3 iPhone Media Apps (that Feel a Little Like Magic)
Merlin Mann | Jul 16 2008
There are so many amazing new apps on the iPhone store that I hope to review here (and I'll certainly spend time on a few more over coming weeks), but today I want to point you to three applications that make me feel like I'm a music fan of the very-near-future -- where personalized data flies through the air, phones play rock music based on your personal preferences, and everybody listens to Silkworm on moving sidewalks and in tricked-out rocket cars.
Free | Download
Apple's own Remote lets you turn your iPhone into a foxy little remote control for accessing shared iTunes libraries plus your AppleTV box. In seconds, the contents of all shared material pops up in a very sexy, browsable interface that's similar (if not identical) to the built-in iPod functionality. Powerful and fun stuff -- double fun if you're streaming music to multiple Airport Expresses ("Airports Express?") in which case you kind of feel like George Jetson.
Tip: This is a handy way to star-rate stuff as you're wandering around the house. Remember why we star-rate? Yep.
Making it better: This can be a real battery hog if you leave it running the whole time (you do also have the option to not leave it running, which is considerate). But if the connection drops, it takes a few seconds to come back up. Which is bad if your mix suddenly pulls up a very loud Iron Maiden song during the baby's nap, and you can't get to the pause button in time. Or, so I hear.
Free | Download
Hear a cool song on the radio and don't know who or what it is? Hold Shazam up to the speaker for a few seconds, let it upload your audio snippet to the cloud, and in seconds you'll find out the artist and album, as well as the name of the song. There's other stuff you can do (tag it, buy it, whatever 2.0), but the magic is in the identification, which for me has been well over 80% accurate on the first try.
Tip: For best results, turn the music up a little, hold the iPhone's mouthpiece (down there by where your mouth goes, duh) very close to the sound source, and try to minimize extraneous noises.
Making it better: Shazam fails like bad clams if it can't get a steady connection to their server -- and you don't find this out til after you've recorded the snippet (during which time you could have been writing down a string of the lyrics to Google later). Next version ought to fix this if possible. Very frustrating on an otherwise swell application.
Free | Download
Wow, have I ever been missing the boat by not using Pandora. The popular streaming service, which utilizes the alchemically wizard-like Music Genome Project, finds songs you might enjoy based on songs and artists you already enjoy. And it's really good at it. Thumb-up the ones you like, thumb-down the ones you don't, and skip past up to 6 songs per hour per "radio station." And, man -- how awesome are the explanations?
Tip: Create a lot of radio stations (so you can skip a lot if you get bored). In adding new stations, focus not just on artists -- try also adding 5-10 of your favorite songs as stations. The MGP seems way smarter about the genomic qualities of a given song, as opposed to bands, who can obviously be kind of all over the map, style-wise.
Making it better: The home screen gets crowded really fast. Add a way to a) organize radio stations into categories while also b) letting me quickly bubble up which stations' 1-hour/6-skip windows have recently reset.
Personal: A Word about the Silkworm Documentary
If you are or were a fan, too, and want to help see the documentary about every indie rocker's third favorite band make it to a proper completion and release, please consider making a small donation to help make it happen. I did. Thanks.
Here's the trailer for Couldn't You Wait.
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