Whether you’re a tech-geek fanatic or a tech-illiterate layman, there’s at least one thing that resonates between both groups – a love for music. Regardless of genre, whether it’s country, metal, classical, or dubstep, most people love music in one form or another. And if you’ve got an Android smartphone, you may as well be using it to play back your favorite tunes on the go.
Android has a lot of apps available when it comes to music playback and management, but I’m only going to take a look at those that meet the following criteria:
- Local Music Management – there are some great apps for streaming music onto your Android, like Audiogalaxy and Google Music. The apps in this list are for managing your music locally – that is, playing music files that are on the Android itself. No streaming.
- Free, As In Beer – all of the apps in this list can be had for free. Some of them may have paid versions, but as long as the free version is unlimited and functional, it’s valid.
- Available In The Android Market – some apps are only available as website downloads, while other apps are only available on third-party app markets, like the Amazon App Store. I’m only choosing apps that can be downloaded from the official Android Market.
- Available For Android 2.2 Froyo+ – All of these apps can be run on Froyo or higher.
Initially released in 2006, Songbird started as a music-player-and-web-browser 2-in-1 desktop program, built off of the Mozilla framework. The project is entirely free and open source.
Songbird has a very clean interface, relying on a deep shade of purple for its iconic color palette. The simple and minimalistic design makes it easy to navigate through your library. It can group your music by songs, artists, albums, and even genre – a feature that some music players are somehow still missing.
Songbird has a “now playing” drawer, which allows you to pull up or pull down the “now playing” screen. This is a nice touch that I haven’t seen in many music apps, and it improves the music browsing experience.
Initially released in 1997, Winamp has been around for a long time. While Winamp can be used on the Android for free, some of the more advanced features are locked until you purchase the Winamp Pro Bundle, which will cost you $2.99.
Still, even with the unpaid limitations, Winamp is one of the go-to music players for the Android. In many ways, Winamp is like Songbird: it has a clean (although boring) interface, it can group your music by genre, and it has a “now playing” drawer. Winamp can also tune into Internet radio stations through Shoutcast, though that will require a Wi-Fi connection or a large data plan.
One downside to Winamp is that it appears to drain my battery faster than other music players. Plus, there’s the whole proprietary vs. open source software debate, which may push some Android users away from this app.
MixZing Media Player has recently grown to be one of the best known music players for the Android. It does everything you would expect from a music player, and it has a few extra features on top.
One of its best known features is that it can retrieve information regarding the currently playing song at the tap of a single button. The app will gather data including the artist’s biography, the song’s lyrics, and a list of YouTube videos for that song. Other great features include a graphical equalizer, sleep timer, and a boatload of settings to customize.
Unfortunately, the MixZing interface could use a little work. It isn’t hard on the eyes, but it’s certainly not pretty. Also, the app displays banner-type ads every once in a while. Upgrading will get rid of the ads, but it’ll cost you $4.99. For some, this may be a dealbreaker.
doubleTwist Player was featured as the #1 App in Newsweek’s Top Android Apps for 2011, so there’s a lot going for this music player. Upon opening doubleTwist, the user is presented with a sleek and beautiful yet not-so-overly-designed interface. The aesthetics are extremely polished and all of the basic features are there.
The drawback is that the advanced features must be bought. AirSync allows you to sync automatically with your Mac or PC, while AirTwist and AirPlay allow you to stream to an Xbox, PS3, or AppleTV. These bonus features will cost you an extra $4.99 at least.
doubleTwist is great, but without AirSync, AirTwist, and AirPlay, it feels like nothing more than the skeleton of a potentially great music player. A very sleek and beautiful skeleton.
Cubed, or ³, is definitely one of the more interesting and unique music players out there for Android. The app is not exactly rich in features, but it makes up for it by being really pretty and full of eye candy. One thing that Cubed has going for it is its careful use of screen estate. It is very minimalistic and doesn’t burden the user with lots of different pages, screens, tabs, etc. The graphics and screen movements are very smooth and polished, even impressive to a degree.
However, for traditionalists, Cubed may not be your cup of tea. As a traditionalist myself, the novelty of the eye candy wore off quickly and I found it somewhat annoying trying to navigate my music. Plus, the flashy graphics added unnecessary delays that detracted from my experience. In the end, Cubed is a refreshingly new music player that many enjoy. It’s just not for me.
Do you use a free Android music player that wasn’t on this list? Share your experience with us in the comments!
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