Yesterday Google announced the beta testing for their cloud-based music service, which right now they are just calling “music beta”. Along with the news about the service, Google released a new version of the Android Music app that they pushed to Android phones via the Android Market. While I don’t currently have access to the beta, I did install the Music app on my phone and copied music over to it from my PC, to try the app. I believe this new Music app provides some insight into how Google is going to have the Honeycomb UI, which is optimized for tablets, work on smartphones.
In the screenshots below you see the how the Music app appears in portrait and landscape modes. The UI is noticeably different between the two. In portrait you move between the different views of the music library by swiping left and right, and you see the tab labels at the top of the screen. When you switch to landscape you move between views by tapping the name of the view, for example Artists, to display a pop-up window that lists the different sections, Albums, Songs, Playlists, etc.
Each list item that displays on the screen has a drop-down button at the right of the item name. The drop-down list contains options to play the song, add the song to a playlist, shop for the artist, see more songs in your library for the artist, or search. Shop for the artist initiates a Google shopping search for albums by the artist, rather than accessing an actual Google music store. Ironically, if you select search, you can complete the search using the Amazon MP3 app. I found that running an Amazon MP3 search doesn’t work on song names, but searches on artists runs a query in Amazon’s MP3 store to purchase music by that artist. Other search apps you can select are YouTube and the Browser.
In the screenshot below you see what the app displays when you tap a song. Hidden in the display are options to shuffle or continuously play music, which display when you tap the album art, or by tapping Menu, Show Options. Finally, tapping the headphone button at the top left takes you up one level, so if you are looking at a song, tapping the headphone button returns you to the album info, and tapping it again returns you to the artist.
One feature that I like is that in portrait, when you are playing a song the song name and pause/play and forward controls display at the bottom of the screen no matter where you go in the app. You will also notice that the background display in the app changes to use the album art of the album that you are current viewing.
I think Google has made nice improvements to the Music app. It is graphically more appealing, and the UI flows very nicely. My one complaint is that Google did not add lock screen controls like Amazon has with their MP3 app, which I think make the phone feel more like a MP3 player when music is playing.