cubed

Interview with Creator of 3 (cubed) Music Player

May 24, 2010 - Written By Mike Corbett

Tell Android Fans a Little about 3 music player

– ³ (aka Cubed) is an alternative music player for Android that explores
different ways of visualizing (and playing) your music library. It is in
some ways an experimental app, which is free and also open source.

What got you started developing Android Applications?

I got into Android first at work. As I saw the platform evolve I got
ever more curious about it, and one day decided to start develop apps on
my own spare time. I got to say it has been a fun ride and I have
learned lots.

How did you come up with the idea to develop 3 music player?

Well, as much as one can admire the Android platform and its philosophy,
it still has many imperfections. The music player is one of them. The
stock app that shipped in 1.1/5/6 was truly uninteresting, both visually
and feature-wise. In 2.1 the music app got a little bit of a face lift
which makes it much more appealing but, still, it could be much more.
The alternative options on the Market are also not that good. There a
couple of innovative ideas such as lyric overlay, social interaction and
recommendation engines, but I always felt they lacked polish and
innovation on the UI side. So, I decided to explore this topic. I wanted
to make a player that was so fun to look at and use and that people
would listen to music as an excuse to use the app  (yep, this is a
bit of an exaggeration, but gives an idea of the motivation). Sometimes
you want to listen to music, but you don’t really know what music exactly
and find it cumbersome to scroll through all these letters where your
artists are sorted out. Personally find it much more relaxing to go
through a list of album covers and then let the album art influence your
instant mood. It doesn’t work perfectly all the time though. When you
just want to find a particular album fast then ³ might not be the most
obvious or effective choice, but I also tried to cover that in the app
by having a easily accessible search function.

3 music player is getting recognition, are you surprised by the popularity?

– I am. Even though I believe the app has quality and can be an
alternative to the top music apps on the Market, I was a bit surprised
by the recent popularity. To give you an idea I published the first
(very alpha) version of ³ sometime in December ’09. By the 20th of March
it had some 10k downloads and only a few very helpful users that were
constantly sending me feedback. Today, less than two months after, it
crossed the 100k download mark. This was fueled mainly by media coverage
in the end of March which helped ³ climb high enough in the Market
rankings to a point where it can now sustain 1-2k downloads a day.

What’s your personal favourite feature in your app?

That’s hard , I would have to say the smoothness with which you can
scroll through the album covers. That is what still puts a smile on my
face when I use it. It is also something you don’t see in many other apps
even when scrolling in plain lists with only a couple of images. I also
love the concert companion app feature, although I haven’t been able to
give it as much love as I have given to the ‘main’ app.

What’s something you want to fix?

I wanted to get playlists right, which I think I haven’t yet. I have
never been much of a playlist’er myself and this was probably my
least used feature in music apps, which probably explains why this is
not so well done in ³.

Is there something you can’t fix but wish you could?

Well… the lock screen is a complete hack. I bet the guys at Google
hate it as much as I do. I would love to have some public, explicit apis
for implementing a proper lock screen. Also would love public apis for
an equalizer.

How did you come up with the name 3 music player?

At the time I was working on the concept with a fellow designer (Jack)
and I don’t remember exactly but I think this was his idea. I was
amazed! It was the perfect name (at the time we had only the Cube view,
so ³, or cubed, was a perfect match to the app concept). The only
drawback is that you can’t search it on the Market by that name, no
Android keyboard has the ³ symbol   At the time I did not worry too
much about it as I was too busy thinking of how cool it sounded and
looked like. Now I get an email complaining about the name twice a week
(Tip: you can find it on the  market by searching for  any of these
terms ‘cubed music player’, ‘rockonnggl’, ‘abrantix’, ‘abrantes’).

What do you think sets 3 music player apart from other music apps, we do have a stock one on the phone?

Definitely the UI. If you are looking for something different, ³ is
certainly the app to try out.

What new features can you share with android users that will be coming to 3 music player?

I’m working on a song view (in addition to album and artist that are
already available), and starting to think about how the equalizer UI
might look like  (yeah, and crossing my fingers that the APIs are
released with 2.2). Apart from that you can always expect a new view
mode or theme every now and then. All I can say for now .

Have you been working on a new version for Android 2.2?

Not really, no. I’m still clueless of what 2.2 will bring to the table.
The expectations are pretty high though.

Are you thinking of doing other apps in the future?

I have just started developing a game last week, which I have been
planning for a few months now. I expect to have a first demoable version
after the Summer.

What do find is the easiest thing about developing for android compared to other Mobile OS’s?

Well, the documentation is pretty decent. The tools are awesome and
cross platform, and the review process is non-existent, so you can
basically put out a very alpha version on the Market and the users will
help you drive the development. I love it. When I first published ³ on
the Market it basically played just one song. And it took off from there
always with the help from the community of users.

What can be the most frustrating part of developing on the android OS & How does all the different versions of Android OS affect you development of apps?

Yes, fragmentation is the most frustrating bit. There are lots of phones
and manufacturer specific add-ons. I actually think that screen size
diversity has been handled properly by the Android team. But still you
always get reports of things that do not work on specific phones. As an
independent developer it is very hard for you to track down all these
problems when you have 1, 2 phones at most.

What would you like to see in future Android OS versions or Changes?

Equalizer API, LockScreen API. JIT compiler and faster Garbage
collector. BitmapFactory methods that accept pre-allocated memory. An
openGL convenience API wouldn’t hurt either. And hoping that they
don’t make flash support as the flagship feature after all this
Apple/Adobe fuss. Can I ask for more? Shared Preference support across
multiple processes, better font rendering API (nice bevel/emboss,
gradients, etc), nicer looking Menus (and some automated way of making
menu icons)… it’s always easy to ask for stuff.

What is your opinion on the Android Market? positive and negative?

It is great that you can publish your apps very early and build your app
almost together with the user community.

Then there are the negative aspects, lack of a decent desktop/web
client, lack of decent Android app (have you noticed how the Market app
lags in almost every listing it shows). Finally, Market rankings and
featured apps. Google does the best search engine there is, yet app
ranking on the Market is flawed in so many ways. I will just give you an
example: if you go to the Multimedia category, Imeem Mobile is still
ranked in the top10 after it has been acquired by MySpace already months
ago. If you go through the comments you ll see 1 star ratings one after
the other every single day. Somehow, the Market has a problem forgetting
history. Then you have the featured apps. They are so static and the
choice of the apps that are featured seems so random… lots to improve
there.

What kind of Android Phone do you use personally?

I’m currently using an N1 and occasionally a G1 I have access at work.

What new phone from Android has you the most excited?

The EVO 4G.

Besides Your Own Apps, which apps do you use most on your Android Phone?

In games we have Abduction and Hyperspace, they are both a little old by
now but they were just so well made that I always mention them. The new
Twitter client has also great potential despite its current drawbacks. I
also love Twicca, which is blazing fast and elegant. The stock Gallery
app (Gallery3D) on 2.1 is great, and I wish (as an Android user) that
Cooliris does something similar for the music player (even though it
would probably kill ³). Then there is PicSay, a very solid photo editing
app and the remote control apps such as Boxee, or iTunes remote that I
use frequently at home. And AppBrain, a must have for discovering new apps.