While the music app that comes with your Android device does its job, it hardly does it with any kind of advanced features or polish. Luckily, there are several excellent alternatives available, and seemingly more coming out every month. There has been lots of coverage of steadfasts like MixZing and LyricsWiki players already, but several new competitors have recently entered the market and definitely give the older apps a run for their money.
Unlike Mixzing and Lyricswiki, these next-gen music apps don’t have gimmicky features that they use to try to justify their existence — instead they focus on improving the core purpose of the original app: listening to music. All the following are free and available on the Market — take your pick!
Winamp was one of the first widely used PC music players, gaining massive popularity in the early days of digital music. While the desktop app has fallen out of the spotlight, the same team is back to try to deliver the Winamp experience to your Android device.
Winamp has some key features that set it apart from the other apps here, most notably easy syncing between your phone and a desktop installation of Winamp. It makes syncing your music to a phone a much less painful experience, and can even sync your music over Wi-Fi.
We also have more standard features like a widget that’s chock-full of controls, a “play queue” reminiscent of the “iTunes DJ” feature, and Last.fm scrobbling.
Winamp, while probably the most feature-packed of these apps, doesn’t really have the best interface. It feels a little clunky and slow, even on a brand new Galaxy S, and it’s also not nearly as easy on the eyes as we’ve come to expect from big-name Android apps. Keep your eye on Winamp, but its not going to be my go-to player any time soon.
Music Mod isn’t a whole new app, but rather a modification of the stock Android music app that adds on some much-needed eye candy. It’s really the simple things that make this app better than the original, like the integration of your wallpaper into the “now playing” screen instead of the boring black background, and your album art superimposed on top of a CD jewel case.
Music Mod uses the same database as the stock music app, so moving your tunes over is effortless. It even has Twitter #nowplaying integration, making it easy to tweet whatever’s playing at the moment.
There’s also a variety of different widget sizes and styles, by far the most of these three apps. The widgets look great and have just the right amount of controls, and the app overall is a total improvement over the stock music player. If you don’t need fancy features and just want to listen to your music in style, check out Music Mod.
New to the music player battlefield, PowerAMP is still in beta, but has just been released to the Android market. And boy, does this one have a lot of potential.
It scans through libraries in the blink of an eye — it took less than 30 seconds to import a library of over 1000 songs, quite a bit shorter than any of the other options. It also has something that has been seemingly missing from every Android music experience up to this point — an equalizer.
Lots of presets come loaded in by default, and it’s quick and easy to create your own with a fancy-looking touchscreen sliders. Another feature seemingly missing from the others is folder-based browsing, making it much easier to find music files that aren’t in you main music library folder, like tracks downloaded from the internet. PowerAMP is as snappy as any other app, and looks pretty damn good.
Though these features are nice and PowerAMP has a lot of potential, the app definitely still feels like a beta product. Quirky little UI inconsistencies abound, and the “now playing” screen could definitely make better use of your screen’s real estate and display the album art bigger. Overall, PowerAMP is a good choice if you’re looking for an equalizer or have an unusually large library, and can only get better once it leaves beta. This is definitely another solid option.