Music playback on Palm OS 5 devices has generally been dominated by two titles – PocketTunes and AeroPlayer. But there's a newcomer to the scene that shows promise and could well become a serious competitor for top place.
143411 Busker MP3 for Palm OS is a new title from Electronic Pocket. While it lacks some of the more esoteric features of other players it instead focuses on ease of use and adds a feature not seen before on the Palm – album art support.
Playing an album with cover art
Installation is easy – a single file is installed to the device that is then run and installs the application. This nicely removes the risk of users missing plug-ins or other dependant libraries. Upon running, however, you are presented with quite a different experience to that of the other music players. Instead of a stylised skinned interface Busker features a clean yet attractive interface that is much closer to the standard Palm UI. Busker in fact lacks any skin support, which is not necessarily a bad thing from a usability standpoint.
For browsing music Busker offers 2 main views – a folder view, allowing you to browse your SD card folder by folder, or an artist view which allows you to browse music by artist and then by album. This works very nicely and supports both MP3 files and OGGs. Upon selection of a title it moves to a playback view with a play-list at the top and current file information at the bottom, similar to that of most players. However, if you’ve added a JPEG file containing the album art to the folder containing the album you’ll see it displayed at this point. There’s also an album art view that displays a larger version of the art, however this lacks file information and seems a little pointless to be honest.
Browsing MP3 files in Folder View
Treo 600/650 users can apparently search and download album art over their wireless connection, however this option isn’t available for non-Treo users and hence I was unable to try it. It would be nice to see this feature for standard Palms, especially for those of us with Bluetooth Internet connectivity.
Other playback features include the ability to mark tracks as favourites, which then become accessible in a favourites play-list, and a quick mix feature that will give you a randomly shuffled play-list. There’s the standard play-list support including support for M3U files.
Quick Mix for a quick fix
Support for the 5-way navigator is included, but unlike PocketTunes and AeroPlayer pressing left on the navigator will not take you to the previous song, instead taking you to the file browser. This serves up a bit of a surprise but actually gives you a lot more flexibility when navigating songs.
There’s also an alarm feature provided, allowing you to set up alarms that play a piece of music from your library. And as with most players pressing the power button (or appropriate menu option) will switch off the screen to prolong your battery life. It also has support for the T3’s expanding graffiti area, cleanly switching between 320x320 and portrait view.
It is missing a couple of things however. Those who want a graphic equaliser will be disappointed, and there’s a lack of customisation options. In particular there’s no way to change the power button to turn the device off or to set an automatic delay to switch the screen off. Also, the playback timer seems to be tardy in updating sometimes, especially when turning the screen back on. Finally, there’s no metadata editor, meaning you still need a PC to edit MP3 and OGG artist/album settings.
These quibbles aren’t going to present a problem for the majority. Busker presents a clean, easy to use interface with good sound quality and excellent browsing options. The album art is a nice touch and would be fantastic if retrieval was available for all users. It’s certainly found a permanent place on my Palm and would suggest anyone in the market for player software give the trial a spin – you certainly won’t be disappointed.