Sunday, April 3, 2011

Android still plays second fiddle to iOS when it comes to music

If you can't tell what this article is going to be about from the long-winded title, I've been wanting to switch to Android for quite some time, especially for the last two weeks. I've got a running list of things I want Android to do that iOS sucks at and also things that iOS can do that I also want to be able to do on Android. Here's just a few.

iOS sucks at:
  • Customizing the view of your SMS (Even with Winterboard, the themes available suck rocks)
  • Having a comfortable keyboard/autocorrect
  • Setting custom SMS tones (Jailbreaking helps this, but come on Apple)
  • Being able to play all Youtube videos, and videos on other sites
  • Cydia. Nough said.
Android should also:
  • Use SSH and SFTP (For school, one class I have requires these)
  • Customize everything a la Winterboard
  • Have apps such as iStudiez Pro, Simplenote, Pandora, VNC, Blogger, etc (btw, Android does)
  • Manage music
The only other thing I am slightly disappointed at is the lack of Netflix. From what I can tell, this is a hardware/DRM issue, but then again, it's not the biggest deal for me; the Netflix app for iOS sucks something fierce and I only use it if a Windows/Mac(/Linux WINE?) is not available.

Anyway, the point is that the last point was Music. You know, the thing that made iPod huge? (And arguably brought Apple back from the brink of disaster.) iPods and iOS are not spectacular about synchronizing music, but they get the job done. From my perspective, they don't do anything amazing or groundbreaking: they get your music to your device, and make sure to get all the details. The thing that worries me is that Android does not.

It seems to me like Google doesn't really care about making Android a good music manager, and that sucks. That's a bold claim, so here's some evidence to back it up:

Android can't:
  • Sync smart playlists
  • Sync ratings
  • Sync play counts
  • Perform things like "skip when shuffling" or "remembering playback position"
  • Sync lyrics
These aren't even the nitpicky things; a while back I was looking for an alternative to iTunes so I know pretty much everything that iTunes can do when it comes to syncing with devices. These are just the "essentials" in my mind because I use them constantly and my music listening experience would be crippled without them.

I don't really understand why Google has neglected simple features such as these. It's very easy (IMO) to create a music player, but to have one with functionality. I realize that some people like the simplicity of "drag and drop," but they should also realize that some of us prefer syncing. I respect that some people just like drag and drop, and that's why I like that Android offers that solutions; iOS requires that you use iTerror....I mean iTunes, even if you just want a simple media player. So it's nice that Android offers simplicity, but it should also offer a more complicated approach.

Now I'm not saying to get a proprietary database, but it would be nice to have even an XML or just use ID3 tags to store things like ratings and playcounts. Some apps do add some of these features like Winamp or Doubletwist, but I don't think Google should rely on 3rd party apps when it comes to something as essential as Music. (Especially when most of the good apps cost a few dollars.)

tl;dr: Google needs to step up their game and get a good music player that caters to both the folder drag-and-drop users and the library-database users.

It's not like Google would even have to create a desktop music manager; just leave the database on the microSD card and give out the specs so that people can write addons for Songbird or MusicBee or MediaMonkey or Winamp or foobar200 you get my point? The hard part is done, now we just need Google to step up and answer the call. Until then, I really don't think anyone can view Android as a decent music player.



  1. Definitely agree - the music management on Android sucks :(

  2. Ravi,

    Glad you agree, but sad that it's true. :P

    I'm working on a very extensive comparison for the best music apps right now (I did one earlier but it was rather limited). Hopefully after that, I can see what quantifiable features Android needs to get before it can catch up with iOS.


  3. PlayerPro and iSyncr fills that music void.

  4. Ashu,

    First off, I was not saying that Android had to sync with iTunes; that's the biggest hindrance of owning an iPhone in my opinion. The fact that Android can sync with MusicBee, MediaMonkey, Winamp, Songbird, Rhythmbox, Banshee, Amarok....well, you get the idea. It's nice.

    Secondly, I do agree, PlayerPro is very, very nice; it's the one I've chosen to use after trying out a dozen music player apps. But the point is, it's a third party application, and I don't think Google should depend on a third party to provide essential content. (Extra content, maybe, but not essential.) Symptoms of this are things like lack of integration with Android itself and lack of support for more devices since it's a one-man-show, not backed by Google. I'm not saying that Google HAS to have the best music player app out there, I'm just saying the one it has currently is pathetic, and at very least it should provide more ways to let other music players sync more easily.

    More importantly, there really is no "syncing", period. Desktop apps put music on the device and mobile apps play that music; there is no interaction between the two. The main concern for me is things like ratings, playcounts, on-the-go playlists, and even (in my dreams) songs bought off Amazon on the device being synced back to the computer. But like I said, AFAIK, none of that functionality exists yet, aside from apps like doubleTwist or Winamp (the former still requiring iTunes, I believe).