Grooveshark Android Anywhere Review

Recently the folks over at Grooveshark reached out and gave me some love in the form of a free VIP membership to Grooveshark Anywhere, the premium version of their very popular platform. I’ve been testing it for about three weeks now. Is it worth shelling out your cold hard cash even though the free version is well, free? Read on to find out.

The Mobile Version Of Grooveshark is available at http://m.grooveshark.com/

Grooveshark Anywhere allows you to access Grooveshark from a number of different devices, most notably from an Android phone, for about $10 per month. It also allows you to use the Grooveshark Desktop Client on your Mac or PC so you don’t have to watch the random YouTube video before streaming your music. This review deals with the Grooveshark Android App

After 3 weeks of using the application on my phone (HTC One X), it’s been a mostly positive experience, but not without hiccups…

Grooveshark Android Review

User Interface

The Grooveshark Android interface is cleanly laid out and very self explanatory. The fact that there’s not much to say about, is in itself praise to the Grooveshark designers. You know what everything is and how it works without having to learn.

grooveshark android  Grooveshark Android User Interface

 

Sound Quality

I’m a picky bastard when it comes to my music. I listen to it all day long, so having to put up with bad quality can ruin my experience. Fortunately, this is not the case on the Grooveshark app. In the setttings menu you have the option to stream high quality files. You can choose if you want this on all the time or only on wifi.

I tried the feature using my phone’s 3G connection (1mb line) and the results where great. Crisp, clear audio with detailed midsections and full low end.

Play high quality files on Grooveshark android

Ease of Use

Overall this is a very easy app to use. Select a playlist and then hit play, it’s that simple. The radio feature allows you to choose a station based on genre and then let it play. Popular is just that – music other Grooveshark users think is good (the results are scary, so I don’t use this).

You can access songs you’ve added your collection or your favourites using the icons on the main menu, all with no trouble.

Sharing

Offline Mode

Grooveshark Android Offline Mode
One of the major selling points for GSA is that it allows you to choose which songs you would like to save on your device to be accessed in offline mode. You’re able to select individual song or grab an entire playlist in one go.

In the app settings you can choose how much space you want to assign to Offline songs, so you won’t need to worry about Grooveshark Anywhere chomping through more memory than you’re comfortable with. Because the HTC One X doesn’t have an SD card slot, I wasn’t able to test if the file location can be specified.

Obviously, stations and sharing are not available in offline mode, along with any music that you have not saved to your phone.

Frustrations

Offline mode is the major source of my frustration. When downloading a playlist to Offline mode and then listening back , songs would frequently stop playing or not start to play at all. The App would then pause for a while and jump back to the first song in the list.

This happened pretty much all of the time I used the offline feature, so it got quite annoying. When GS released an update for the app. (2.7.1) the annoyance dropped to about 20%, but didn’t disappear.

Another annoying bug is that sometimes the next song in a playlist would load but not play. This means I have to take the phone out of my pocket and hit play a couple of times during a playlist. This becomes a real pain in the ass when docking your phone and loading a playlist, only to have to walk over and hit play every couple of songs. Hopefully this is an easy fix and something that can be rectified in a future update.

Another small but niggling problem is the long delay between songs in offline mode. Sometimes the delay would be as much as 5 seconds between songs. This isn’t an eternity, but because of the problem mentioned above, I kept checking my phone to see if there was a problem with the playlist. A couple of times there was in fact a problem. Even when there was a hint of a problem, I started to get annoyed thinking that the list had stopped again.

Update: Apparently these are HTC issues and the Grooveshark team is working on it.

Other things to like

Caching of recently played songs and album artwork – this is a nifty feature that saves the most recently played songs as well as album covers on your phone so that GS doesn’t need to load it every time.

LastFM Scrobbling – just like the Grooveshark desktop player, the Anywhere app will log the music you play with Last FM so you can access them later and see exactly what you’ve been listening to (for no good reason).

Media Button Reponse – the app responded to the controls on both the stock HTC headset as well as my ZAGG smartbuds. There’s a teeensy bit of lag, but nothing to get worked up.

Conclusion

Even though the bugs in Grooveshark really bug me, it turns out they weren’t dealbreakers. I haven’t used my iPod since I started using this Grooveshark Anywhere App, which is a win for me since I now have less thing to carry around (it also helps me rationalize how much I spent on my phone) .

I think that with a few bug updates and fixes, this will prove to be an amazing app, but until then you’ll need to settle for pretty damned good. Is it worth your $9,99? I think it is.

Feature Requests

There are still somethings that would be nice to see in the Grooveshark Android Client

  • Edit playlists (specifically removing unwanted songs from a playlist)
  • Share Playlist with another Grooveshark user
  • Update

    After Jessica mentioned that the issues I was experiencing might be unique to HTC phones, I took the Grooveshark app for another test on a Samsung Galaxy S. So far, the offline issues have not presented themselves, but there is still a fair amount of lag between songs in Offline mode.

    Footnote: This review was done on Grooveshark App version 2.7 and 2.7.1 using a 2012 HTC One X and a 1MB 3G connection to access the internet.

    Grooveshark logo

5 Reasons Why I like Campfire by 37signals

I use the 37signals product suite quite extensively on a day to day basis, and make use of all their products. One of these products is Campfire.

Described by it’s makers as “Team collaboration with real time chat” it does just what it says on the box. Initially our team was using MSN and then later Skype, but Campfire has a few features that lead me to move off these open (and free) platforms to the 37signals product.

Image courtesy of http://www.avivhadar.com

 

1. It’s secure.

Security might not be a big deal when you’re chatting about what to get your friend as a birthday gift, but when the content of your conversation is a little more sensitive, it’s nice to know that you’re chatting on a secure platform. (note – I’m not saying Skype/MSN/whatever is not secure, just that Campfire is).

2. Rooms

Like the internet chat rooms of old, Campfire works by creating Rooms. I’ve created a room for each of my team members as well as one for the whole team. That way I can chat one by one (without pissing everyone off) and chat to the whole team (and piss everyone off). Team members can drift in and out of each others’ rooms if they need to be a part of a conversion.

Rooms also have Guest Access, which makes it super easy to invite a client to a room to join in a conversion. Last week I was able to invite our email delivery provider into a room with a brand manager to discuss delivery issues. No email chain to worry about and everyone was able to chat very easily.

3. Transcripts

My team chats alot. I try and stay away from email, so chat becomes the primary means of communication for us. And sometimes I need to go back to a previous chat to see what was said. The search functionality in Campfire makes it a breeze for me to find a previous conversion and follow what happened in that thread.

4. File Uploads

Campfire makes file sharing a breeze – drag and drop a file into a chat window and it gets uploaded. Everyone in the room can now download it. Images, urls and files are displayed inline, which means there’s no need to download them from the client – they can be viewed right in the room. This sounds like a small feature, but it’s great not having to save an image every time a change is made to a button – I can simply view it in the room.

5. Copy.Paste

Skype’s messy copy and past facility is one of the main reasons I made the switch to Campfire. We share loads of copy and email subject line ideas on chat. And everytime I copy some text in Skype it adds the user name as well as the time and date. Not ideal for copy heavy conversations. Campfire makes this task simple, and if you paste text into it, it’s even got a “View Paste” link which will show only that text in a web browser, making it even easier to select.

I think Skype is just fine for most people and even companies, but if you and your team live on chat, Campfire is definitely something you should look in to.

Here’s a short video tour from their website

 

Control Grooveshark Desktop with the Media Keys on your keyboard

After moving to a new computer I’m having to re-install all my programs and get it tweaked just the way I like it. One the things I like to be able to do is control my Grooveshark Desktop Player with the media keys on my Logitech Access 600 keyboard.

Control GrooveShark With Keyboard Media Keys

To do this, I installed the Grooveshark GSDesktop Global Keyboard Shortcuts driver. You can find it on the Grooveshark wiki here – http://grooveshark.wikia.com/wiki/GSDesktop_Global_Keyboard_Shortcuts

Be sure to set it so that the Keyboard Shortcuts starts with Windows, otherwise you’ll need to run it manually every time you restart your computer.

Control Grooveshark with your keybaord

Before I could get it to work, I had to make sure that I had the  right keyboard drivers, which installed in a snap. Download Logitech Access Keyboard 600 drivers

et voila. Keyboard controlled happiness

UPDATE
I’m now using an Apple wired keyboard with Numpad on my windows machine (to keep the typing experience consistent when I move from Mac to Windows) and this hack works fine to control grooveshark with the media keys on the keyboard.

All I had to do was to map the keys to do what I wanted. I used a registry entry program called SharpKeys – http://www.randyrants.com/sharpkeys/

 

UPDATE: Windows 8
The Grooveshark Helper works for controlling Grooveshark with your keyboard in Windows 8 as well. You will be presented with a popup saying that Windows has blocked the application. Click on the ‘More Info’ link and then on the ‘Run Anyway’ button.

Download Grooveshark Desktop Player

Aaaah Grooveshark… how you make me love you and hate you.

After switching to a new computer, I needed to install the Grooveshark desktop player once more.  So, off I went to the Grooveshark website looking for the download link, and… nada.

No link on the site, and nothing in my account either. It’s almost like they don’t want me to install their client. Or they’re hell bent on making it as hard as possible.

Download the Grooveshark Desktop Player here:

http://preview.grooveshark.com/desktop/install.air

UPDATE

Thanks to Katy’s comment below, I found it :)

I realize perhaps it’s not in the most intuitive place, but if you click on your Account dropdown on the top right and chose Extras, then Desktop, there is an AIR installer badge that will install Adobe AIR/Grooveshark Desktop for you.

Download Grooveshark Desktop Player from Account

How to create a free Grooveshark player in just one step

Following on from my previous post on how to create a free Grooveshark desktop player in two steps (and save yourself $3) using Mozilla Prism, this is how you can do it in just one step using Chrome.

Open up grooveshark.com in Chrome. Now click Tools>> Create Application Shortcuts

Create a free Grooveshark player in one step with Google Chrome

Now all you need to do is choose what you want – I selected a desktop shortcut. And that’s it.

Grooveshark desktop player

Thanks to Jordan Duncan for dropping this useful tip in the comments section.

Create a free desktop Groove Shark player in 2 steps (and save $3)

Update – If you’re using Chrome, there’s an even easier way to create a free Grooveshark player in one step

How to create a free Groove Shark desktop player in  2 easy steps

Groove Shark is a free streaming audio service that allows you to play music in a browser window. The company also offers a paid VIP service that offers an Adobe Air desktop application so that you can play music outside of your browser. Follow the steps below to save yourself $3 a month (especially useful considering how temperamental Groove Shark can be)

Here’s how to build your own Groove Shark desktop player in just a few minutes with Mozilla Prism.

1. Download & install Mozilla Prism from Mozilla Labs

http://prism.mozillalabs.com/

Prism is an application that lets you split web applications out of your browser and run them directly on your desktop

2. Set your URL

Set http://listen.grooveshark.com/ as the URL you would like to use for your new desktop application.

Groove Shark and Mozilla Prism

That’s it – you now have a free desktop Groove Shark player :)

Groove Shark desktop player

Optional

  • I have set my Groove shark application to display in my Quicklaunch menu for easy access.

Change your Groove Shark icon

Grooveshark sucks – spoils my day

Grooveshark is web-based music player that allows you to play songs that other users have uploaded. When I first discovered Grooveshark, I though it was amazing. I would hop on to find a track that I didn’t have in my collection and that I just HAD to hear. Since I use my browsers quite extensively, I decided to spring for the $3 desktop player.

 

Grooveshark logo

After downloading and installing, away I went. Except I didn’t. After choosing what I wanted to listen to, the player would simply skip through the songs in the playlist in a seemingly never ending loop. Eventually I get annoyed, close down Grooveshark and open iTunes.

Grooveshark #Fail from Lester Hein on Vimeo.

Everytime I use it, I want to punch my monitor. For now I think I’ll save my $3 and wait until the service is a bit more mature, or until something else comes along.

The Grooveshark recommendation engine also leaves a lot to be desired. The recommendations I’ve been receiving a strange to say the least – I was served a Justin Bieber track in the middle of a radio set loaded with Common and Mos Def. I think they’re trying to tell me something. Marking a track also did not fix this – the same track appeared 4 more times.

Grooveshark sucking is a real shame – I really do want to like the service. It’s a welcome introduction and I was a very vocal promoter of the service after the first few uses.

Some of Grooveshark’s faults are forgivable and will probably be improved over time – the UI needs some work and the recommendation has some way to go, but I can’t use (much less pay for) a music service that doesn’t play music!

And it seems I’m not the only one who feels this way – http://amplicate.com/sucks/grooveshark