The smartphone is the ideal music player. With plenty of storage, a headphone jack and a near constant connection to the internet, it is the ideal device for playing tunes on the go. Android is no slouch in the music department. Google Play is packed with applications tailored to meet your musical needs.
There are a few Android music staples that you really want to have installed on your handset. Should you have missed them, we have compiled a nice little list here for you to get stuck into.
4shared Music Downloads
“Is this legal?” reads one of the comments on the Google Play Android app store under 4shared Music Downloads. So far, the answer seems to be yes. 4shared.com is a cloud locker, syncing and, yes, file sharing service of sorts and this particular app - one of a few you can get for the site - has a focus on the music side of things, and it’s something that you can get only on Android.
It’s fairly basic in both its appearance and function. The idea is that it gives you cloud access to any music files you have stored in the service. You can stream them to your Android phone or tablet or you can pull them down in full as MP3 downloads. The trick is that much of what people choose to store in their 4shared space is public. So anyone can search for it, stream it and even download it. The result is that you effectively have access to a pretty impressive music catalogue and for absolutely nothing at all. Read more
Very simply put, Solo turns your phone into a guitar. The top of the screen allows you to select what chord position you’d like your virtual hand to be in and then you just strum the entire screen or pluck whatever individual notes you choose. Once you’ve had enough of that, you can head into the chords menu where you can select just about anything you could think of as well as go into the editor and make some custom ones of your own.
If you don’t know much about music, then Solo combines really nicely with a brief in-app internet search of the music of your favourite guitar-based bands. Find out what the key chords are to the best songs, choose them from the app and away you go. Eat your heart out Jimmy Page. If that’s not enough of the band experience for you, then Solo can also play one of the songs on your handset in the background while you strum along. Read more
Gigbeat is a music service that lets you know when a band you like is on tour. It scans your phone for music files and takes note of which artists you listen to. Then it’ll bring back a list of them altogether. Most will have the words “Not currently on tour” next to their profile pictures but some will give you details of where and when they’ll be, all the way to individual venues on individual dates.
If you find a time and place that’s suitable - and you have the inclination - you get options to buy tickets via the Songkick service. Gigbeat will also show you where the venue is on a map and add the date to your calendar. What’s really good is that the minute one of your artists announces dates in your area, Gigbeat will send you an alert so that you can get in there first before all the tickets disappear. You can also tie in your Last.fm account for more artists and recommendations as well as your Songkick credentials to make the purchasing process much smoother. An Android must.
doubleTwist with AirSync
Together, these two apps will give your Android phone a new music player that can sync music from your PC over Wi-Fi. There's also an application for your computer that manages your music library, plays music and lets you send music not just to Android phones, but also iPods (albeit over USB only) and other USB MP3 players.
Both doubleTwist for Android and Windows/Mac computers are free. The only charge comes if you want to sync wirelessly, and then you have to pay £3.99 for AirSync. It's worth remembering though, from time to time AirSync gets a price reduction. For example, when it first came out it cost just 60p. The good news is that if you're happy to sync via USB, you don't need to pay at all.
We can see why the company opted to charge for the Wi-Fi sync part of doubleTwist, because it's really awesome and works incredibly well. To get started, you simply install the AirSync app via the Android Market. It doesn't run itself, instead it gives doubleTwist the ability to connect to your PC wirelessly and sync music, photos and video. To pair your phone to the PC you need to use a unique number, which is shown on your handset. If all goes well - and in our testing, it did - the PC application will ask you for this number automatically. This means it's detected your Android device already, and is just confirming that it's your phone, and pairing it with the PC.
When this is done, your device name shows in doubleTwist and you can start syncing music. The app seems to take the name of your device from your Google account name. Good, but slightly bothersome if you have two android devices you're trying to manage.
doubleTwist for Android
And finally, the bit that gives you a way to enjoy your music on Android. It's worth pointing out that although you need doubleTwist installed to use AirSync, if you'd rather carry on using the standard Android app, then that's fine too. However, doubleTwist is the most stylish and easy to use music apps we've used on Android. The front-end separates everything into artists, albums, songs, videos and playlists. There are also podcast and radio options from the main screen.
The playlists feature is useful because it enables you access the files you've recently synced. These are likely to be the files you're most interested in, and we found ourselves relying on most. However, finding older music was no hassle either, and doubleTwist is very responsive, so flicking through dozens of artists and tracks is a breeze. Read More.
Price: From Free
If you like music videos, then Vevo is where it's all at and is pretty much an essential app for your collection. Land on the homepage and there is a carousel of several featured artists and videos. It’s bold, it looks sharp and there is no messing around. Hit the one you want and the video streams - it’s as simple as that.
It’s clean, simple, direct to the point and easy to use. The selection of videos seems to cover the most popular current artists, so if you have specific tastes you might be disappointed. Read More
Sonos Controller for Android
This handy app acts as a free wireless music controller for your Sonos system. Download the app, install it, press a button on any one of your Sonos ZonePlayers and away you go. It enables you to manage your library remotely, and stream music to every room - you can either play different songs in each room or sync all your ZonePlayers to play the same song. Volume can be controlled via the hardware buttons on most Android phones.
And voice search can be performed from within the app. Plus, it also features the ability to press back on your phone rather than having to press a dedicated icon on screen. In practice, the volume buttons work a treat, making changing volume on the fly really easy, and the voice search saves you having to tap away at a tiny keyboard. This one's also available for iPhone and iPad. Read More
Android misses out on some of the musical opportunities the likes of integrated iTunes can provide. To combat this, why not grab yourself a Spotify premium subscription. Not only does it do away with the service's nasty adverts and play limits, it also allows you to stream it from your mobile phone. The Spotify app will also let you store music locally on a handset so as not to stop playback should you go into an area of no reception.
For the price, it is an unbelievable amount of music for under £10 each month. The application, once logged in, will allow you to play unlimited songs from a vast library of available tracks. Ask us about considering using Spotify as an iTunes alternative a year ago and we would have laughed, now it seems more than viable.
Price: Free (with £10 per month subs)
Last.fm is very much about musical exploration. Less a player and more an application that helps you to discover new bands, it works by using a very powerful track recommendation engine that will create radio shows tailored to you.
Once you boot the app up, Last.fm will allow you to search for an artist. It will then play this artist's radio, which may feature some of their own tracks, as well as music from other similar bands. Last.fm can also be scrobbled to, which is when other players such as Spotify, tell the service what you are listening to. The more you play, the better a picture the software has of your listening habits, until eventually it theoretically plays only music you like.
In practice Last.fm can be a bit hit or miss. Most of the time it will get things right and pull up a new band that you genuinely enjoy, but expect to do quite a lot of track skipping. Some of our favourite bands of all time however have been discovered using Last.fm and for that we have a massive soft spot for the service.
Until recently, it was free on the mobile. This has now sadly changed and the application requires you pay a monthly £3 subscription. For the amount of music you get however, the cost is so minimal it's a virtual no brainer.
Price: Free (with £3 per month subs)
Any other music apps you particularly enjoy? Let us know in the comments below ...