out this handy app from independent developer Reactiv Sudios, whom we've featured before on Android Police.
NextSong places a heads up notification on your screen for every new track, giving you info on what's playing without forcing you to lower the notification shade or dig into the Recents menu.
Anybody who owns an ADT-1 has noticed the inexplicable absence of a Play Music app, something that became even more apparent after the Nexus Player began shipping with it. Well, the wait is finally over! An update to the Play Music app began rolling out earlier today, and it includes a banner on the Leanback Launcher for those of us with Google's development hardware. If you've got a Nexus Player, you haven't been left out with this update. You've now got access to a list of recently played tracks and recommendations, just like you would have on a phone, tablet, or the web.
Sometimes you've just got to sit back and marvel at the ingenuity of some Android developers. While Motorola was busy putting expensive infrared sensors all over the front of the new Moto X to enable a few gesture controls, developer OnTheGo Platforms was adding it in with something that just about every smartphone already has. Behold, BrainWave, an app that lets you play, pause, and navigate your music like a frickin' Jedi.
Once you've got the app set up, BrainWave "looks" through your phone's front-facing camera for a series of commands delivered via your right hand. Place your hand palm-down about a foot over your phone to pause or resume.
Rdio's Android app got a teensy, tiny update today, adding gapless playback to all devices running Android 4.1. According to the "What's New" section of the Play Store page, the feature was added in by popular demand. For the uninitiated, gapless playback is exactly what it sounds like: a seamless transition from one track to the next. It's a big deal for some users, and much harder to do on a streaming music service than on local playback.
To get you in the mood, Rdio's nameless blogger recommends two very specific albums to fully appreciate the new feature: Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon 2011 remaster, for people with taste, and Daft Punk's Alive 2007 album, for people without.