Spotify update their clients

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Spotify Mobile

Firstly Spotify have updated their Symbian client (v0.3.22), with the following improvements:

  • A fix for disappearing offline tracks.
  • A fix for the problem when adding tracks to existing playlists on touch screens.
  • Text input of special characters now added, e.g. Norwegian and French.
  • Text input on special types of keyboards now added, e.g. non-touch phones with dual keyboards.
  • New devices supported include the Nokia E72, Nokia N82, Nokia 6110 Navigator, Nokia 6210, Navigator,Nokia 6290, Nokia N79.

Also, they have upgraded their Android client (v.0.3.24) with the following improvements:

  • URI support – Open/Share Spotify URI’s to or from SMS, email, the Facebook or Twitter apps, etc.
  • Updated player with cover art swipe support (similar to the iPhone version).
  • Android 2.0/Eclair support. Spotify now runs on the popular Motorola Droid phone.
  • Home screen widget – control Spotify from the home screen!

It’s nice to see Spotify working to try to unify their features across multiple devices, although we’re still hoping they can add support to scrobble tracks to Last.fm from their mobile clients soon.


Permalink

Last.fm sign up half a million new users in 24 hours

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Last.fm War Room

It’s an impressive figure; Last.fm managed to gain an additional half a million users in just a single 24 hour period.  How did they manage that; simple; they launched Last.fm on the Microsoft XBOX Live platform (which now features Last.fm, Twitter & Facebook support).  More interestingly, Last.fm have now produced a short report on the build up to the launch, and how they monitored their systems before and during the launch.

To read more about the Last.fm XBOX launch, head to their website here.


Permalink

Spotify now on S60

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Spotify Mobile

As we seem to be talking about music today, this week saw the launch of the Spotify client for Symbian S60 (both 3rd Edition and 5th Edition), and it seems to have been generally well received.  Granted there are maybe a few minor issues with the UI (it’s difficult to tell what music is available in offline mode) and some have (quite rightly) questioned the £120 per year cost of being able to listen, but not own the music.

Basically, if you like to listen to lots and lots of different music, potentially more than you own (in both music tastes as well as disk space limits) then Spotify may well be the solution for you.  It’s more expensive than Last.fm (which is more geared around giving you access to music you already own or is similar to your own music), but for many it’s worth the extra cost.  If, on the other hand, you don’t buy much music each month, and your current music collection fits happily onto your music device of choice, then maybe the cost of the Spotify Premium account would be better spent on buying more music, but for those that want to use the service, Spotify have added the Symbian client to their existing Android and Apple iPhone clients.

As we mentioned with the Spotify bundle deal with 3UK (here), you need to be careful not to over-use any 3G data connection you have, as music streaming can quickly eat through your monthly allowance, but by careful use of offline playlists and Wi-Fi connections, you should be able to listen to fresh music on a regular basis via Spotify.

To access and download the client, simply point your mobile browser to m.spotify.com, once downloaded, you’ll need to enter your Spotify account details (which needs to be a Premium account at £10 per month, no minimum contract period).  Even better, this version supports all Symbian devices, including those from Samsung and the Sony Ericsson Satio, so isn’t limited to Nokia devices.

Offline playlists are limited to 3,333 tracks (assuming you have enough space for all of those tracks), and every 30 days you will need to resync; if you go abroad, you can continue to use Spotify Premium in a country not normally supported by the service for 14 days, so you can have your music as long as your holidays aren’t too long (and you can afford the data roaming costs; if not; use the offline facilities which gives you a little longer anyway).

Another key difference between Spotify and Last.fm is that Spotify allows you to select an album to play, whereas Last.fm concentrates more on the artist, and will give you a selection of their songs, but not in strict album order.  Finally, both services limit you to 1 live online music stream, even if the same account has been configured in multiple devices.

With the limits on 3G data usage in the UK, and the higher cost than Last.fm (which can also be used on hardware devices), it’s difficult to see many people paying this subscription in the long term, but at least they are supporting a wide range of mobile devices.


Permalink

Upcoming providing integration

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Upcoming

Integration; one of the key driving forces behind the establishment of UK Gadgeteer, and Upcoming have released a new feature which seems to offer just that.  In case you’ve never heard of them (and although there’s not been much innovation coming from them recently, we’d be surprised if you’ve never heard of them…) Upcoming offer an ability to find out about, and confirm your attendance at events up and down the country (actually, all around the world).

Some organisations, like OpenStreetMap use Upcoming to help organise some of their events, and to help get a guide to the number of likely attendees, whereas for others, Upcoming is a form of Social Networking site, but based around events, and not people.

To improve the experience, and to offer something new, Upcoming announced a new feature this week; they can now take the details from your Pandora (US-only site), Last.fm and iTunes accounts, and extract the music artists you listen to.  Then, it will store this information as part of your profile, and should any of your musical artists be performing in your local area, Upcoming will notify you of the event.

Now, to some degree, Last.fm already has event information built into their offering, but it’s nice to see Upcoming happy to reach out to other sources to pick up information to improve their own service.

If you don’t have an Upcoming account (you can use your Yahoo! account to login) then personally we feel you may be better sticking with using Last.fm‘s event functionality, but if you do have an account, login, let it find your artists, and see if the new feature is useful to you.

Some content and the screenshot courtesy of Lifehacker.


Permalink

Another Touchscreen DAB radio

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Roberts Colourstream

This is the new Roberts ColourStream radio, which is yet to be formally announced or released by Roberts, but at least one website already has the item with specifications, so we can reproduce them here.

As well as being a DAB and FM radio, it features an iPod Dock (possibly only supporting the iPhone in offline mode), but also sporting a 3.5″ colour touch screen for many of the controls. In other respects, it seems to offer a similar feature set to that of the Roberts STREAM 83i (USB media playback, Internet radio).  It can make use of the BBC Listen Again function, has an AUX in socket, as well as Line OUT and Headphone sockets.

Until more details are released, it’s not clear if this unit will also play last.fm radio (as the Roberts STREAM 83i does), so we’ll update you when we get more information.

However, with a price of £400, I think many will prefer the styling of either the Revo IKON (see here) or the PURE Sensia (see here), and personally, we would head to the Revo IKON.

Also, we note that both this device and the Roberts STREAM 83i we covered last week (here) may not have DAB+ support (thanks to Paul Webster at his DABDig website for drawing our attention to this point), which may limit it’s usefulness in the future, should the UK ever decide to adopt this standard (other European countries are already rolling out DAB+, so lack of support may impact your ability to use either radio whilst travelling).

Specs courtesy of DNA Car Audio (via Paul’s DABDig website).


Permalink

Another last.fm Internet Radio

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Roberts STREAM 83i

Having already covered the Revo IKON (here), the Revo DOMINO (here) and the Revo HERITAGE (here), all of which support Last.fm, we now find there’s another option, and it comes in a little cheaper than any of those previous options…

The Roberts STREAM 83i combines a DAB radio, FM radio, Internet Radio, local network media streaming, usb media playback, but also features Last.fm support.  This support is pretty all encompassing; as well as playing your virtual music radio, you can select to “Love” or “Ban” tracks (dedicated buttons on both the device and on the included remote control), and also supports scrobbling your music plays too (although it’s not clear whether this will also scrobble music from media streaming or usb media playback).  Even better, this unit supports the ability to provide multiple Last.fm user accounts, so if the radio is used by more than one person, you can easily select which Last.fm account to use for your own personalised music.

Also, to save you a little hassle twice a year, the radio can pick up it’s time automatically from DAB, FM or the Internet.

It’s nice to see another manufacturer supporting Last.fm within their device, and just like Revo and Pure Internet Radio devices, it appears this Roberts radio is capable of receiving firmware updates over the Internet connection too (a key feature for us on any device nowadays).

As well as everything, it appears you can pre-configure 4 Wi-Fi network connection settings too, which is useful if you plan to use the device in multiple locations.

It’s not quite as pretty as the Revo HERITAGE, but the price difference reflects that; the Roberts STREAM 83i should be available now for around £135, however, that price difference may also reflect the lack of DAB+ support (see here for more information on this last point).


Permalink

INQ Mini 3G Review

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

INQ Chat & INQ Mini

Well, I’ve had an INQ Mini 3G (courtesy of 3mobilebuzz) for a couple of weeks now, and overall, I’ve been quietly impressed by the phone.  From the automatic importing of Facebook and Skype contacts into the Contacts list, to the fact the phone has support for these Social Networking sites, and Twitter support, and all for less than £50!

Now, let’s be honest, I’m used to smartphones, and there are a number of little things that annoy me with the device; the start up sound can’t be cancelled by pressing a key (as per Nokia devices), and the whole menu system is a little bright and colourful for my taste (and with no theme support, no opportunity to change it either), but these are minor niggles, and certainly don’t detract from the phone.

Supporting Social Networking sites directly in the device, combined with the standard 3UK support of Windows Live Messenger makes this a well supported device, and well worth a look.  I liked the fact the homepage supports 3 widgets (I used weather, world clock and an RSS feed of the BBC website, all options built into the phone), although I have heard some people warn there may be a memory leak, as I’ve heard of people needing to reboot the phone after a long time turned on with widgets in use.  That’s a key issue to me; I rarely turn my phone off, so long term stability is key, and it maybe that a firmware / application update is needed to resolve these issues; hopefully they will be addressed before the INQ Chat ships.

The phone also shipped with Google Mail and Google Maps (v2.3.2; nice!), which was useful for people like me who use Google a lot, and the phone can be used with GooSync to sync data from the likes of Google Calendar too.  Personally, I found the calendar a bit simple when entering new entries, but I suspect most people will use the phone linked to Google or Outlook, and not enter directly onto the device (again, I’ve been spoilt by smartphones offering a decent Calendar app).  In fact, the only thing missing is the Last.fm scrobbling support that the INQ1 had, and it’s still not clear why INQ dropped this function, especially with the likes of Last.fm and Spotify moving more into the mobile space…

Again, a personal point, but it uses miniUSB (not the end of the world, although many manufacturers are moving to microUSB), which is used for both the headphones and charging.  With Bluetooth support for a headset in the car, this isn’t the end of the world, but I’m not a fan of the combined port; let’s hope when INQ move to Android next year we’ll see a dedicated headphone socket on their devices.  Whilst I’m looking at the hardware, I wasn’t a big fan of the way the rear cover clipped on (it did have a release button at the top, which makes it better than the Sony Ericsson T715 I reviewed here), but only just, and I couldn’t find any sight of the other 6 coloured interchangeable backs on the 3Store, so right now you’ll be stuck with the red back).

Let’s be honest, for the price and based on the software on this device; if you are not in the market for a smartphone but want connectivity options to keep upto date with your Social Networking sites, then the INQ Mini 3G should be high on your list of options, if not at the top.  Here at UK Gadgeteer, I’ve covered a number of hints and tips over the last few weeks, and INQ Mobile should be congratulated for providing online support, and being willing to engage with their customers.

When the INQ Chat arrives with the QWERTY keyboard, and GPS, it’ll be interesting to see whether INQ can still compete in the mid-tier marketplace against devices like the Nokia E63

Oh, and finally, a small point, but having performed a master reset of the device to return it, the phone still had all the contacts on it, plus the sign-in details for Skype, so if you ever decide to sell your INQ Mini 3G, be careful about removing all your personal data as well as performing a master reset.


Permalink

O2 and PURE announce Internet Radio collaboration

Monday, November 16th, 2009

O2 Joggler

O2 have today announced a collaboration between themselves and PURE Digital, bringing PURE’s The Lounge Internet Radio streams to the O2 Joggler, and at the same time, reduced the price down to £99.99.  The O2 Joggler, if you remember, is a proprietary device offering access to a limited set of applications providing access to certain facilities (Weather, Road Traffic, News, Sports, local photo display, and messaging).  In fact, back in the March launch, O2 talked about Messaging and Internet Radio following in May, although only the Messaging support got added (and in June); so finally, they have added the Internet Radio support originally promised!

By working with PURE Digital, they are providing a “selection of the most popular UK BBC and commercial radio stations” (around 100 stations in total) out of the 12,000 or so available via PURE directly, although there’s no word as to whether the O2 Joggler also supports the listen again facilities of The Lounge.

O2 have also announced that the device will be upgraded from Flash 8 to Flash 10, and have announced an SDK will shortly be available to allow developers to create 3rd party application for this device, which will then be accessible to users via a dedicated App Store, which should be available before the end of the year (although based on pretty much all the timeframes so far being missed with this device, don’t hold your breath!)

Initially, the O2 Joggler App Store will only support free applications, which is probably a good move; and any developers interested in developing for this device should look at some of the UK specific widgets developed for the Chumby platform to understand what might work for the UK.  As a hint, Flickr photo display, Live UK train departure / arrival information, and BBC support would all help the device, not to mention apps such as instant messaging and Social Networking support, plus last.fm and/or Spotify support would help make this device sell better, and compete against the PURE Sensia and it’s own application support.

Of course, whether O2 would authorise all those applications is another story, but as the device does not use their 3G network (only the local broadband connection), there is little reason to limit the device, and support like this could in time make it a firm favourite with O2 customers…


Permalink

Last.fm and hardware devices update

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Revo HERITAGE

This morning we wrote an article about the Revo HERITAGE (here), mentioning that we felt that a single Last.fm account could be used across multiple devices.  This part of the article is correct, in that if you were to purchase multiple Revo devices, you could, after the first month (of free Last.fm access), configure all the devices to share a single Last.fm subscription to save a little money.  However, we should point out that having researched this a little further, we have discovered that although Last.fm will let you do this, and you would benefit from a single user account, which would learn all your “loved” and “banned” songs to improve the listening experience, Last.fm does have one limitation…

Last.fm will only provide one streaming radio per user account at any one time; so although you could happily have 2 (or more) devices sharing the same user account, only one could be playing Last.fm streamed music at a time.  Now, for many people, that may well be acceptable, but we thought we should bring it to people’s attention.

We did find information on one (quite old) proxy tool for Last.fm, that might allow you to rebroadcast a single Last.fm stream to multiple streaming devices on your local network (which would use the audio streaming option, and not the direct Last.fm support), but without support for the other functions, such as loving or banning tracks, we wonder whether this is a good solution; also we’re not sure if this tool would still work with the latest Last.fm servers and protocols in use.

If you really need a whole house audio solution that can take a single Last.fm feed and stream it throughout your whole house, then it appears the Sonos system may offer just that.


Permalink

Revo announces another new unit – the Revo HERITAGE

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Revo HERITAGE

For a company that went quiet for a few months earlier this year, Revo seem to have bounced back and have added another new unit to their range of DAB radios.  The Revo HERITAGE is styled a little like units from the 50s and 60s, yet packs all their high spec features that they seem to be concentrating on right now.  This units joins the lineup of the Revo IKON (featured here), Revo DOMINO (featured here), and elder units such as the Revo iBlik RadioStation range, and the Pico range of portable devices.

The Revo HERITAGE features DAB, DAB+, FM radio stations, as well as Wi-Fi Internet Radio, as well as offering network streaming and support for all current iPod models.  In keeping with the price tag, this device is made from aluminium and real walnut veneer, and the screen is an OLED “secret-until-lit” display and like the Revo DOMINO, features a joystick based menu system.  The radio also features a digital alarm clock with sleep and snooze functions, and also features optical out and iPod video out connectors (amongst others).  Also provided is a full feature remote control.

As with the Revo IKON and the Revo DOMINO D3 (and D2) models, this radio also features support for Last.fm, allowing you to select an artist or genre and get streamed music.  Also like those other units, the device comes with a free 30 day Last.fm trial subscription, and would need access to a £3 per month subscription after that (which we still believe can be shared across multiple devices).  You can also improve the track selection by providing feedback to Last.fm in terms of “loving” or “banning” tracks that are played.

Finally, if you are still after other music support, the device has a 3.5mm input jack for other mp3 players, and can also play a wide range of music formats from USB devices via a USB port too.

The only limitation on this device seems to be iPhone support, where Revo state “While Heritage doesn’t offer full iPhone compatibility, by placing the iPhone in ‘In-Flight Mode’, Heritage will provide playback and charging.” (We should add this limitation does not apply to either the Revo DOMINO or Revo IKON, which have full iPhone compatibility).

If you are looking to buy one of these devices, you’ll need to head to John Lewis who have retail exclusivity on these devices when it goes on sale in November for £230 (alternatively you can buy direct from Revo Technologies themselves).

Although more expensive than the Revo DOMINO range, some have questioned the styling of that range, and this unit may well be more suited to people’s taste.


Permalink