Thursday, February 09, 2017

[Music, Tech] Solving Music

I have never been able to develop a sufficiently robust music strategy. I have managed to rid myself of hard media (CDs and such), but I still have mp3s from years ago and the streaming ecosphere is a confusing mess.

Nexus 5x is my main phone. It works well, or as well as any android phone (I still miss Windows Phone) and with the Google FI wireless service it's remarkably inexpensive. If I use little data (less than 1GB), my monthly bill comes in under $30, often grazing the mid $20s. A heavy data month will amount to about $33-$35. I get the strongest signal available of Sprint, T Mobile, or wi-fi for calls and texts. It's not without dead spots, but they are rare. Google FI is highly recommended.

However, I do not keep any music stored on it. It has no expandable storage so a great deal of it is used up with photos and apps. Generally, when I listen to music on mobile I have it on for an extended period -- long road trips in rental cars without Sirius/XM, or for running, or for times I am wandering around Vegas and I keep the music going as I walk the Strip.

So my music solution(s) is a haphazard mess at the moment. I keep my entire mp3 collection on my cheap little Samsung Tab E. The Tab is nice little device, which I use as a music player and alarm clock and as a very lite computer when I really don't think I need my laptop. It does the job, but it is underpowered for today's world and laggy in general -- unacceptably laggy when things get complicated. Also, it's too big for carrying around if you're on your feet.

So for running I have a bought a $30 4GB Sandisk player that's about the size of a matchbook. I have an armband for it, but it's got a little clip too. It is quite capable of holding my entire running playlist -- about 3 hours of music -- and a couple of podcasts. It is dead simple to operate and it requires so little in resources that it runs for hours and the battery is still nearly full. It is a very good running solution. Smart purchase for me.

That leaves the wandering around music sitch -- the rarest one and I am currently using my old Windows Phone as a dedicated music player for that.

The whole mess works, but it is inconvenient. I continue to search for a more holistic solution for which I keep trying to get my head wrapped around the Google Play music service. If I read it correctly, it will store all my mp3s in a locker in the cloud for streaming at anytime. If that was the case, I could get a main phone with the longest battery life possible and I could, theoretically use it for all my music listening while having nothing stored on the phone itself. A very tempting notion. The cost to me would be about $200 a year, I estimate, when you figure in the $10/month for a Google Play music subscription and another $8-ish dollars for the data overages. I'd still need to keep my Sandisk for the occasional run in places where I would have no service.

It seems to me there would be a market for a cheap dedicated music streaming device via subscription that included a data only cell connection and wi-fi. Say, $15.99 per month including device, cloud storage for owned music, streaming from a large library, bluetooth, cell data service, and wi-fi. Make it sweatproof and you've got something just about perfect for 90% of the time. Hmmm. I hereby patent this idea (can I do that?).

No don't get me started on video streaming. Maybe next time.

Addenda: And what's up with music subscription services, am I right? I need to pick one.
  • Pandora is an inexpensive option, but the library is very limited.
  • Spotify is the top dog but I had a bad time of it during the free trial. It kept stopping in the middle of playlists for no good reason other than to annoy me. Research suggested this happens on Android from time to time, but it was happening to me all the time. I cancelled before the trial ended.
  • Apple Music (formerly iTunes) only works well with the Apple ecosphere, or so the reviews would have me believe.
  • Groove Music (formerly XBox music, formerly Zune) is a possibility since I still have warm fuzzies for my old Zune player and I generally find Microsoft products have sweet interfaces, but it is new compared to other services and so playlists might be slim. It will store my mp3s in the cloud for me.
  • Amazon is now offering a pay service over and above it's standard Prime service. Standard prime is a blessing because it's free with your prime sub and it's about on par with Pandora for songs. The premium service promises to step it up on par with the big players. It has the advantage of allowing an annual purchase at a discount. This is currently my second choice.
  • There are other services -- Slacker, I Heart Radio, Sirius/XM has a service beyond their satellite broadcast. You could make a career of following these.
  • As I mentioned above, my current odds on favorite is Google Play Music. It will store my music on the cloud and it also includes a sub to YouTube Red, which would kill all the YouTube ads. There is also quite good music on YouTube.
Think I'll start up that free trial and see how it goes.

The world continues to get more complicated.