Phonograph is definitely not your average music player for Android – not anymore, the last update takes it to another level. If you are like me and addicted to listening to music on a daily basis, you have probably floated already over the myriad of apps available on the market, both paid and free. Moreover, if you don’t use streaming services like Spotify or Google Play Music then your choices for a good feature-heavy well built app revolve around the following two:
The former being paid with a free version, and the latter one being 100% free. Now, Shuttle has definitely come a long way and has had a ton of useful improvements and fixes that completely justify the price tag (despite having a completely usable free version anyway). However, I tried the latest preview of Phonograph (v0.9.50 – Preview) the other day and I was pleasantly surprised.
In terms of features, I now have all I was looking for plus some little tricks that I didn’t expect, and I have a much more enjoyable music experience overall. Let’s dig into it!
Material Design, it’s good for you.
First things first, you’re greeted by a nice flat material theme [Duarte be praised] with an overall tidy and well organized UI, along with the possibility of choosing custom colors.
I opted for a light material blue with white accents, but you can choose from a lot of options, like a dark base theme, colored navigation bar, or having a specific RGB code as a base color if you ever wish to. The artist/album grid size can be set to have from 1 to 4 elements for each row, based on your screen size and personal preferences, and that’s a nice unexpected addition.
On my 5″ Nexus 5 (2013) I always go with 2. And while 3 might still be usable, 4 items per row is too cluttered and a no-go for me. Still, having more options is always good, and a phablet or tablet user will be happy to have this choice for their +6″ displays. For both artist and album cover arts, descriptions have an accent base on the dominant color of the picture (quite clear with the Animals As Leaders one here).
In addition artist and album arts are automatically downloaded, so don’t worry too much about the low-res covers you have on your phone, Phonograph will automatically download them for you. A tag editor is also included, just in case there’s something missing and you have weird sorting problems due to the ID3 tag being incomplete.
The white bar at the bottom can be touched or swiped up to open the Now Playing tab. This is very convenient, and a swipe left or right will also allow you to change tracks. Another nice trick: the play button on the bottom right is a fast way to quickly play/pause your song, while having a tiny black progress bar on the bottom. These are nice, welcome additions that show how something so simple can become incredibly useful and convenient if well thought and correctly implemented in the app.
Moving on to the Now Playing screen, you get the common play/pause/next/previous buttons as well as the shuffle and repeat ones and the progress/search bar. It is clean, material design and not cluttered with nonsense – Perfect.
In addition, the background color changes according to the the album art displayed, probably to offer more consistency. In my case, while listening to Polaris by TesseracT Phonograph automatically chose a dark yellow shade to contrast the text. Another interesting aspect of this screen is the bottom part again – in other apps would look like an anonymous, generic tab showing you only the track title and nothing more, in Phonograph this little tile can be pulled up with a touch/swipe.
That simple swipe up reveals a beautiful list of tracks, both to be played and already played, that is completely editable too: the track order can be rearranged and single tracks can be deleted if you don’t want them to play at all. This is something I’ve never seen before, and even if I had there’s no chance it was so well put together. It’s fast, works very well and displays the right information right where you need it. Free of any strange hiccups or weird scrolling lag/freeze due to loading times (which happened a lot to me while using the same feature in Shuttle).
Phonograph Extra Features
Not surprisingly, lock-screen controls are there and they work as expected. There’s also an option to add blur effect to the album art too, which in my opinion is neat and a very welcome addition to the huge amount this app offers. Unfortunately the one issue I’ve noticed is the notification is not dismissible even after you play pause.
With Shuttle , if I paused the track a simple swipe from the lock-screen would allow me to close the app without having to unlock the screen, opening the recents menu and swiping the card. With Phonograph, the ability to close the app straight from the notification is definitely a faster way than having to scroll through the recent cards, which is quite painful if you have a lot of apps open at the same time. Anyway, both the lock-screen notification and the drop down one still retain the album art color shade. Thumbs up for consistency here.
Last but not least, a built-in 5 band equalizer is included, with both enhanced bass (greyed out in the screen as I didn’t have any headphones plugged) and audio surround (which I never use anyway, I was merely testing it). I generally go with the Rock preset, and sometimes add some mid range depending on what I’m listening to at the time. Loads of presets are available to choose from, along with the possibility to create a custom one, so rest assured you’ll find something that will sound right to your ears.
Give it a try!
That’s it, this app takes mostly basic features and revamps them in order to offer you the best experience possible: listening music without having to mess around in a poorly thought out mess. Give it a try, it’s free and works wonders.