Guest post by Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
On Apple’s iOS smartphones and tablets, most people stick with the default music player — formerly called “iPod,” and now just “Music.” Google’s Android platform is a different story, with several developers competing to be the preferred music playback app for an increasingly large group of music fans, now that Android has gobbled up over half of the U.S. smartphone market (according to ComScore).
After researching music player apps, EMusic debuted a solid contender for Android this week, building on its 14 years of experience delivering MP3s via the web. EMusic’s Android app is first and foremost a music player app for enjoying the MP3s and other music files on your Android phone or tablet — except that you get to check out biographies, discographies, and similar artists for everything you listen to, should you so desire.
“One of the things that we’ve found as we were researching and trying to come up with what should our eMusic app be, is that there really isn’t a dominant music player in the Android music space, unlike the iOS world, where everyone’s using iTunes,” eMusic vice president of user experience and design Prateek Sarkar told Evolver.fm.
“At base, [the eMusic Android app] is a very simple music player; the app scans the device and finds every music file,” he said, but even non-paying users get some nifty extras. “I can select a mood — I always like to pick ‘whimsical,’” he said, as demonstrating the app’s ability to make fresh mixes of the music you already own, in addition to the usual playback features. After choosing a mood, you can use one slider to pick slow or fast music from your collection and another to toggle between music you play a lot and the stuff you rarely ever hear.
This feature works great if you have a lot of music you already like on your Android player, and the rest of the app is well-designed and relatively stable. Combined with the biographies, discographies, similar artist listings, and eMusic feature stories about the artist, all of which are pulled down from the cloud (meaning that you need an internet connection to see them), it makes eMusic’s quite the impressive Android music player. Even better, it can scan your collection and recommend new artists you might want to check out, in seconds.
However, unless you pay for an eMusic subscription, you’ll run up against some frustrating barriers, such as 30-second samples of the music in those discographies, similar artist pages, and recommendations, rather than the full-length streams and downloads enjoyed by those who pay eMusic at least $12 per month for 24 downloads.
This makes sense from eMusic’s business perspective, because half the reason this free app exists is to give people a taste of eMusic as they go about their business of playing their own MP3s. But as a user, it seems like at least the Radio feature should be available without paying, given that so many other radio services are free. But alas, that too is only for subscribers.
Overall, if you stick to the free features that come with the player, you’ll avoid running into the paywalls, and you’ll have a decent free player that delivers extra information about the music you’re listening to. Who knows, maybe you’ll get hooked and subscribe, in which case the app could become your main source of music.
Another reason you might subscribe: Although eMusic added music from the major labels in 2009 (losing some indie labels in the process), it still has scores of freelance writers and staffers combing through new releases for stuff that’s not in the mainstream, and they have decent taste. If you prefer, say, The Shins to Black Eyed Peas, this could be the Android music player for you.