Treo Rocks, Pops, Raps and a Whole Lot More...
While our Treo is primarily a business and personal tool providing unique mobile communication and information benefits it is undoubtedly also a terrific entertainment gadget.
I have often stated that I believe that the PalmOS is underexploited in the consumer electronics segment and that it could be used to develop superb dedicated MP3 players, ebook readers, portable movie players, handheld photo albums and game players among others. In one sense or another our Treo can be used to do all of this (and more) but it is not necessarily 'perfect' for any of them but often 'quite good' nonetheless.
People will, for example, complain that the screen is too small or that the memory even with an external SD card is too limited and that the audio jack is 2.5mm instead of 3.5mm. Ultimately it's all about making compromises such as deciding between a device sporting a large 5" screen but only 2 hours battery life on the one hand or a small 1" screen with 10 hours on the other - plus all the other variations in between. Making the right compromises and thus developing a winning product is key.
I have been thinking about this for a long time, evaluating and reviewing entertainment applications for our Treo as well as considering future hardware configuration options. Recently, the news and pictures of a (still unconfirmed) forthcoming (and rather stunning) palmOne Tungsten X (below) with a 4GB microdrive, 64MB RAM, 320x480 screen, Bluetooth, WiFi and MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV playback plus undoubtedly video and all the other standard PDA goodies (basically everything that we'd like to some day see in our Treo!) has made me reflect on the whole issue again.
If it were up to me, there are some must-have entertainment applications that should (perhaps even will) come bundled on this device - and (hint) also in our own future Treo...
- Music: Pocket Tunes Deluxe
- Movies: MMPlayer and Kinoma
- Games: Hellfire, Bejeweled2, Warfare Incorporated, WordPop and AnotherBall (a select few of the best available ones)
- Photos: SplashPhoto
- eBooks: Mobipocket and eReader Pro
- Audiobooks: Audible
The 'hottest' categories in terms of consumer electronics are undoubtedly MP3 players (aka the iPod) and handheld games (aka Sony PSP). My current preference is MP3 music on my Treo so let me take a moment to take you through Pocket Tunes and explain why at least for me it has meant that my iPod will soon finds its way on eBay and why I think that if properly priced and marketed this forthcoming Tungsten X may find its way into quite a few hands.
The Perfect MP3 Player with Pocket-Tunes Deluxe
At its most basic, Pocket Tunes Deluxe is 'simply' an MP3, WMA, Ogg Vorbis or WAV audio player. However this is about as descriptive as me stating that a car has four wheels. Pocket Tunes has features that go well beyond just playing music and which combined with my Treo have made my listening experience feel 'deluxe' indeed thanks to its simplicity, ease of use and elegant interface design. Let's have a look at a few of the .
There are many skins available for Pocket Tunes but the standard 'Hi-Fidelity' one that I use above is by far my favourite as I consider it to be the most Treo-optimized one with all buttons easily thumb-accessible at the bottom of the screen. Additionally, the 5Way buttons support is brilliantly simple and intuitive with a) up/down volume controls; b) left/right single press skipping to previous/next song; c) left/right hold fast forwarding or backwarding the single audio file and d) center press for play/pause/stop [alternatively you can also swap the 5Way axes in General Preferences].
The other preference that I discovered almost by accident and which I now can't live without - or more precisely sleep without - is the 'Stop playing after XX minutes' function which I set at 20 when I'm safely tucked in bed and want that time to read with music or simply to count my sheeps with some background music.
Combined with Bob's Alarm which I reviewed a few days ago I get the full cycle of wake up, play/work and sleep to my favourite tunes.
Another one of Pocket Tunes' preferences is to have a Console pop-up which you can activate with either of the four main application buttons on your Treo. You use it when you've enabled background playback and would like to quickly access pTunes music controls while in another application.
Next on the list is the fact that as we all know music or more precisely audio content is becoming ever more pervasive and taking different flavours. MP3, Podcasts, radio programs and audiobooks as well as streaming radio are just a few. However, Pocket Tunes has a unique solution for each of them.
For example, Pocket Tunes makes it easier to listen to your Podcasts, radio programs and audiobooks via a secondary Hi-Fidelity skin which provides you with the facility to jump forward and/or backward in 15sec, 30sec, 1min, 2mins, and 5mins increments - a bit like TiVo's hack for commercial skipping. The skins can be easily swapped in Tools > Change Skin.
You would like to listen to Shoutcast streaming radio while on the go? No problem with Pocket Tunes. In fact it's incredibly simple and Jonathan already reviewed it before (Streaming Audio on your Treo with Pocket Tunes 3.0) so I won't delve on this again.
Lastly, but most importantly is the entire MP3 playback experience and Pocket Tunes again delivers a superior one. I find it funny how most people who own an iPod tell me that they listen to it in 'shuffle' mode and I've always wondered if it's because they enjoy it that way or simply because they find it too complicated to find the songs they actually want to listen to. Having experienced it firsthand I'm inclined to think that it's because it's too complex.
Sure, there's some music that I like to listen to in shuffle mode as well but at the same time I'm an avid classical and jazz music lover which I prefer to listen sequentially or shuffled by album respectively. Sure, I could spend hours (or waste them depending on your definition) creating and sorting hundreds of playlists but I don't have the time! Here's where Pocket Tunes comes into the real action for me.
Clicking the bottom left button with an arrow pointing upwards opens the 'Choose Songs' screen. The top right pull down menu offers four choices to find music located on your 1) Palm; 2) SD Card (SanDisk 1GB here); 3) a list of the Internet Audio links which have been downloaded and 4) an All category.
Selecting music found on your Treo SD card is easy as you simply navigate the folders where you've placed them. In my case I've created two folders called Music and Station Ripper (see Treo Station Ripper post) both of which contain additional subfolders with complete albums and individual stations respectively. With two or three thumbstrokes I can quickly get to whichever music I'm looking for.
The 'All' category provides five additional browsing functions. The first, 'All Content' simply list literally all the music found on either your Treo or SD card - this is ideal to quickly shuffle your entire contents. The second, third and fourth consist of 'Artist', 'Album' and 'Genre' which will list the respective folders. Finally, the fifth, 'Playlists' allows you to use your existing ones as well as to quickly create new selections based on the music on your Treo and SD card.
Armed with a Treo 650, Pocket Tunes Deluxe installed, one or two (or like me three) 1GB SD cards, an SD card reader, a retractable 2.5mm stereo headset (I have been delighted with these for months) and perhaps one or two complimentary applications like Bob's Alarm that integrate with Pocket Tunes' mp3 playback capabilities, I personally feel that I've got the best portable music player (and smartphone!) in the world.
Let me and your fellow Treonauts know what your own thoughts are by answering the short survey below.
Treonauts have plenty of reasons to feel the best...