So, the talked-about and hoped-for Google Music Sync didn’t get demoed at last night’s event. Until that arrives, there’s plenty of decent Android music apps and players worth investigating.
If you’ve spent any time with the standard music player that comes with most Android phones, you’ll know that it’s pretty, well, standard. So we’ve rounded up some of the best Android music players out there and compared their various features.
Some of them even allow you to wirelessly sync playlists and tracks from your computer to your phone. So you’ll be able to get a bit of an idea of what Google Music Sync will eventually bring.
As well as music players, we’ve also included essential music discovery and social networking apps, like Shazam, Spotify and Last.fm. Basically, everything you need to turn your Android phone into a proper replacement for your MP3 player or (whisper it) your iPhone.
DoubleTwist is perhaps best described as ‘iTunes for Android’. The DoubleTwist desktop app is a media player that acts as a replacement for iTunes and allows you to easily sync playlists to your Android phone. You can sync tracks over USB like normal, or, if you’ve got the AirSync add-on app, over Wi-Fi.
You can also easily sync photos and videos, so it’s more than just a music playing/syncing app. In fact, there’s a whole lot that DoubleTwist can do that we won’t go into just now; we’re going to concentrate on the music side of things for the benefit of this feature.
The Android app itself is one of the best Android music players out there; it’s got a well designed interface, and features a lock screen widget. This means you can pause and skip tracks from the lock screen of your phone, rather than having to unlock your phone, find DoubleTwist, and go into the app/tap the screen widget and so on.
MixZing is a great Android music player app that we’ve raved about before here on Recombu. First of all it won our hearts by being the first decent music player for Android to offer equalizer levels and settings.
The good news is that MixZing has recently updated to version 3.0.1. This allows you to fiddle with EQ levels for AAC, M4A and OGG files – previous versions only allowed you to tinker with the bass and treble on MP3’s.
The most recent version of MixZing allows you to access videos you’ve shot on your phone’s camera, making it more of an all-in-one media player.
Like with DoubleTwist, MixZing also features a handy lock screen widget. While there are a few Android music players that let you do this, MixZing’s one seems to work the best for us – others apps lock screen widgets seem to lag a little.
Standard MixZing is free to download, but only gives you access to the equalizer. MixZing Premium/Upgrade currently costs $4.99 which works out at roughly £3.08 in the Android Market and gives you access to the all-important lock screen widget.
Winamp has been the media player of choice for PCs for many many years. It’s now whipping the llama’s ass on Android phones by way of a handy app. It even plays that DJ Mike Llama sound file the first time you load it! Aah, memories…
Nostalgia for the old days aside, Winamp for Android is a pretty decent Android music player. It features a slick interface (that same dark grey and orange colour scheme) and creating playlists is no trouble at all.
There’s a lock screen widget (like the one on MixZing) and you can also sync your music library over Wi-Fi (like DoubleTwist with AirSync). To do the latter though you’ll need Winamp 5.59 beta installed on your PC. This is free and can be downloaded from the Winamp Blog.
Those who prefer to charge their phone as they sync over USB will be able to do so in the normal way. Winamp for Android comes with an handy ‘Enable auto-mount’ feature buried in the settings. This automatically sets your phone to USB storage mode when you plug it in for faster USB music transfer.
If you’re the kind of person who won’t listen to anything unless its in FLAC or TTA formats then you need PowerAMP.
PowerAMP supports a huge range of audio files including the aforementioned FLAC and TTA; Ape, ALAC and WAV are also supported. Like DoubleTwist and MixZing, you also get equaliser settings and a handy lock screen widget.
PowerAMP is one of the nicer looking Android music players out there. It’s got a range of interchangeable skins which you can alter to suit your mood, and we love the virtual volume controls as well. There’s no wireless syncing option yet, but if you want to listen to your lossless files on your Android phone, then PowerAMP is your best bet.
PowerAMP is free to check out for 15 days with the trial version. After that time has elapsed, you’ll need to purchase the PowerAMP unlocker to carry on using it. The unlocker costs $4.99, which currently works out at around £3.08.
Last.fm is a great way to discover new music. You simply type in the name of your favourite artist (say, The Beatles) and Last.fm will play a song from that artist, or one from a similar or related artist (i.e. Paul McCartney). ‘Radio stations’ of artists are created which you can subscribe to and listen to whatever you want.
It’s a bit random, in that you can’t select a specific song to listen to, you have to kind of go with the flow. All the same, it’s a great way to discover new music and new songs.
The Last.fm Android app replicates this experience pretty well. You’ll need to have an account in order to use it, but if you don’t, you can create one at the app’s login screen. It’s free to create an account, all you need is a working email address.
if you’ve already got one, just sign in as normal. All of your favourites and recommended artists will be there waiting to greet you like old friends.
Just as we said in our round up of iPhone music apps, Last.fm for Android works well in conjunction with Spotify. If you discover a new band on Last.fm you can then fire up the Spotify app to discover some more.
We love Spotify and we love the Spotify Android app. We probably listen to Spotify playlists on our phones more than we listen to our regular playlists, to be honest.
The Spotify for Android app gives you access to all of your Spotify playlists over 3G or Wi-Fi. Brilliantly, you can sync your favorite lists to your Android phone for listening when there’s no signal. We like to regularly sync new lists over Wi-Fi when in the office or at home for offline listening when out and about.
Besides accessing playlists you can search for artists and bands as you would normally. If you’ve added any friends via Spotify Social, you can also check the Feed tab (under What’s New) to see what your friends on Facebook and Twitter have been Spotifying.
The Spotify app is sadly only available to those with a Premium subscription. So unless you’re prepared to pay £10 a month for the privlege, then you won’t be able to make use of the app, which itself is free.
Who hasn’t heard of Shazam? This is the app that allows you to identify songs simply by holding your phone up to a speaker. Shazam then takes a sample of the song, listens to it and works out who’s singing and playing it. It’s amazing, easy to use and everyone’s heard of it.
There are two Shazam apps available for Android phones, the standard Shazam and Shazam Encore. Standard Shazam is the basic free version of the app, which allows you to tag up to 5 songs a month. Once you’ve reached your tag limit, that’s it, no more Shazamming for you til next month.
With Shazam Encore (just £2.99) you get unlimited tagging and also works with the Spotify app – if you successfully tag a song you can scroll down and select the ‘Play in Spotify’ option. Provided you’re connected to Wi-Fi/have 3G signal and (crucially) the song is available in Spotify, it should start playing.
If you’ve got the Amazon MP3 app installed, you can also download songs you’ve Shazammed straight to your phone, again provided that they’re available from Amazon. You can do this on both versions of the app, free or otherwise.
Easily the best way to search for, buy and download MP3s straight to your Android phone. The Amazon MP3 app has a clear and simple layout, with a big old search bar at the top, lists of bestselling albums and songs as well an album of the week.
There’s also the option to browse by genre. Useful if your the kind of person who strictly listens to Belgian crust-hop. Off the cuff imagined musical genres aside, the Amazon MP3 app is dead easy to use, an essential download for any Android phone.
Another neat feature of the app is the Auto-Resume Downloads option – if signal or Wi-Fi is lost, your song download will pause and automatically resume as soon as a new connection is established. Saves you having to go through the whole process again.
Obviously, you’ll need to have an account with Amazon in order to buy stuff. That really didn’t need to be said, did it?