Delving into the world of fake-retro iPhone music player apps

Nov 11, 2011
Music

One app would mean that someone thought up a novel idea and even though it’s only cosmetically useful, ran with their dream to make their app and now you can download it in the App Store. Even five apps would make some sense. Four other people see the original app via friends of friends or […]

One app would mean that someone thought up a novel idea and even though it’s only cosmetically useful, ran with their dream to make their app and now you can download it in the App Store.

Even five apps would make some sense. Four other people see the original app via friends of friends or a website and then they decide to recreate it with some minor changes and call it their own.

But what excuse could you possibly have as a developer for looking at the App Store, typing in either “vinyl” or “cassette,” and then, upon viewing the dozens of results, decide to make another skin to play the music on your iPod app while a record spins around.

There’s absolutely no way I can work my way through every single one of these vinyl-imitting apps – the price alone would end up costing me a crate of very real records. But I figured I’d take the time and this space to peruse a handful to see what makes these so different and special.

Love music apps? Create your very own list of music apps here.

Let’s start with VinylLove Pocket ($1.99), an app I have the most familiarity with because I reviewed it a few months ago. VinylLove is neither the cheapest nor priciest of the vinyl-skin apps, but I actually admire that it is kind of difficult to use. You actually have to lift the needle to change tracks, and you can’t skip around once you put a song on. At the very least that’s a respectable amount of authenticity.

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Then there’s the artfully titled Vinyl ($2.99), which ups the price a buck but gives you a little more control over fast-forwarding and rewinding songs. It also has a few neat controls for scratching, making it a slightly more customizable experience. It’s also cool that it superimposes the album cover over the label on the record, but again, is this something you’re actually paying attention to when you’re listening to music on your iPhone?

This weird retro-skin craze doesn’t end with vinyl either. Although I could cover the numerous other vinyl-oriented apps, let’s move on to cassettes. Which are also retro and hip but don’t really seem to spin around like records, which would seem to make them much less visually interesting. That is until you remember that parts of a cassette do spin – the part that holds the tape.

AirCassette ($1.99) wisely milks that spinning look for every penny it’s worth. There aren’t too many special features to see here, but you can share what your listening to with friends, and send them an iTunes link to download the song themselves, which is a nice idea, too.

Cassette Player ($0.99) on the other hand, feels clunky and a bit obnoxious next to AirCassette. Rather than cool looking “hand written” artist, album and song titles, the tapes on Cassette Player look like they were titled with a label maker. And there is no sharing to speak of, which means Cassette Player really is just an ugly skin for your iPod.

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But hold the phone, it’s not just cassettes and records that are retro-cool these days. Your CDs are coming back, too. No, seriously, CD Player ($0.99) takes you back to that nostalgic time like ten years ago, before you even knew what an MP3 player was. We were just kids back then.

The most disappointing feature of CD Player however, isn’t that it exists, but rather that it doesn’t even have a single cool “visualization” to stare at while you rock out. Putting in a CD into your parent’s computer for the first time and discovering all of the weird, psychedelic backgrounds felt like a watershed moment as a kid. If you’re going to tread on the nostalgia of the not-so-distant past, you should at least bring along all of the cool parts.

Please consider this column an open letter, no, a plea, to app developers everywhere. Stop making these retro music skins unless you’re going to do something very cool with them. Like maybe add some smoke effects to a classic WinAmp Visualization. Now you’re talking.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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