Androids should be able to beat Apples to a pulp easily. They are technically superior and, if have read the right web articles, even have greater superiority of numbers. But they aren’t leading the market. Why?
Simple answer. Heart. Android has so much potential, they lay a claim to openness and universality so there alone an Android device should be able to do anything my little mind could want it to do. But it doesn’t, or it does it so poorly it might as well not. Let me tell you my story.
I had an ageing Nokia smartphone. It finally dawned on me that I wasn’t getting time to listen to my records, the old vinyl ones. I was starting to re-buy titles on CD for the car. So much bulk and so much waste. So I set to copying my vinyl collection to mp3 to go on the phone. Worked pretty well so I was really looking forward to my next phone. I knew Apple was the king of music players but so many were raving about how great Android was and it was so much more affordable. Getting a Samsung Galaxy SII with an extra 64GB microSD card was still light years away from a 64GB iPhone on a Vodaphone plan. So Galaxy SII it was.
My first disappointment was in the music players. Sure I had read the stock player was a bit basic but there were some great apps that were world class and all that. I set about trying a few. Now everything has a sales pitch that presents the app as a cure for world hunger and the vox pops feedback is either gushing or scathing so little help there. I set about trying a few select music apps for a week each.
First I tried Neutron. It promised “best quality” playback and lots of options; these it did deliver on well. Downside is that the user interface is a bit different. In many ways I was happy but the great concern was that with a huge collection, scrolling through page after page of album names with wee pics was losing a lot of the intuitive, hunting behavior that every real-world collector develops. I wanted a better way to see my collection.
Enter N7 Player. This really does have a point of difference. N7 can show you all your album covers in a screen that starts out like a tag cloud then zooms into a grid view. Really nice as you can get so many more albums on-screen at once. I struggled with it a bit as it seemed to want to ignore Tags and make up its own genres and even cover art. Various Artist albums splatter all over the place and if you happen to have the “Love Songs” albums from Elton John and Cliff Richard then you end up with a mutant album unless you make sure the album names are different. I got around this and got it working and was happy. Till I added more music or accepted one of the regular updates and then it would all happen again. What a pain.
PlayerPro came next as it has the reputation of being the “best” music app and most stable. It also has a grid view for music which is better than the list. Maybe weight of numbers has it right. Ok so this is a good app but I didn’t feel I could gel with it. That may be my fault so I won’t say anything bad past that it didn’t help make my life easier compared to options in other players that do things like start and stop music when I plug in a cable.
I then tired an even more radical UI design that promised to ease the pains of the likes of me. I can’t remember, or find, the player now to link to but it was so early in its Beta that it just didn’t work. Also I felt that it was never going to work. It had out-clevered itself.
I purchased N7 as it went to V2.0 and promised all the tagging and organization issues were sorted and there was a special for about $2. Bonus. I ran with it for a month or so but really more of the same and it wore me down to be constantly having a broken player. I live for music and being asked to accept “Grosse Point Blank” and my HiNRG and Eurobeat compilations being splattered all over the place was unacceptable to this buttoned-down fellow. Punt.
I went back to Neutron. The audio quality and care in having lots of options to let the player suit my needs were important. However what closed the deal was the Wake function. I had become amazed that with all the processor power and universal flexibility there aren’t really any clock radio apps that will wake me with my own music. Yep many will play one “song”, usually the same one and that seems too Groundhog Day (minus Andie McDowall) for me. Sleep & Wake features just seem so civilized.
Till of course they don’t actually work that is. It appears that I am the only one who experiences this but my Wake function operated like this:
- Day One – woke my phone and started playing music 5 mins later than the set time. Odd but there is an obvious solution here: fudge the alarm time…
- Day Two – phone didn’t wake me. When I got up and poked the phone the screen came on and the music started. So I gotta wake myself to wake the phone so it can wake me up. Brilliant plan!
- Day Three and on- well just like day two actually till one morning the phone started playing music 10 mins after my JVC micro stereo had roused itself and eased me into the day with music. Not real good.
In this time I have had my office at work moved from the showroom to a corridor behind Service dept. No piped music which is a curse in that a silent office feels disconcerting but now I can choose not to listen to Lady GaGa and the chuckle-heads on the radio which is a win. I started looking for a way to listen to the music from my phone.
Samsung have their own range of music docks for Galaxy devices so I thought I’d start there. They look good and claim to be superb quality but they ain’t cheap. Wouldn’t bother me but I had a listen to the top-of-the-range wood box, complete with a valve to convince us how audiophile it was. Sounded like crap. Sorry guys but for $800 I don’t want to hear a massive lump at 300hZ. That ain’t bass. I can do better spending half the amount on a Yamaha stereo with DAB, CD etc. Sadly only iPhone dock on that tho. That left only one solution in the shops (eBay is only slightly broader) with the Philips Fidelio range which has to cater for the scattergun approach Android use where every phone is different. Audio travels via Bluetooth (low quality but convenient) or 3.5mm headphone cable (ok quality but another step). While the USB can carry a quality Line Out not all phones implement this or use the same pins. Dumb.
All docks are sold on the you’ll be amazed at how big and great the quality of sound from such a small & pretty box. And while this Fidelio AS141 box does sound quite large for its little plastic form it definitely doesn’t feature quality sound. It is kinda nice but all the effort has gone into giving the impression of bass, so clarity and treble are barely there. It’s 1970’s stereogram kinda warm. Not too bad for $89 (on sale from about $149) but certainly not anything to be mistaken for Hi Fi. It has alarms that I haven’t tried but I think they will work so maybe I will try to find a similar dock that has an all-elusive Line Out to pipe musical wakefulness into my proper stereo (on eBay of course).
Finally I think I am about sorted.
Just don’t get me started on how Android has no ability to Shuffle by album. Sure I can play All Songs on Random but I can’t get it to play a whole album then fetch me another without making a Playlist. Apple did this on about V1.0 so how does Android expect to win hearts? Also Android boasts a lot of Hands-Free features but they don’t really work, I have to use other apps to cobble together bits and pieces to force my phone to answer itself when I am in the car. Maybe this is partly because I leave my internet off when not in WiFi range but why should I need the internet to answer a phone? Dumb.