Media has certainly been the focus for Android developers recently. Android has always been lagging behind iOS in terms of media capability, but given the recent increase in media apps available for the platform and Google’s recent Google Music announcement, it seems that they are finally pulling their finger out and trying to beat Apple off the top spot. Android is still a long way away – there is still nothing equivalent to the iTunes Store available for Android and media still isn’t as integrated as on iOS (I’m talking about syncing capabilities, which can still be a little bit hit-and-miss with Android) – but at least the cogs are starting to turn.
Instinctiv aims to simplify this by making the music on your PC/Mac available on your phone without having to transfer it. In short, it is a wireless music player which, according to the app’s description, promises “a better music experience for Android”. This is similar to other apps in the Market, such as doubleTwist’s AirSync, however Instinctiv is completely free (for the time being anyway). I decided to give it a go – read on for my full review.
To start using Instinctiv, you first have to download the desktop client (available for Mac and Windows, although the Windows version is still in the alpha phase) and sign up for an free account which you can do via the client.
The signup process takes a few minutes; once you’re done, the main screen pops up and starts searching for your music. This can take some time depending on the size of your music collection, but you can give the program a kickstart by importing your entire iTunes library (if you use iTunes) or any other songs you’ve got on your computer.
On your Android phone, you can download the application for free from the Market, and sign in using your username and password. Your music will show up automatically along with any cover art (another useful feature) and is categorised by song title, artist and album. Any playlists that you have created will also show up.
There are a few clever little features embedded in Instinctiv that make it stand out above other Android music players. Apart from the cloud-based storage offered, Instinctiv also works offline — however, it does it in a different way to most. When you are out of cell phone coverage, Instinctiv can automatically select the songs you listen most to and make them available using a new “Smart Cache” method. This also applies to any playlists you create as well.
Another feature demonstrated in Instinctiv is smarter music playback. Like the offline streaming mode, Instinctiv will analyse the songs you’re listening to and will recommend songs to you depending on genre or even what mood you’re in. Aggressive mood = aggressive music, relaxing mood = relaxing music – I’m sure you get the picture. The developers claim that Instinctiv creates “smarter, more customised playback for each individual user”, and it actually does work! In the Shuffle mode, it did select songs from my library of roughly the same genre.
Instinctiv also promises to be a social media player, and you can share what you’re listening to via Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and e-mail. If you use Last.fm, the app also scrobbles what you are listening to. It also has a feature called Identifi, which allows you to identify songs by recording a sample when you’re on the move and purchase them on the spot (much like SoundHound and Shazam), thereby expanding your music library.
The Identifi feature is not as advanced as Shazam or Soundhound; it struggled on some basic songs so although it is useful to have everything in one application, you may not want to rely on it completely. Instinctiv does, though, support over 60 different file types, including DRM-protected songs from iTunes, so any purchases you have made from Steve Jobs’s music supermarket don’t have to just sit around on your computer.
Instinctiv is certainly a very polished program with more features than a Swiss Army knife and although it is a very good idea in principle, the fact of whether it will be surpassed by Google Music is yet to be known (I live in the UK so I haven’t yet had a chance to have a look at Google Music) but it is certainly a good contender. I did find myself questioning why people would want to constantly stream their music onto their device though; the app consumes quite a lot of data and unless you’ve got a truly unlimited data connection, you’re probably better off getting a bigger memory card for your phone.
Still, the idea is very good in principle and Instinctiv’s interface is a lot cleaner than the stock Android player (which looks remarkably cheap and ugly, whilst we’re on the subject) so even if you don’t use it for streaming your music it’ll work just as well as a standard music player – it does search for any songs on your phone as well as in your cloud. Only time will tell whether or not this little developer will get swept aside by Google Music’s reign, but for the time being it’s a very useful little utility which is without a doubt worth a look at.