As part of TDL’s mobile podcast team, I was delighted when Ian asked for a review of a new Android book (by Fiona Gatt) entitled Turn your Android Phone or Tablet into a Multimedia Hub (available on Amazon in the UK here). As listeners to the podcast will know, I’m a big fan of accessing media on the move – particularly on mobile devices. As the proud owner of an Android phone and tablet (amongst others) I was eager to see if anything had passed me by in this regard on Android. I should point out that, as the owner of numerous iOS devices and with a Windows Media Center / Windows Phone 7 combination in the mix, I’ve always felt Android the poor relation in terms of media playback (video in particular). I had high hopes this book would see my perspective on Android as a media hub change. No pressure then.
The book sets things up nicely immediately, pointing out that all the recommended apps are free (or at least have free variants). This made me feel I wanted to read the book even more as there would be virtually no risk in trying the suggestions.
The review copy I had was pretty concise, running to around 50 pages and covering 9 applications (10 if you are to include Doubletwist Airsync as a separate app to doubletwist). The final copy has even more I believe, including tips for audiobooks and podcasts as well as how to get more from YouTube. In terms of the copy I had, there weren’t many apps I hadn’t come across, but there were some great tips that I wasn’t aware of for those I knew. So this book would offer something to more experienced Android media consumers as well as being a tremendous resource for those new to media on the Android platform. All apps are really well covered, and I think the book strikes a good balance in terms of covering media types (music, video, Internet radio, pictures, spoken word). My only reservation would be, having tried some of these apps previously and been disappointed with the overall experience in terms of playback and reported functionality (particularly on the video side), I would have liked to have seen a little more in this book outlining some of the limitations you’re likely to experience when you actually use them. Specifically, whilst support of many codecs is great for a video app it’s still frustrating if the actual experience is far from perfect in terms of playback quality and reliability and it would be nice to be prepared for it. That said, I’m possibly being a little unfair as this is based this on my own experience with a limited number of devices; this experience may not translate across to others. But I think it’s fair to say the apps are presented in the best possible way and my practical experience with some of them fell a little way short.
Overall, I would very much recommend this book to anyone who wants to get the most from their Android devices in terms of media consumption. Some fantastic apps are covered in a way that outlines how to get the most out of them and with all the apps covered being free, there really isn’t much to lose. As well a great source of information, this also acts as a clear reference guide to setting the apps up. And at £2.13 for the Kindle edition, it’s well worth the investment.
For me personally, media on Android still needs some work when compared to other platforms, but this guide will go a long way to making sure you get the most out of what it has to offer and is well worth checking out.