Searching for a good iTunes alternative with android

My quest started with a simple desire – to find some easy way to keep the music on my PC in sync with my Xperia Arc. Considering how many years it’s been since Android and iPhone have been out, surely someone has done something about the issue? Here are my opinions on what I found.

1. DoubleTwist

This was the first tool that I found. With a tagline that says “The Cure for iTunes withdrawal”, it gave me hope. Now, say what you will about the syncing features, but above that I expect a good media manager too. Or at least something half competent. The first thing I see when I installed/ran the application was a notice that said something along the lines of “We are preparing a major update within the next few months”. That sounds hopeful because in it’s current state, I cannot understand why so many people recommend this product.

DoubleTwist (DT) asked me to select my media folders – music/videos. No problem – I just pointed it to where they were stored. DT then scanned the directories and showed a list of what it found. To my absolute horror it even scanned my top-level Documents folder! Why did it even do that? Very intrusive and unexpected behavior. 😦 To an extent, I was willing to tolerate it, but then came the next let-down. It organized all my midi files as videos! And even worse – as unplayable files. I can understand if it didn’t detect them at all. Some music programs are picky in that regard. But to think of them as unplayable videos? DT you are NOT impressing me here.

Then came the final nail in the coffin for DT. I tried opening one of my actual video files. My expectations were low at this point and it didn’t really come as a surprise that I couldn’t change the audio tracks on the file. The video file in question had 2 audio tracks and 3 subtitle tracks embedded in it. Not only was the audio stuck on one track, but I couldn’t do anything about which subtitle to use either.

DoubleTwist, you just do NOT work for me.

2. Songbird

Songbird had my curiosity. A good open source music tool? Sounds like it has some potential. At least, I like OSS. With a good mindset I downloaded and installed songbird. I think it’s a cross-platform application because it felt sluggish to me. Not too much of a problem, but then I tried to edit the metadata of some of my mp3 files. Songbird seemed to do the job well and I double-checked with other tools (Winamp & WMP Classic) – the metadata of my mp3 files was changed. But then came the acid test – Windows Explorer didn’t see the changes. Even worse – it seemed as if ALL my metadata was gone! Here is a screenshot of the issue,

It took me about half an hour to come to the conclusion that Songbird had not marked down the metadata correctly. Or at least, there were some errors in the way it handled them. Regardless, a program which corrupts my files is NOT something I want to use for an extended period of time.

Which is a real pity for something that is based off Mozilla/Firefox.

3. Miro

It has an attractive logo, I have to say. But what about it’s media capabilities? There are some issues with it’s ‘scanning’ engine. I tried to edit the metadata of a mp3 file outside of Miro and nothing short of remaking its ENTIRE database would let Miro see the changes. Which, is reason enough for me to uninstall the application. Not to mention it’s issues with subtitles when I tried to play my video file.

4. MediaMonkey

A commercial tool? Well, with all the failures I was having with OSS, it was time I looked in the other direction. Considering that people were willing to pay money for this software it must mean that it has a good interface, right? Unfortunately, I was proved wrong. Frankly I was overwhelmed with the menu presented to me. I just want you to organize and play my music. Is that really so much to ask? Apparently for MM it was. Now, in it’s defense there ARE themes to alleviate this issue. But I just wasn’t feeling patient anymore and my first impression was less than good. I would have forgiven it, if my videos played well. But NO. SOME issue came up.

Feature-wise, I think MM is the syncing tool I was looking for, but with an interface (and video playback issues) like they currently have won’t work for me.

In the end, I’m back to manually syncing my music with my phone. What a sad state of affairs! 😦