If I had to point out one area of weakness in my Android experience – a specific category of functions that I have, at one time or another, found to be lacking – it would most certainly be integration with my computer. As broad a topic as that is, I think most of us recognize the individual tasks, features, and processes that comprize it are the key elements that distinguish smart phones from feature phones.
Weather you want to buy music and transfer it to your device, save photos taken with your phone on the computer, exchange contacts, or keep all of those items synchronized across multiple devices, interfacing mobile with static and partially mobile is essential to not only mobile/tech junkies on the bleeding edge, but exceedingly to the very mainstream.
For the first year or so after Android’s launch, I – probably like the rest of you – struggled with syncs and transfers, usually resorting to cumbersome and often unreliable methods that were loosely associated with one another or not associated at all. Manually copying MP3s over to an audio folder of a phone mounted as a USB mass storage device, using Nandroid to back up my logs and apps, and copy/pasting photos from a microSD card to my laptop hard drive were common practice. What a pain! No wonder I played with Android during the day but laid in bed at night browsing audiobooks on my iPod Touch, which synced painlessly with iTunes on my computer. Google gave us little more than temporary pacifiers to cover the wait for their ultimate Android (and Chrome OS) plan, cloud-based…everything. This final destination of sorts hasn’t manifested in a complete package, so we continue to make due.
While still missing some of the polish, the third-party Android counterparts to iTunes have reached an acceptable state of usability and are carving out identities for themselves as viable solutions to the problem of integration. Despite frantically playing a whole lot of catch up, I can’t say that I’m aware of any Android solution that can match the iTunes environment, but there is no longer any need to use an OEM’s proprietary app to sync a small fraction of your device’s contents with your Windows (only) computer…not that I ever bothered with that. (cont.)
doubleTwist: the part where he clicks “subscribe” is concept-only
The most popular Android solution is a Mac/Windows program called doubleTwist. This free sync application works on multiple mobile platforms – not just Android – and features Amazon MP3 Store integration, Android Market access, video conversion for device compatibility, as well as music, movie, and photo sync. It also automatically grabs any playlists you’ve created in iTunes and facilitates syncing only the items in a given playlist or playlists. It would be up to you to determine which, if any, of those tracks are copy protected with Apple’s DRM (Digital Rights Management) and are therefore unplayable in your Android device. More on that later – in the section on iTunes.
doubleTwist is unique in several ways, but most distinguishable at the time of this writing is the ability to share photos and movies with friends from within the program. It’s via email, but perhaps a dT social sharing network will come along with paid memberships. Sure, you can still upload videos to YouTube and your snaps to Facebook or Flickr (not Picasa?), but social media is where it’s at for the future and it’s too bad the same option isn’t included for users’ music libraries. After all, most copy protected material is useless to the program anyway.
While doubleTwist is at the forefront of bringing Android synching up to speed with Apple, not everything is in place for head-to-head competition. For example, it’s not really clear that dT is on track to be the premiere Google solution when Flickr integration is chosen over Picasa. Amazon MP3s are great, but what about videos? The selection in both categories is meager compared to iTunes, and the interface isn’t nearly as friendly or pleasing. One last complaint: podcasts can be listened to individually, but it’s still not possible to subscribe. This feature is apparently in the works. (cont.)
doubleTwist premium accounts coming soon?
The doubleTwist Shop
doubleTwist music search
doubleTwist does not require an app to be running on your device for synch over a USB cable, but doubleTwist Corp have made a music and video player for better integration:
All in all, doubleTwist is a more than acceptable option for synching your Android with your computer. I’m convinced the program could really come into its own by the end of the year. But will it be in sync with Google’s plans?