November 29, 2014

App Review: 3 (Cubed)

Back in fledgling days of Android, you may remember (if you were around) a paid music player replacement app called RockOn Music Player from developer Filipe Abrantes.  It used  a graphic UI for navigation and had a new and exciting look that was a big improvement on the stock player, it imported album art for you, and it allowed you to search for upcoming local shows via integration with Last.fm.

Now I am happy to say that the next evolution of music player from Filipe Abrantes, titled “3” (or cubed), is available in beta form from the Android market. In  recent conversation, he mentioned this project has been a collaborative effort, pulling in the skills of everyday Android users and friends who simply wanted to help out (João Seabra, Michael Lovett, Bruno Pugliesi, Henning Stummer to name but a few).

Admittedly the developer has stated that this will be replacing RockOn, which will be pulled from the market within the next two months.   However, in addition to being a replacement for an aging application, the developer has announced that  “3” will be free and, for all you developers out there, the app is open source!  (The source code is available here.)

So what makes “3” so great?  Features.

Let’s talk UI.  Have you seen the stock android music player?  Functional yes, but visually boring.  Not exactly something you pull out and show people to impress them.  Enter “3.”  One of the most visually stimulating music interfaces I have ever seen on a cell phone.   Album artwork (which can be imported using the application) is placed on the panels of a 3-dimensional cube.  By swiping your finger up or down on the cube you rotate it and move through the artists and albums alphabetically.  Above the cube are the controls (standard skip forward and back, repeat, shuffle, play, and pause).  Below the cube is a spyglass icon used for searching for an artist or album, the name of the current track playing, and a queue icon which allows you to add the current song to a play queue, thereby creating a playlist.  In addition to displaying the name of the current track a soft grey bar appears below the name, and you can use this to scrub through the song.

The cube UI of “3” goes beyond mere novelty.  A swipe of your finger on the cube left or right will cycle through letters of the alphabet and allows you to skip to that section of your loaded music without having to scroll through every album cover.  This makes navigating in “3” a breeze, and the graphics flow like water.  Sometimes I find myself putting  “3” on shuffle mode just so I can watch the cube automatically spin to the next album cover as one song ends and another begins.

If the cube is too much for you, the developer has also provided two other views which he calls “wall” (all the album thumbs laid out alphabetically in a flat view) and “boring” (a simple list view of artist and album).

One more added improvement to “3” over the stock music player (and to RockOn) is the widget it provides.  There are three different sizes that can be placed on your homescreen, all of which display the album artwork and have the full control bar that comes with the application itself!

At a glance:

Pros:      Great UI, with easy and intuitive navigation.  It has the basic controls you expect, comes loaded with an album art grabber, concert locator, multiple views, the ability to theme your album art, and a fully functional widget complete with album artwork. I encountered no force closes (promising considering the app is still in beta).

Cons:  Still lacks some basic features, such as the ability to repeat a whole album versus just one song.  Also, I wish that playlists were easier to create.

Tested on: Google Nexus One running Android 2.1 update 1

Bottom Line:  A solid app with a fresh approach to UI that makes navigating through large amounts of music a breeze. Paired with a great widget, this app is poised to be on your device for some time.  While small features do seem excluded from the current build, remember, the app is still in beta. If you find something missing, get your requests into the dev now!

Score: 4.5 droids out of 5

3 (cubed)

Additional Screenshots:

device-half-tone-franz

device-widget-medium

device-wall


  • http://www.jonnylam.com Jonathan

    Has the sorting issue with artists been fixed? I tried it last week, but stuck with the stock player because it seemed slightly more efficient and is integrated into the dock screen. It was also a little annoying that playback didn't stop when I unplugged my headphones.

  • Kevin G.

    I've been using it for well over a week now and I haven't experienced any of those issues. True you can't use it through the dock screen though.

  • Will

    Excellent recommendation, I just downloaded this on my Nexus One and I'm VERY impressed. I'll definitely keep checking back for updates on this app; minus a couple of small functionality omissions, this could potentially replace my stock music player very soon.

  • Talkdj

    Wish it put The Beatles in the "B"'s not the "T"'s.

  • Hoos

    I like this app a lot – have only been using it for a day and it's better than the stock player.

    I hope there will be better BT integration (A2DP) in the future – volume controls on a BT headset work fine. But the next/back buttons bring up the stock player with some other song playing. So you get two players playing different songs at the same time.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/chuckfalzone Chuck Falzone

    Great app. What's the best way to get feedback to the developer?

    He really needs to come up with a new name, tho. How is anybody going to find it/share it/talk about it when its name is a superscripted numeral? Just go with "Cubed" as the official name, that would be much better than… I don't even know how to type a superscripted 3. ^3 I guess.

    • Lars

      alt + (keypad) 0179 ;)

  • Dave

    I can't find this on the market. i have searched 3, cubed and music player. Can you tell me how it needs to be searched to locate the app on the market?

    • DB

      search for 'filipe' … it's listed as the superscript 3, not the number 3, and the market search can't associate the two.

  • Andrew K.

    I am finding that CUBED is fabricating it's own playlists based on the ID3 tags of the songs – but there is no option to delete/manage playlists. I would like to see an option to remove playlists added to this app. Otherwise – it's AWESOME!

    @Dave … for some reason the app IS incredibly hard to find. To locate it, just install Barcode Scanner, and hover over the digital UPC image above. Your android phone will then send you to (3) in the Market so you can download it.

  • simplyblue

    Can anyone advise me on how to create and manage the playlist? I seem to able to only choose from the list of playlists.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/niniii0 niniii0

    I'll definitely keep checking back for updates on this app; minus a couple of small functionality omissions, this could potentially replace my stock music player very soon.

  • minos

    This looks like a great app. Two things keep me from making it the standard music player on my HTC Legend (Europe edition) though:

    – It’s not integrated in the dock. With the stock music player, you just press the main button on top of the device, and you see the album art and controls to skip songs or stop playing, without having to unlock the phone. This would be a very handy feature for the Cubed player.

    – It doesn’t integrate with my bluetooth car stereo like the stock player does. It ought to react to the standard BT commands like “play” and “next track”

    But it is still impressive!

    • Jaap

      A previous version worked perfect with next and play. But it stopped working one update ago. Pity, especially if you use it using a bluetooth radio.

  • bruno

    nuito bom

  • RaymondP

    I’m very impressed although if obviously has a few issues like importing sounds. I should be directed only to a music folder I think. Haven’t figured out how to create playlists yet but only played with it for a few minutes. Is not better than the stock player on the Vibrant in my opinion because there is no onsreen volume control and no audio presets. Wish there were just a tad more color highlights to some of the control buttons, everything is just black. The album art does not appear in the list view. I am not uninstalling as I like the cube concept, its really different. Hope the developer expands functionality to incorporte video and podcasts.

  • Thierry Rochat

    Last version 1.0.67 has à new bug coz the volume becoming high after some seconds.I was really surprise.Hope this bug will repair soon coz this apps is really good.

  • Ken

    The feature to control music before unlocking the screen makes the whole thing worth it!

  • Jim

    [Droid-X, android 2.3]
    Unfortunately, does not play entirely nice with a “wired headset with remote”.
    Initially, it seems that the next/previous functions (double-click and triple-click on headset) don’t work. However, if you also start the “stock” music player after you have started Cubed playing [by “start”, I mean open the stock MP app, start a song playing and then pause it], then Cubed responds to the double-click/triple-click headset clicks! [kind of a waste of resources to have a background 2nd music app playing, but this part works…] One problem is that if you use the headset click to pause Cubed, if there is a long pause before restarting (single click) the music player, then it sometimes starts the stock MP playing…

    Unfortunately, there is also an issue when a call comes in… When the call comes in, you hear an audible in your headset, and one headset click allows you to take the call. When you are done with the call, if you click again to go back to Cubed, then the stock MP you have open will also start playing…

    These seem like minor issues, but they render the use of headset controls unmanageable and useless. This requires significant improvement to work as well as the iPhone….

    (I tried DroidShuffle to work with Cubed and the headset, but found the same problems occurred as without it…)

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  • DocL

    Still interested in info which goes beyond the track / album listing and into liner notes (session musicians, studio, date, recording engineer, location, etc.). This can make for a much improved user experience as well as to promote music discovery (other music by an artist that played on a track) and social aspect (part of sharing music is talking about who played what on which track).

    There are databases like MusicBrainz but nothing quite as advanced as GraceNote. LP was a half-hearted attempt by Apple to do this – few albums and fewer willing to pay for this extra info. apparently the photos etc. are part of the IP which the rec co’s own so not really possible to get 100% and painful transcription of huge volumes of data which if you link it to other artists, bios, etc. gets even bigger

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