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  • BlackBerry Music Player vs. Palm’s Normsoft Pocket Tunes

    Posted on November 26th, 2008 Shawn 1 comment

    If you know me, then you know that I have been a longtime Palm OS fanboy. With a transition to a new job, my employer “highly recommends” BlackBerry (BB). After months of hemming-and-hawing, I decided to make the move from Palm OS and go to BB. The BB Storm 9530 is the device I am currently using.

    Media is a very high priority for me on my smartphone, and I have been very involved over the years with the software vendors that support Palm media apps. Ok, so you have my background, now let’s get into the comparison of BB Music Player and Pocket Tunes.

    I’m talking about BB 4.7 Media Player, but specifically focusing on the Music player. For Pocket Tunes, I’m talking about Pocket Tunes 4.0.x for both Palm OS and Windows Mobile. For you iPod/iTunes junkies, please weigh in with comments, since I don’t know that platform well.

    Sound Quality:
    Both are great on sound quality. For Pocket Tunes, there are several devices that support this, so the speaker quality will vary on the device. Both the Treo 650 and Treo 700p have poor speakers. The BB Storm has a decent (though not excellent) speaker. So the Storm wins on speaker quality.
    For headset use, it’s a tie. Both are great IMO. This is a tie.
    Headset Jack:
    This is hardware specific, but nearly all Palm devices have a proprietary 2.5mm adaptor, so standard headsets need an adaptor to connect, not a fan of this. The Storm has a standard 3.5mm jack. Tried it with a cassette adapter, workds great. Though not related to the software, the Storm wins this one. Point to Storm.
    Navigation:
    Storm navigation is slower for me than a QWERTY keyboard with key shortcuts on the Treo’s. Though the navigation screens of solecting bands, songs, etc are both similar. The Storm has a leg up though, because Pocket Tunes must refresh the library after anytime the SD card has been accessed, which can take up to a minute with a full card. So, there’s a trade-off here. Issues with both, no point.
    Album Art:
    Both support album art, which is big for me. The Storm crushes Pocket Tunes here. With the very high resolution on the Storm, album are is absolutely beautiful. Pocket Tunes isn’t shabby, but album are is a bit clunky and limited to the Treo’s 320×320 resolution (other higher/lower resolutions available on other devices). Also, with the Storm having a larger screen size, the art is larger too. Point Storm.
    Speaker/Bluetooth:
    Though this category relates to the earlier Sounds Quality and Headset Jack, I’m focusing on how the software and hardware work together for different sound profiles. For example, using a wired cassette adapter, while synced with a phone Bluetooth headset. Palm OS has never been good as sound profile switching. With anything plugged into a Treo headset jack, all sounds (music, calls, etc) go to the jack. Stereo Bluetooth on a Palm OS Treo is a 3rd party afterthought, and is clunky at best.
    For the Storm, it just works. If I am listening to music on my stereo Bluetooth headset, and then plug a wired headset/cassette adaptor into the jack, the music (and all system sounds) immediately dump to the wired adapter, though all calls will remain routed to the Bluetooth headset. Vise-versa, if I unplug the wired headset/adapter, all sounds are immediately routed to the stereo Bluetooth headset. Flawless. Point goes to Storm (it’s done so well, I’d give more points, if I could).
    Controls (FF, Rew, Pause, etc.):
    Pocket Tunes has many free skins that allow you to cusomize the layout. I don’t know if BB has the same. The default BB skin does not have easy FF and rewind controls, just an onscreen slider. It’s nearly impossible to use the slider on-screen. So, if listening to a 1 hour podcast, there’s no easy way to jump forward or backward a few minutes or seconds. Pocket Tunes has some very easy to use skins that allow one-touch jump capabilities forward or backward, plus both soft and hard FF and rewind keys. For now, Pocket Tunes win hands-down with controls, though some skin updates to the Storm could fix this and even the playing field. Point Pocket Tunes.
    Internet Radio:
    Pocket Tunes integrates streaming Internet Radio, and includes dozens of out-of-the-box stations, plus allowing you to add more. I have not seen any Internet Radio option on the Storm Music Player. I have been playing with FlyCast for BB Internet Radio use, but it’s a separate application. For now, point goes to Pocket Tunes.
    Equalizer:
    Both have EQ, Pocket Tunes is customizable with sliding EQ’s, though requires fine use of a stylus to edit. Storm has several pre-defined EQ settings. Both work well, though I will give it to the Storm for the ability to quickly set EQ. Point Storm.
    Bookmarks:
    Ummm….where are the bookmark features on the Storm Music Player? With Pocket Tunes, I listen to a lot of long podcasts, and don’t always get to finish them in one listening. So, I use bookmarks to hold my place and I can pick up where I left off next time. With BB, there is no bookmark feature, that I know of. So, if I close the Music app or change songs, there is no marking of where I left off on the previous song/podcast. Seems like this could be a fairly easy software update for BB to make. BIG point for Pocket Tunes.
    Crossfade:
    When on a long drive, I like to listen to my music in a radio-like fashion (sans the commercials, of course). I like songs to fade in-out of each other. Pocket Tunes does this, although due to limited hardware resources on Treo’s it can skip at times. The Storm has no crossfade options that I have seen. So, point Pocket Tunes.
    File Management:
    Both let you create/manage/update playlists. Both let you delete songs/artists/playlists. Both have similar navigation. Both let you bulk delete. I can do all of the above a lot faster on Pocket Tunes, but I would call that a learning curve for me on the Storm. Let’s call this one an even playing field. No point on this.
    Playlists:
    Same as File Management. Same capabilities across both. I can work faster on the Treo, but give me some time to adapt to the Storm. No point.
    Desktop Compatibility:
    So the BB claims iTunes support, where the Palm OS does not (note, Windows Mobile Treo’s with Pocket Tunes do have iTunes support). I have not yet tested the Storm with iTunes, but plan to. Since I download several podcasts via iTunes, I hope to use that as my only media syncing app. For Pocket Tunes, I use Windows Media Player. Both have their issues, where Pocket Tunes has occasional syncing glitches. Plus with no multi-tasking on the Palm OS, you can do anything with the device while it syncs. For the Storm with full multi-tasking, you can sync, while listening to music (and basically doing any thing else) on the device. I tried Windows Media Player with the Storm, and got decent results. A couple times, songs did not sync, and one time a playlist in Windows Media Player got corrupted and I needed to rebuild it after connecting to the Storm. This is a hard one to give the point too. Though with multi-tasking capabilities, similar sync experiences, and the potential of iTunes support, point Storm.

    Quick tally and summary here.  With a possible total of 13 points, Pocket Tunes gets 4, BB Storm gets 5, and 4 end in a tie.  Very close call.  Although the Storm fairs better, it is newer technology on newer hardware.  It is close enough to either call a tie or a squeaker of a win for the Storm.  I believe that if RIM can update their BB 4.7 OS to fix the areas I have issue with, the BB Music player will be excellent.  Also, I know that Pocket Tunes currently supports Palm OS and Windows Mobile.  If my friends at Normsoft want to start porting Pocket Tunes over to the Storm, send me an email 😉

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