There are only two kinds of music in the world. Music you own, and music you don’t own. In the most recent past if you wanted to own music you would purchase a CD. If you wanted to listen to music you didn’t own, you would turn on the radio to a station that played the particular genre you wanted to hear. The internet and handheld devices changed all that. There are now many different ways to listen to music, whether you own it or not.
Today I’m kicking off a series of posts on the best ways to listen to music on your Android tablet. This will be a four part series. In this first part I will be talking about apps that just play music that is on your Android device. In part two I will be talking about listening to music you own, through the cloud. In part three I will be talking about listening to music you don’t own through streaming apps. And to wrap it all up in part four I will talk about some cool accessories that will enhance your listening through whichever way suits you best.
So lets get started with apps that play music you own on your tablet. Every Android tablet comes with a music app preloaded. It’s called Music. You will find it in your app drawer with an icon that looks like a speaker. This is your most basic way to listen to music you own. Copy mp3s onto your internal storage and this app will load them in automatically. It will also display the artist, album, track name, and album art without you do anything. These are all pretty basic features that you will find on most music apps. There really isn’t anything that this app will do that no other app can.
There are only three apps that I have come across in this category that are even worth mentioning. Those are PowerAMP, Winamp, and Double Twist. All three of these apps have a desktop client as well. The desktop client is used to sync music and playlists to your tablet. The desktop client is completely optional. All three of these apps will find music you put on your internal storage, no matter how it gets there. If it doesn’t find it automatically there is an option in the settings to refresh the music list. Another thing these three apps have in common is that they all have a free version as well as a paid pro version. That’s where the similarities end.
Speaking of free and paid versions, all three handle this differently. You can download PowerAMP as a trial, and when the trial period is up, you can either buy the pro version ($4.99 US), or it stops working. Winamp you can use for as long as you want, but some of the features are locked unless you go pro ($4.99 US). For example, you only can use the equalizer or browse by folders in the pro version. Double Twist also has an unlimited use free version with certain features locked unless you buy the pro version. However Double Twist also has what they call AirSync ($4.99 US) which you can use to wirelessly sync to your tablet, and for another fee ($8.99 US) you can also unlock premium equalizer and high quality album artwork. As you can see, they are all equal cost if you want to go with the pro version.
I have used all three of these apps extensively, and PowerAMP is the clear winner. Double Twist and Winamp have some cool features but seem to be missing the complete package. One of the reasons for this is the ability to try all the features you would get in the pro version in the trial. That way you can see whether you like it before having to buy it. With Winamp and Double Twist, you have to buy before you try, and the Android Market only has a 15 minute return window. I found PowerAMP to have better sound quality, and better equalizer options as well. You can completely customize the equalizer, or pick from one of many great presets. PowerAmp also has the best layout for tablets as well. Double Twist feels like a giant phone version, and Winamp is just very plain. PowerAMP has everything proportioned well and easy to find.
One of the great things with Android is the ability to have Widgets on your homescreen. In the image below I have all of the Widgets available from these apps. As you can see, PowerAMP has four different Widgets to choose from, which is more than Winamp and Double Twist combined. When I tried to add a second Winamp widget, it kept taking me to a page that wanted me to buy a couple of other Winamp products.
To me widgets are the best way to control your music. It’s right there on your homescreen so you don’t have to open the app up every time you want to do something. I don’t know if you can see it in the screenshot, but even the small 2×2 PowerAMP widget allows you to do things like set your playlist to repeat or shuffle, plus they are just a lot nicer to look at. The Double Twist and Winamp widgets look like there was no thought put into their design. I want the widgets on my homescreen to look well designed if I have to look at them everyday.
The bottom line is that if you just want to use something simple to control your music, then look no further than the stock music app. If you want to get a little more in depth and listen to your music to the fullest, I recommend that you purchase PowerAMP. I did, and I haven’t regretted it. Make sure you keep an eye out for part two of my Rock out your Android series where I will be talking about listening to your music from the cloud.