Ecoute: A Minimally Designed Music Player

When it comes to app functionality, I find that there’s a great debate between some iPhone users. On one side, you find users that enjoy apps that are packed full of features; so many features in fact, that it’s sometimes hard to wrap your head around how many are available for use. Other users insist that apps with a sole functionality (or a minimal amount of features) are better because the app’s developer can focus solely on getting that function right, which leads to a better user experience.

In terms of music players, it’s safe to say that the first-party Music app doesn’t provide a laundry list of features, but instead provides the core functionality needed to play music (although it is a tad dull). On the other hand, you have third-party music players like Groove 2, which is teeming with features. But for those that want a music player that has a good amount of features, and is bundled with a gorgeous interface, I find Ecoute to be a suitable choice. Find out why after the jump.

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Start Me Up

When I initially started up Ecoute, I had mixed feelings. I immediately loved the overall design and use of a gridview interface instead of a lists (lists are boring when you have beautiful album art to use as eye candy); however, the obvious problem with using a grid of album art is a bunch of blank icons if you don’t have your album art probably set up in iTunes. Pixiapps set out to make a minimally designed, but striking app and has done so in spades. The use of monotone colors with a dash of color here and there, really helps put the focus on the album art.

Ecoute sports a simple, but beautiful user interface.

Ecoute sports a simple, but beautiful user interface.

On the other hand, the one thing that I found very lacking was a tutorial or set of instructions on how to actually navigate the app. When an app uses gestures, which Ecoute does, it’s very handy to given a bit of guidance. Unfortunately, Pixiapps did not include an options section within the app (I suppose to maintain the minimal design), so you’ll have to jump to the Settings app to find a rather mundane set of instructions.

If you're not a fan of gestures, you have the option of turning them off.

If you’re not a fan of gestures, you have the option of turning them off.

Navigate Me

Navigating within an app can be a bit of a chore at times, but my navigational experiences with Ecoute were quite good. For the most part, the navigation bar at the top of the screen is what you’ll use to jump between different filters (e.g. Artists, Albums, Songs, etc.). When you flick left on the navigation bar, a second set of filters is displayed including Playlists, Compilations, Composers and Podcasts.

Ecoute provides nearly the same set of filters as the first-party Music app.

Ecoute provides nearly the same set of filters as the first-party Music app.

As stated before, Ecoute typically uses gridviews to display album art, which will also include the artist/album/genre/playlist/compilation/composer name underneath. The Songs filter on the other hand, uses a listview to display all of your tracks.

There's quite a stark contrast between gridviews and listsviews in Ecoute.

There’s quite a stark contrast between gridviews and listsviews in Ecoute.

If you want to find a specific track quickly, you should use the search function (accessed by tapping the Search button in the top navigation bar).

Every Little Gesture

If you’re familiar with any of my previous reviews, you’ll know I’m a big fan of gestures. To me, gesture controls just makes sense with touchscreen devices (I don’t see the point of making users tap small buttons to navigate an app when it’s not necessary). So I was excited to see what Pixiapps had in store when they touted gesture controls in Ecoute’s description; unfortunately though, I was left wanting a bit more. Unlike CarTunes, which is extremely gesture heavy, Ecoute only uses a few gestures to control music.

A transition from the Library to the Player View in progress.

A transition from the Library to the Player View in progress.

The main gesture controls consist of a flick to the left or right on the Now Playing Bar and Player View, which will skip the track forward and backward. In addition, to transition to the Player View from the Library View, you’ll need to swipe up on the Now Playing Bar; likewise, to return to the Library View, swipe down anywhere on the Player View. While this may not be an extensive list of gesture control options, I found it to be adequate for my use, but I would like to see more (such as CarTunes’ ability to change the volume with a gesture control).

Players Gotta Play

After you’ve selected your song of choice, it will display in the Now Playing Bar (NPB) at the bottom of screen. The NPB also includes a share button on the left that allows you to tweet the song you’re playing (Facebook sharing will be introduced when iOS 6 is released). In addition, if you log in to your Last.fm account it will scrobble each track you play in the next two hours. On the right side of the NPB, you’ll find a button that allows you to quickly play and pause the track (an extremely handy feature). If you tap on the NPB, you’re provided with Repeat and Shuffle buttons, as well as a time indicator (if you look closely, you may even see the very thin blue progress bar underneath).

The Now Playing Bar includes so many controls that you may never need to use the Player View.

The Now Playing Bar includes so many controls that you may never need to use the Player View.

When you transition to the Player View, the Share button is still present on the left side but is now at the top of the screen (same with the Repeat and Shuffle buttons and time indicator, if you tap on the bar). Tapping on the List button at the top right will display a list of all tracks on the album/playlist/etc. that you’re playing. The bottom section of the player features standard play/pause, skip track and volume controls (if you’re set up for it, the AirPlay button will display to the right of the skip forward button). Additionally, tapping on the album art displays the song’s lyrics, but only if you’ve manually entered the lyrics in the song’s Get Info menu in iTunes, which I’m guessing most of you have not.

If you use the first-party Music app often, you'll be quite familiar with Ecoute's Player View.

If you use the first-party Music app often, you’ll be quite familiar with Ecoute’s Player View.

Closing Time

Whether you’ll enjoy using Ecoute is a matter of taste. It may not be feature packed, but it does include some of the more important features, including iTunes Match support. Another plus is that Pixiapps appears to be quick on the ball in terms of fixing errors. On Ecoute’s 1.0 release there was a bug that crashed the app for users with a very large iTunes Match library, but version 1.0.1 was made available very quickly to help alleviate the issue.

If you typically use the first-party Music app, there are a few features that you may miss (features that are not available to third-party apps), such as the ability to create playlists on the fly (Groove 2 does allow you to create playlists, but they’re more like Genius playlists instead of user created ones) and delete music from your phone. These may be small sacrifices to most, but with a somewhat hefty price tag of $2.99, you’ll have to decide that for yourself.


Summary

Ecoute is a minimally designed, gesture heavy alternative music player.

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  • comctrl6

    “…but with a somewhat hefty price tag of $2.99, you’ll…”

    Really? REALLY!!!? Hefty price tag? 3 buck is hefty? Show me something that looks as good as Ecoute for 3 bucks and I’ll call that reasonable. WTF is wrong with you? It’s this kind of attitude that has brought the general prices for apps down and has forced developers like Sparrow to sell the company instead of going it alone.

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