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SkyMusic: Stream tracks to your Windows Phone

SkyMusic made its way to the Marketplace today so figured I would give it a test drive. The app name should make it clear, but just in case, SkyMusic steams music from your personal SkyDrive account. The layout of the app is very familiar, mimicking Zune for the most part. Before doing anything I first needed to get some music up in the Cloud. While setting things up was relatively easy, the slow upload speeds that most of us has to endure is a real killer. Took about two hours to upload about 0.5GB of music, maybe 60 songs by my estimate. I feel sorry for those out there with those 50GB music collections.

Anyway, back on topic. SkyMusic requires a basic syntax when setting up your files. Start out by setting up a folder labeled Music in SkyDrive. Follow that with sub-folders for Artists, then Albums, and finally Tracks. Within each album folder, SkyMusic will look for the first image file and use that as album art. When you first launch the app, tap Sync to populate the artist/album/track lists. Took less than a minute for my 60 tracks/10 artists. You will need to sync each time you add more music to SkyDrive. Artists are indexed using the familiar Alpha picker used throughout WP. Tap on an artist and you get a list of albums, Tap an album to start playing immediately, or tap the album name to view a list of tracks that you can select. SkyMusic supports Playlists (created within the app) that you can build from albums or individual tracks. SkyMusic’s home screen displays all of your album art, and with some patience you will see albums flip. Nice touch. In the developers words:

You probably only have 8 or 16 GB of Internal storage on your Windows Phone.

Don’t waste that on storing music. Instead, use the free SkyDrive account you already have.

SkyMusic is a music player, streaming songs from your SkyDrive account.

It supports:

  • Streaming audio from music stored on SkyDriveAccess your collection anywhere (Cellular or WiFi)
  • Background Audio play
  • A beautiful album art dynamic background
  • Creation of Playlists
  • Shuffle all playback
  • Music and Video (Zune) Hub Integration
  • Familiar, Zune-like and Metro user experience
  • Dynamic Live Tile

The trials version is fully featured, with the exception that it limits the number of artists to 2

Most tracks started almost immediately over WiFi, although I did experience some lag between tracks a few times. And a couple times the app stopped playing after a couple tracks. When I woke my phone up I could see it was trying to connect but was experiencing some kind of issue. I did try streaming over my very crappy 3G connection in the house and it was a real struggle, playing a few seconds and then pausing. Can’t expect much from a 1.30Mbps signal, which btw is really good for me. Usually between 0.6 and 0.8Mbps in the house. Interestingly, you can completely back out of the app and it continues to play. Tap your volume button to reveal the music controls, tap anywhere and the app reopens, with the current track playing. I did find a few things that bug me and hopefully will be corrected with updates. The app is set to repeat mode by default and I don’t think there is any way to control it. So if you play an artist with a single track it will continue to play until you stop it, or change to another track. My guess is the app is using some kind of compression. Tracks sounded fine, but when I played the same track using SkyMusic and Zune at full volume on my Surround, the SkyMusic track was considerably softer and definitely not as full sounding. I can live without some fullness, but the volume is a problem that needs to be addressed. Once you back out of the now playing track, there is no way to get back to it. If you tap the track name again, it will start from the beginning. So you need to tap your volume button to see what’s playing if you navigate away from the now playing screen. Also, within the now playing track, you can see the time played, but no slider (like in Zune) or anything to indicate the length of the track. Not sure if the app can grab that info from somewhere but it should be available from within the file. I had no problem loading DRM protected tracks up to my SkyDrive, but the WMA tracks did not appear in SkyMusic after syncing, so either WMA is not supported or the DRM tracks will not play. I tried playing a DRM protected track using the Microsoft SkyDrive app and had no problems.

Overall, for a v1.0 release, well done. This should also quell any thoughts about whether you can stream music from SkyDrive. The answer is yes. The app has a trial as noted above, or you can purchase for a whopping 0.99. You can find SkyMusic in Marketplace here.