ZuneDroid: How I Gave Up My Zune for an Android
I’m sorry, but no, this article doesn’t have anything to do with running Zune on your Android (although I think that would be very, very cool).
I started out as a Microsoft Fanboy. Every day I carried my Windows Mobile phone, Zune, and even sported a Microsoft S.P.O.T. watch.
When Android hit version 1.6 I defected from my AT&T Tilt to an Android-powered T-Mobile G1 (and later to the Nexus One) but I was still packing my Zune around with me for months afterward.
Constantly looking for ways to simplify my life with technology, I started replacing things I typically did with my Zune with my Android. Eventually I got to the point where I stopped carrying the Zune around with me, but still have access to music and media using Android.
The first thing I had to do was figure out what I used by Zune for. After noting my habits for a week I determined most of my time was devoted to playing the same four podcasts. Next up was listening to music. Coming in last were listening to the radio, showing off pictures of my kids, and playing the occasional video.
Next, I had to see if Android had any built-in, free, or reasonably priced apps that would satisfy the needs I indentified above. Here’s what I found.
I had a 30GB Zune that I hacked up to 100GB. I had 55GB+ of music (most of which I never listened to), another few GB of photos (that I never showed off because the interface wasn’t friendly), and a few movies (that I kept on there just to entertain the kiddos in a pinch).
Obviously 100GB (or even 64GB) on an Android isn’t possible at the moment. In fact, the largest microsd card that you can use in an Android is 32GB. Good luck finding them, Amazon.com tops out at 16GB, and those are class 2 or 4, not the class 6 (or higher) that I’d like. Even still, 32GB is a far cry from the 64GB I’d want. For a while this was a deal-breaker for me, but I decided to give my 8GB class 4 microsd card a try.
I loaded up Pandora and Slacker for streaming radio. Between these two apps, most of my music and radio requirements are more than fulfilled. They both stream extremely well over WiFi or 3G, and both get by well enough over EDGE. Basic versions of both are free with ad support, and both offer per month subscriptions for $3 and $5 per month, respectively.
Although local radio has some advantages over streaming radio, I can’t say that I miss all the “jabbering” the DJs do on local radio. Not only that, local radio usually plays the same top forty over and over and over again.
I’ve found these streaming radio apps to almost replace my need for having music files local to the device. Almost.
Dropping a few dozen “necessary” songs on my microsd card was easy enough to do by dragging and dropping while connecter to my Media Center via USB. Playing them was another story.
The built-in Music app is bare-bones. It allows you to sort your music by artist, album, song, or playlist (no “genre” however). Also included is a “Party Shuffle”. It even includes a widget to make access from your home screen easy. But it’s nowhere near “full featured”.
Tunewiki is a cross-platform app that fills in a lot of pieces the built-in Music app is missing, and adds a few new ones that might surprise. First-off, Tunewiki has access both to your local music as well as Last.fm Radio and SHOUTcast Radio. It can play music videos from YouTube even and local videos. Where Tunewiki stands out is the inclusion of dynamically pulled album art, lyrics, and social networking components. Tunwiki is free with fairly unobtrusive ads, or for a $4.99 contribution you can upgrade your account to remove ads from the playback screen.
Tunewiki allows playback of many types of local video (in addition to YouTube). And with apps like Discovery and TV.com, entertaining the kiddos while in line or waiting for this, that, or the other isn’t an issue.
Podcasts are really where Android has room to grow. Google’s Listen is the podcast player that I use day-to-day, but its user interface is confusing at best. Other podcasting apps are a little better with UI, but not quite as good at downloading podcasts for local (versus streaming) playback. (HINT: If you’re an Android developer, in my opinion this would be an excellent niche to fill.)
Even with only 8GB storage and a few minor tradeoffs, my Android has now replaced my Zune for all my day-to-day music, video, radio, and podcast needs. I have one less device to carry with me, one less device to worry about syncing, and one less wall-wart sucking down electricity at home.