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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Car apps : Audiogalaxy

With the the introduction of the Saab IQon system a support of  Spotify and Pandora music streaming services was mentioned. This is fine for regions with where this services are available but what about the other regions, such as I am living in ?  So I've tried to test a free streaming solution from my home PC to my Android based smartphone. Still in the faith, that the IQon system will offer a one-time payment data plan at least without roaming. The most important things for me were 1) reliability of the music stream, 2) user interface and 3) how much data it transfers, e.g. costs.

There are several applications for music streaming, some are free, some not. My choice was Audiogalaxy, due to positive user comments. Audiogalaxy consists of two parts - server part for the home PC, in my case Windows 7 64bit and a client part for the phone, in my case Android 2.2 on HTC Desire. Installation on both is trivial, however you must register on The logical condition for running the stream is, that  your home computer must be on and not hybernated. At my home PC with two disks the D: disk falls into sleep mode after a while of inactivity. No problem for Audiogalaxy. My only concern here is security, as I have no clue, what the server part broadcasts to the internet and how secure it is.

The user interface is elegant, nice and in most cases logical. It supports playlists, artists, albums and genres based browsing and a mode called Genie, which tries to find tracks in simillar mood as you listened before. What I am missing is my preferred browsing in directories instead  of to be dependent on mp3tags.

The reliability of the music stream is perfect. I've made a simple playlist and been driving first in the city and than out between villages and in the fields. Mostly HSDPA and sometimes Edge connections were available, in all areas without any single hiccup, pause or anything else. Some user comments were speaking about long waiting times between tracks. That was not my case, it played as I would have it stored on my SD card. Also with the "High Quality Audio" option switched on there were no skips. Technically this application works perfect.

The costs of the data transfer are the problem. I've played 6 mp3 songs (192kbps) which had together ~35MB and the transfer was the same 35MB. Total length of the 6 songs was 26 minutes. So no compression or any kind of data reduction technology. Since mp3 is a compression format itself, that is understandable. But that means 1.3 MB (megabytes) per minute and with 192kbps tracks I would ruin my 1GB/month data plan with 787 minutes which is 13.11 hours of streaming. With 320kbps mp3s that would be even 40% less = just below 8 hours.  This is definitely not a solution for me. But for people with unlimited data plan or people which does not have to pay their phone bill, that's a different story. Also wifi networks are fine. But for a car dependent on 3G better not. Roaming is also completely out of the game.

The application itself is great. But the costs to run it are still high. A bigger memory card is much cheaper, at least at the moment.  For the data measurement I've used Network Counter for Android, which seems to be accurate and measures the data by application.

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