Thursday, May 7, 2009

Audials Mobile - Free music from social radios

This is the first time I review a mobile software by the request of the authors. I've been contacted by the creators of Audials Mobile to check out their latest product, which I really enjoyed to do. Here goes my analysis.

Audials Mobile is a cell phone software that you can use to download free music in MP3 format from the newest generation of social radio stations. You can pick-up your choice from over 70,000 artists and 80 genres that are really compelling numbers for an average user like me. I also received my license key so that I could soon get rid of the limitation of the trial software (free to download up to 2 songs) and use the full-blown version.

The product can be downloaded from Audials' web page and installed without any problems. The user's attention is drawn politely to the used phone features so that no-one shall be surprised about any hidden functionality. The number of tweaks the user can do is kept at a minimum (which is good!): network connection, recording path and checks for software update are among the options.

Main features
The product offers the following core features:
  • Search & download based on artist. The user can choose from an auto-complete list of artists, most populars are starred and listed at the beginning for more efficient searching. Having picked-up the artist, the available records are listed in the next view also indicating which social site the given track can be downloaded from.
  • Search  & download based on genre. One can find the same records, but via a different route.
  • Browse own song collection. Already downloaded songs are here + those that are currently being downloaded.
I used this application via a WiFi connection at home. Thus, songs were downloaded fast and although the downloads always took a bit more on mobile than in my desktop browser the difference was insignificant. The product uses the platform's built-in music player to play music, which is good for stability and user experience + it nicely integrates to Idle screen, too.

In addition, Audials Mobile has a plug-in framework, too. Anyone can extend the functionality of the software by adding one or more sources that users can download music from.

There's not really too much I disliked about this software. There's only one thing that was very annoying and it had to do with Flash Video (.flv files). Yes, Audio Mobile offers the feature of grabbing music out of a video file, however, it - for some reason - fails to do it properly. I can download the music and the resulting file is in MP3 format, however, the only thing I can hear is some crappy sound.

My hints for improvement are as follows:
  • I was missing the ability of going 'back' to the application during music playback: when I press 'Back' the playback always gets interrupted.
  • Always-on network connection drains battery and is not necessary anyway - connect to network only when it's really required.
  • Would be great if I could suspend/resume recording, i.e. downloading songs from the Net. Now you can either let it finish or stop the download entirely.
  • Might be only my narrow-minded preference, but searching by genre/film I expected a list of movie titles, too, not only composers.
  • Parallel download: even though it is possible to make a list of downloadable contents, the files are still downloaded sequentially one after the other. This might eventually result in that a long download holds back the download of other smaller files that would potentially finish sooner.
Audials Mobile is a great application that I really enjoyed to play with. It almost always delivered what I expected from it and did it with good performance. The application is easy to use, I could not discover any fancy or unnecessary features.

It's another question if/how long will it remain legal to download content this way. I mean I'm keen to download free MP3s, even albums with this app, however, if you look at the Swedish court decision in BitTorrent's case I'm a bit sceptic about the future of such a solution.

But as long as it's not explicitly forbidden by law I'm happy to use it. :)



James Johnson said...

very impressive.


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