Music on smartphones, song IDs and a podcast primer
Bob's Tech Talk
Q. I have used an iPod for years, but now that I carry a smartphone, I’d like to use it for music. What is the best way to do that?
A. Any smartphone can replace an iPod. To get started, try installing the music you already own onto your phone using the same connection formerly used for the iPod. Moving from an iPod to an iPhone is very simple, since everything is managed via iTunes. Moving from an iPod to Android may require a new app, but generally it can be done.
Where smartphones surpass the iPod is their ability to use streaming music services. These services deliver music catalogs with tens of millions of different songs, turning your smartphone into a universal jukebox. The three big streaming music services are Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora. Each of them has different strengths, but they all deliver first class experiences. All three offer generous free trials to let you explore their options in depth. Apple (apple.com/music/) tends to be the easiest to use, so I would start there if you are already an Apple customer. Spotify (spotify.com) is a step up and works on both iPhone and Android. They have a larger catalog, and more options for sharing playlists with your friends. Pandora (pandora.com) does not have a giant catalog, but they generate excellent playlists. If you love music as much as I do, I recommend trying these services.
Q. Sometimes I hear a song that I would like to add to my music collection. What is the best way to find a song’s name?
A. The time-honored answer is a Google search. Choose a lyric phrase of at least three or four words. Nearly any short phrase will work. To help Google find the best answer, enter the phrase inside quote marks, then the word lyrics, exactly like this: “walk right through my shoes” lyrics. The quote marks tell Google to find the exact phrase, so spelling counts. Adding the word lyrics (or an artist’s name) will focus the search. This works nearly every time.
Most modern smartphones can find songs with voice commands. There are subtle differences depending on the smartphone model, but the basics are the same. Both Siri on Apple and Google Assistant on Android will try to find a song by listening to it for a few seconds. Tell Siri, “Hey Siri, Shazam this song,” or tell Google Assistant, “OK Google, Shazam this song.” The phone will listen for a few seconds, then tell you the name of the song. Shazam, which is also available as a standalone app, is a service that delivers this capability. I have tried this countless times, sometimes in very noisy places, and it works about 90 percent of the time. Practice with songs you already know. Next time you will know what to do when you hear that perfect song.
Q. I would like to add some variety to the things I listen to while driving. I enjoy music, but I like stories as well. I have heard about podcasts, but do not know what they are. Can you help?
A. Most podcasts are spoken word audio programs that are produced on a regular schedule and automatically delivered to your computer or smartphone. Podcasts have been around for well over a decade, but the smartphone and a few successful programs have helped them find a broader audience in the last few years.
In many ways podcasts are similar to the way traditional radio sounded in its early days. Advertising is minimal, quality varies, and yet good podcasts still deliver a personal, satisfying listening experience. We are in the middle of a golden age of podcasts.
You do not have to have a smartphone in order to get started, but podcasts and smartphones are natural together. If you have an iPhone, start with the standard built-in app Podcasts. On Android, my favorite is an app called Pocket Casts. If you are on a personal computer, the best place to start on Mac or Windows is iTunes. Each of these programs offers a catalog of shows that you can subscribe to, all free. I’ll share a few of my personal favorites below.
A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at email@example.com.
Wander the Web
In Our Time - Science, Religion, History and Culture
“In Our Time” is one of my favorite podcasts. Some podcasts are downloadable versions of radio broadcasts, and this is an excellent example of how moving online can be an improvement. The website includes access to over 500 back episodes, and on demand access makes your smartphone or computer act like a TiVo for radio. I am sorry for the cryptic URL, it is the only one available.
Podcasts with a Focus on Tech
Podcast topics range far beyond tech, but this is a tech column, so I am compelled to point out two of the best collections of tech-related podcasts, Relay and 5by5. Noteworthy programs include “Clockwise” and “The Critical Path.”
Is This Thing On?
isitdownrightnow.com is the first site to check if you suspect that while your internet connection is working, your favorite site is offline. It lists most of the major sites on its home page, and it will also search and report on any specific site by request.