Tag Archives: g1

Top 10 Reasons Why Google Android is Better than iPhone

With the announcement of a forthcoming Spotify app for Google Android, here’s some reasons why I prefer Android devices over the iPhone. Obviously as an Android user I’m completely biased here and I freely admit the iPhone is certainly a slick gadget. However, I think Google Android is better than an iPhone because:

  1. You’ll be able to run Spotify!
  2. You can multitask.
  3. You can scan regular barcodes.
  4. You can add standard micro-SD cards to expand the storage.
  5. You’re not locked-in to one hardware device from one supplier.
  6. You’re not locked-in to one mobile carrier.
  7. It’s better value for money (over an 18-month contract it’s about £300 more for an iPhone)
  8. Apps are not over-censored and are available promptly. This means that Android developers can get updates and fixes out on a daily basis as they don’t need to go through a vetting approval process each time.
  9. It has a compass for e.g. Google Streetview.
  10. It integrates completely with Google services: gmail, google newsreader etc.
  11. You can easily change the battery when it dies.

Some of these reasons are down to the hardware, but they are still features not available on iPhone so I think it’s still a fair comparison.

Spotify for Google Android

I don’t usually just repeat official announcements (I assume that if you’re here then you probably check the regular Spotify blog too), but since I’m a Google Android user I had to post this:

Here’s a brief overview of (and a bit of speculation on) the five main tabs seen in the video:

  • Playlist tab – Shows all your playlists. Scroll through them then select one to play, or click thru to play individual songs. Adding a playlist on your desktop version of Spotify auto-adds it to the playlist tab on your Android. Click Offline Sync button to select playlists for time-shifting i.e. store (cache) a local copy for when your phone is out of range.
  • Search tab – Keyword search, with tabs to filter results by song or album. Surprisingly there doesn’t seem to be an artist tab.
  • Play pull-up blind – Displays album art and player controls: Play/Pause, Next/Previous Track, jump to position, and an information button. If this is anything like the leaked iPhone demo from February, clicking on the album art would bring up a volume slider as well as shuffle and repeat buttons. The info button may contain the artist’s biograpy info, or possibly options to Buy From 7digital.com or Buy From iTunes.
  • Unknown tab – An exclamation mark would usually imply some kind of warning list or error message. I’d be surprised though if this was required and so prominently featured, so I expect this is a temporary tab icon. Perhaps this will be for playback options such as shuffle and repeat, or it could click through to a general home page to display what’s new or the play queue.
  • Settings Tab – Can disable online mode here. Will probably have options for cache size and Last.fm scrobbling. I’m speculating but this may also include settings for headset buttons, how lists are sorted (by track, artist, or album), auto-rotate, album art resolution, clearing the cache, and persistent icon options.

Now that it’s a little clearer how the time-shifted caching will work on mobile, this might be a good time to check your data limits with your mobile operator. My G1 is on T-Mobile UK whose unlimited internet option actually has a limit: their fair-use policy keeps me down to 3GB a month.

Note that Spotify have confirmed that the mobile version of Spotify will be available to paying subscribers only.

Oh, and kudos to Spotify for using a track from Róisín Murphy’s excellent synthpop album Overpowered to demo this – now that’s what I call music!

Here’s another video demo, featuring Spotify’s Gustav:

Front 242 eh? Im Spotify rhythmus bleiben!

Music Streaming: StreamFurious Review

I tried out StreamFurious today, a streaming audio app for Android that acts as a client for the popular SHOUTcast Internet radio streamer. It’s had a lot of coverage and praise from early-adopters on the Android Community, so I thought I should give it a try.

Unfortunately I wasn’t overly impressed. The default stations are mostly low bitrate and not really my style of music (the list is mainly composed of talk radio, sports, and American college radio stations). The G1 has Wifi, 3G, EDGE; all of which can easily handle a decent quality stream so I found it a bit odd that most channels are 64kb or lower. StreamFurious doesn’t have any filtering options: you can’t filter by bitrate, style, location; you can’t even save your favourite stations (although listening to a station found via the search does add it to your list). I started to long-press all those 32kb talk radio stations to delete them one-by-one but soon got bored of that: gimme some tunes!

I finally found a default station I thought I’d like (ETN.fm Ch1, 256kb stream), so I selected it then sat waiting for 1 minute 20 seconds while StreamFurious “prepared” me for the experience (i.e. it didn’t play any music). When it finally started, the amount of bytes transfered was displayed continuously – rather than any indication of what song’s playing – and the audio quality seemed well below what I had expected from a 256k stream.

Pressing Menu gives you the option to Refresh channels, send feedback, search Shoutcast, and a debug menu. I appreciate StreamFurious is still called an alpha release, but having a Debug button so prominently does not inspire confidence.

Pressing Search Shoutcast just takes you to the regular SHOUTcast website in the default browser. The SHOUTcast site does not cater for mobile browsers and is consequently quite difficult to navigate. I would hope that a future version of StreamFurious had its own G1-friendly navigator. (UPDATE: just received a Tweet from a StreamFurious developer who says: “better integrated shoutcast search is coming”)

The Android Community rate StreamFurious highly, but perhaps because many of them grew up using SHOUTcast and have grown to put up with its idiosyncrasies. SHOUTcast may have been the hippest way to stream music in the 1990s, but for me there are many better alternatives available now. Still, it does have the best ever name for any Android app.

Music Streaming Services: A Comparison

I’ve been looking for the perfect music streamer ever since I got my G1 Android phone and decided that carrying a smartphone and an MP3 player into the shower was just excess baggage.

I love my music: at home I have about 200GB of MP3s and a few hundred CDs (not forgetting the boxes of vinyl now in the loft). On the move, I used to take my 30GB MP3 player to listen to at work and on my 30-min walk home every day. I listen to a large range of bands and styles and so like to have access to as much of this as possible when out and about; none of yer 1GB Walkman phone or 8GB ipod nano nonsense for me.

I’ve spent the past week or so comparing the merits of several music streaming services. I tried out:

  • Last.fm – my first choice as I’ve been using for a couple of years now so have it trained well. Last.fm knows what I like and ever since it started streaming full tracks it’s been one of my favourite websites (see previous posts on its Android app and Fire.fm Firefox plugin).
  • MySpace – again, I’ve been on MySpace for a few years now so have a large number of “friends” (i.e. bands I like but aren’t every likely to meet in person). The MySpace player has improved considerably over the years and is no longer limited to 4 songs only.
  • imeem – I hadn’t tried this before getting the G1 but it had its own Android app
  • Orb – a little different from the rest, Orb is basically a media streamer that streams your existing mp3 collection via a website.
  • Spotify – dubbed the “itunes killer” this is service that’s currently in all the news stories. It’s still in beta, and you need to be located in the UK (or other parts of Europe), but this does seem like it could be the perfect music streamer.

Here’s my summary of these five streaming services, comparing them on a range of features that were important to me (e.g. will it stream to my Android phone, will it scrobble tracks to Last.fm etc.):

As you can see, there’s no clear winner; indeed, only imeem fails to cut the mustard. So which one will I use?

imeem did not impress me much. The Android app was fine, but its network of related artists was poor (at least it was for the styles I like – synthpop, electro, trance) and there were many artists I tried but wheren’t found. The Android community seem to love imeem so perhaps I missed some key feature.

MySpace is still the place to go to hear about what your favourite bands are up to, and the sheer number of artists on there is almost overwhelming. But there’s no app for Android (the MySpace app in the Android Market doesn’t stream the tunes so it doesn’t count here) and the number of tracks available from any one band is still restricted. Also I consider MySpace almost NSFW as some band’s pages are just way too bloated and loaded with dodgy imagery (or maybe I should just listen to less Industrial and goth music).

Orb was almost the perfect app, with its ability to stream my entire music collection to wherever I happened to be. But I found it flakey: some days it would stream to my Windows Media Player at work fine, other days it refused and would only stream to Winamp. I tried it many times on my G1: in theory it should have worked fine, but the success rate was infuriatingly low. Whether this was due to my upstream or the Orb server or my 3G downstream to my phone, I don’t know. Of course to use Orb I had to leave my PC on all the time which may be another disadvantage if I plan to be away for some time. Orb doesn’t scrobble either, and album art didn’t work at all in Winamp. Despite all these negatives, I have been using Orb quite a bit: it can play my entire collection after all.

Last.fm changed my life a while ago and the recent release of an official Android app has only increased my loyality. I can fire it up in the morning, select a tag or artist station, then spend hours happily enjoying tracks from its huge range of artists. For the shuffle generation, Last.fm is the perfect music streaming service. But if you only want to hear one artist, or you want to listen to an album from start to finish, then you’re out of luck.

is certainly revolutionary and being able to play full albums in the way the artists intended is a killer feature. It removes the need to “own” music in the traditional sense and could see the end of download mp3s and ripping CDs. But its range of content is currently rather limited, there’s no Android app (i.e. this is for when I’m at work, not walking home) and although infrequent, the commercials do become annoying after a while. They want £10 a month for the commercial-free version. Perhaps not just yet, but once the content fills up I could well see myself upgrading.

Last.fm on Android

Having lots of fun with the new offical Last.fm app for Android:

It’s full of features, lacking only a few minor things like streaming playlists and group radio. I’m particularly impressed with the background streaming of this app: on average, I’m getting about a 5 second gap between songs (on 3G in the UK) which I reckon is pretty impressive. I spotted one tiny bug which it seems will be addressed in the next update.

What’s Wrong with Google Android and the G1

There’s not a lot wrong with Google Android 1.0, or indeed with the G1 phone it runs on. But here are the few things I’d like to see improved:

The Hardware: T-Mobile G1

  • The battery struggles to last even a few hours of use without needing a recharge. Granted my phone is all shiny and new and I want to play with it all the time, but even a “normal usage” situation would require a daily recharge. This is a bit of a hassle, and I’m fairly sure I will accidentally break off the bit of rubber covering the mini-USB charging socket at some point.
  • The G1 is a bit too heavy. At 158g it’s heavier than the 133g iphone, and slightly heavier than the Blackberry Storm. This isn’t too much of a problem in these cold months when I keep the phone in my jacket pocket, but come summer it might feel a bit big and bulky when I don’t have a coat to keep it in.
  • The G1 gets a bit warm if you’re constantly browsing about, especially near the bottom where you’re actually most likely to be holding it.
  • There’s no 3.5mm audio socket (but a cheap £3 lead from ebay sorts this out no problem).

The Software: Google Android 1.0

  • You can’t edit your Google Docs or Spreadsheets. This came as quite a surprise to me, I was so used to whipping up a quick spreadsheet or draft doc using my old Psion Revo that I had thought this ability would be a no-brainer.
  • There’s no Flash viewer, so no access to e.g. BBC iPlayer
  • There’s no PDF viewer (although you can view PDFs via Gmail and the browser)

Current Favourite Google Android Apps

Google Android’s Market is currently free, so here’s what I’ve grabbed and rate:

5 apps to impress my friends with:

  • ShopSavvy – scan a bar code (e.g. scan a book or CD or a game), displays item details, links to cheapest price on the ‘net, links to maps to show you the closest shop that’s selling it. Friends go “Ooooh that’s clever!”
  • Shazam -Hold the phone up to some music playing on the radio or a TV commercial, tells you what the song is, the artist, links to their MySpace page and mp3 downloads.
  • Wikitude -View scenery/buildings through the camera, see data about what you’re looking at overlaid on the live image. It’s true augmented reality, like looking through the eyes of the Terminator (except without the “TERMINATE” directives).
  • SkyMap -Point the phone at the sky and this app tells you name of the constellations, stars and celestial bodies as you look at them.
  • Movie Finder -Use GPS to tell you what movies are showing near you, lists the show times, links to imdb.

My current most used Apps:

  • aLastFMStreams unlimited free music from Last.fm. Clean and simple UI, lets you tune to a station based on artist, tag, recommendations etc. Vastly more tracks that the similar imeem service.
  • LocaleSets the phone depending on where (and when) you are. You set this up once and forget about it. I have an “At Work” situation that switches the phone to vibrate and an “At home sleeping” situation that disables sound and vibrate when I’m sleeping.
  • aTrackDogI expect this functionality will make its way into Android proper, but for now I run this once every few days to check whether there are any updates to my installed apps.

Google Android on G1 – Hello World

Upgraded my phone from a Sony-Ericsson W880i to a T-Mobile G1 running Google Android:
I’ve had it for just over a week now, so I’ve had a chance now to have a play and get used to the device. It’s an amazing piece of technology and although I have a couple of hardware complaints and one particular issue with the software, overall I’m well pleased with it.

Previously I’d had to carry my W880i phone, Creative Zen mp3 player, and Psion Revo organizer all with me to work at the same time. I ditched the Revo a few months ago (I moved all my contacts, spreadsheets, notes etc. to the Google cloud) but I’ve missed it ever since.

I’m not a big mobile phone user (I have Skype, I have free calls on my Virgin Media landline, I have email access most of my waking hours, I don’t have a wife) so when the G1 came out on T-Mobile with its £40/month contract I wasn’t tempted. A few months pass however, and now I can have a G1 for £20/month by paying just £50 for the phone. That’s over £200 cheaper than the current best contract deal for both an iphone or Blackberry Storm. I went into my local T-mobile store to look at the phone in RealWorld – Internet says it’s an ugly phone and pics make it look bigger than it is: I thought it looked fine and although not a clamshell, the qwerty keyboard instantly remined me of the Revo. Sign me up!