Music to Your Ears
When it comes to music apps, Android has a few hidden treasures among the piles of apps in the Android Market. Although not all of them are completely free, any of these tools can enhance your mobile music and help you turn your phone into an all-purpose media player. So download some of these apps, grab a good pair of headphones, and get ready to rock.
The original Internet-radio app, Pandora is still a good choice for people looking to stream music to their mobile phones on the go. For those not in the know, Pandora allows you to create Internet radio stations based on an artist or song. The catch is that you can't choose which songs play, and you can skip only a certain number of songs each hour. The mobile app will occasionally play an ad in between songs, too, but that doesn't detract from the fact that Pandora is one of the best Internet-radio apps around.
If you've managed to get a hold of a Spotify invite, then the mobile Spotify app will prove helpful in managing your playlists. If you want to stream music, you'll need a premium Spotify account (which runs $10 per month), but you'll also be able to sync music to your device for offline playback.
Listen is Google's own app for keeping you up-to-date with podcasts. You can search for and subscribe to podcasts from within the app, and you can look at "popular searches" to see what other people are currently listening to. Although you won't find many advanced features in Listen, this simple podcast app is great for anyone new to podcasts.
Besides being a large store for MP3 downloads, the Amazon MP3 app for Android brings along Amazon's Cloud Player. Whenever you buy an album or song from the Amazon MP3 store, your purchase will be sent to your Cloud Player. From there, you can play any other songs that you have downloaded (or uploaded to your Amazon Cloud Drive); you can also download songs to your phone for offline listening. Since the Amazon Cloud Player streams your music at the full bitrate, you'll probably want to make sure that your device has a strong 3G or 4G signal to avoid any interruptions during playback.
Forget the stock Android music player--Winamp is a much better alternative. The simple interface hides tons of useful features, such as the ability to wirelessly sync your music to your phone, as well as the ability to download free music from Spinner. Winamp has been around for quite a while on the PC, and its mobile app does not disappoint. When it comes to stand-alone music management apps for Android, Winamp is hard to top.
An alternative to Amazon's Cloud Drive and Player, mSpot Music also allows you to stream your music to your Android device, as well as to listen to Internet radio stations. mSpot Music compresses your tunes so that they will play smoothly, even in areas where you have poor reception. The only drawback to using mSpot is that you can stream only 5GB worth of music, though you can always upgrade to the 40GB plan if you have a massive music library.
A competitor to Spotify, Grooveshark lets you choose from millions of songs and play the music you want to hear. The layout can take some getting used to at first, but once you master it you'll be flying through menus with no problem. Grooveshark is no longer available on the Android Market, but you can download it directly from Grooveshark's website and sideload it onto your phone. If you already have a Grooveshark account, the app will give you a 14-day trial before asking you to cough up $9 a month to upgrade your account.
If you find Pandora lacking in features, give Last.fm a try. In addition to enjoying tunes, you'll be able to check for upcoming events in your area. The app works best if you already have a Last.fm account, as it allows you to update your profile automatically with the songs you are currently listening to (called "scrobbling").
Have you ever heard a song in a store or over the radio, and wondered who the artist was? With SoundHound you can identify mystery songs either by holding up your phone to a speaker or by humming the tune. SoundHound will search its database and attempt to identify the song, as well as give you additional information such as lyrics, YouTube videos, and links to buy the song via the Amazon MP3 store. It has a few ads; if you prefer, you can purchase the ad-free version for $5.
Another subscription music service, Rdio also lets you choose the songs to listen to. It has no ads, though you will need to pay $5 per month once the trial ends. As with Pandora and mSpot Music, you can create Internet radio stations around a particular artist. One thing I really like about Rdio is that if you lose your data connection, it will resume playback right where the song left off the next time you get a signal.