The generically titled Music app comes standard with every Android phone. It’s not necessarily a bad app, but it doesn’t really go that extra mile to make it worth using. It’s a stock application, with all the inherent flaws that come with that designation.
The UI is comfortably mediocre. It lets you sort your music by artist, album, and playlist, but that’s about it. There’s no support for lyrics or downloading album art. Your music also has to be properly tagged and sorted before loading it onto your phone as the stock music app isn’t great at interpreting meta tags.
The sorting thing isn’t a big deal unless you’re a bit obsessive like me and insist that your music collection be organized and sorted perfectly. Nothing is more annoying than having an album get split up for no apparent reason.
As for the playing of music itself, everything is pretty basic. There’s shuffle, play all, and… well, that’s it. No specific audio options or equalizer choices. No queuing, although you can create and delete playlists on the go.
All in all, the stock Music app is a reasonably competent way to listen to your music collection. However, there are so many better alternatives that it’s really hard to justify using it. Just take a look at apps like…
MIUI Music Player
As far as Android custom ROMs go, MIUI is one of the most famous. Taking some rather obvious design inspiration from Apple’s iOS platform, MIUI is a complete overhaul that specializes in making Android beautiful. It still has some limitations, but when it comes to elegance and ease of use MIUI stands out.
That’s why I was so excited to hear that the good folks over at XDA had extracted the music app from MIUI into a useable .apk that could be installed on any Android device. Note: The legality of this is unknown, but I’d guess it’s OK as the app comes with the MIUI ROM, which is free.
MIUI Music is the embodiment of classic MIUI design philosophy: keep everything in a recognizably Android form but with a dash of iOS style. The app is super easy to use with a silky smooth interface. Finding your music is incredibly easy with search, organization by folder, artist, alphabetized songs, or album. The UI behind MIUI is just flawless.
Even better, you can actually edit the meta tags of each song within the app. It’s pretty time-consuming, but my OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder) approves that this feature was included. It includes options to automatically download lyrics and album art, further appeasing my need for a perfectly organized collection.
Perhaps the only mistake MIUI Music makes is the lack of an equalizer. Audio options like that are what make other music players like PowerAMP worth downloading. Still, if you don’t want to fuss with an equalizer but want a super smooth interface, MIUI is your best bet.
Download MIUI Music (File No Longer Available)
PowerAMP is the app which I knew the least about going in but liked the most coming out. This app gets points, if only for uniqueness. It’s more like a set of virtual speakers than a traditional music player per se, like we’ve mentioned before in our PowerAMP App Review.
The mediocre UI is a testament to the developer’s priorities during PowerAMP’s development. Navigating folders and picking the right song isn’t nearly as easy as it should be. Maybe I’m spoiled by MIUI Music, but PowerAMP felt a bit clunkier.
What PowerAMP lacks in looks, however, it more than makes up for in features. Included with the app is a complex audio equalizer. You can change the bass, treble, buffer, crossfade, and a couple other advanced audio settings. I’ll be honest here: I’m no audiophile, so the advanced options seemed a bit foreign to me.
However, I didn’t need any expertise to start playing with the dials without any real idea of what I was doing. After changing up the base and treble in particular, my Florence + the Machine album sounded noticeably better. Fiddling with the dials can take away tininess or balance out the low notes on bass-heavy songs.
Just messing with the equalizer settings was pretty cool. It made me feel like a master DJ, like I had somehow perfected my musical collection. Silly, yes, but a noteworthy feature nonetheless.
If you don’t feel like spending some quality time with the treble dial, PowerAMP comes with several preset audio modes for different genres and one absolutely brilliant mode for playing songs over the phone speaker.
If you’re not much for looks but are willing to spend time adjusting the crossfade of your musical library, then PowerAMP will work for you. Anybody else looking for a good UI or decent widgets should look elsewhere.
Google Music is a very cool app that I would recommend with a fairly serious caveat. This app is great for people who have uploaded their collection to the cloud. If not, there’s nothing special here.
What is special about the Google Music app for Android (and iOS, actually) is the streaming part. The app links up with your Google Music account and streams your music collection from the cloud down to your phone. It’s the Google version of iCloud.
The service works fairly well. There is a moderate pause upon loading the first song, but after that the streaming is lag-free even over 3G. The next song loads while the current one is playing so everything is pretty smooth.
That’s really the cool part of Google Music streaming your music from the cloud. That way it takes up no room on your device and you still have access to it all the time. Plus, Google Music offers the option to download certain songs from your library for offline listening. This was the first time I really got to test my Google Music account, and I have to say it is pretty neat.
For everyone who doesn’t use Google Music, don’t bother downloading the app. The interface is above average at best. The most inventive the UI gets is a handy “Now Playing” bar at the bottom of the screen. Other than that, there’s nothing particularly noteworthy.
The bottom line is that Google Music for Android is extremely cool for users of Google Music. Streaming music is an awesome feature. Without that standout addition, Google Music is just another music player.
Download Google Music
Winamp is essentially another version of doubleTwist, just with a few nicer interface and different features. We at TechNorms have written about WinAmp for Android before, and always with a certain level of respect. Winamp is a very high-quality music application.
The interface is particularly nice. Winamp goes somewhat off the usual iOS style to music players and instead builds a very aesthetically appealing setup that remains workable. It’s a nice change, honestly.
Another nice inclusion is the option to wirelessly sync your music with Winamp Media Player for PC and Mac. This is a nice contrast to doubleTwist, which charges for wifi syncing. However, both apps charge for the premium equalizer.
Winamp also integrates nicely with the Android system. Spend some quality time in the settings menu and you can have songs from Winamp show up whenever you perform a system-wide search. This kind of third-party integration into the Android system would be completely impossible on iOS, another bonus for Android fans.
All in all, Winamp is a very good music player which offers a lot of features for free and a few more for a small cost. It’s roughly equal to doubleTwist in functionality, and that’s saying something. Definitely recommended.
Often called the “iTunes of Android,” doubleTwist is a full service, not just an app. It’s completely free in its most basic form, with paid versions adding new features and an equalizer a la PowerAMP. The good news is that the free version is excellent by itself.
doubleTwist starts on the PC or Mac as a program that directly rips off iTunes in format and function. The computer program imports your music from iTunes or Windows Media Player. Here doubleTwist also gains massive props for automatically sorting your music and correcting the meta tags. It automatically fills in any missing information and makes the music perfectly organized. My OCD was finally appeased by doubleTwist.
After that, you connect your phone to the PC. The free doubleTwist app supports only a wired connection, with paid versions including wifi sync. doubleTwist will recognize your phone and offer you the option to sync music, movies, and podcasts into the dT app on your phone… just like iTunes.
The app itself is very smooth. It includes music, movies, podcasts, and online radio all in one place. The interface has a MIUI-like elegance to it. Music is easy to find, pause, and play. I don’t say this lightly, but doubleTwist is about as easy to use as MIUI Music. It’s that slick.
There’s really nothing that I can knock doubleTwist for… it’s all good. The interface is super easy to use. The computer sync feature is a really convenient addition. And of course, automatically organizing my music means everything is finally in perfect order. For overall ease of use it’s probably the best.
All in all, there’s really no reason to stick with the stock music player. Other third-party applications are not only easier to use, they offer more features and better functionality than anything that comes preloaded onto your phone.
The only real strike against third-party music apps in general is that they tend to be a bit pricy. I don’t know if I really want to shell out $7 just for a more pretty interface for my music. No thanks, doubleTwist.
The good news is that there are still plenty of free apps that can handle your music just fine. Try a few of these. They’re worth it, I promise.