So I took some time to work with this topic. I upgraded my Samsung Focus to 32GB anticipating the use of this device to replace or at least supplement my Zune64HD. I have been using the Zune system (players and software plus Zune Pass) since Gen1 Brown Zune. Admittedly I don’t like the Zune, iPOD/iTUNES device management concept but the days of my iRIVER are over, right?!
I do like the Zune software and marketplace. I have used an iPOD and while the device was nice I deplore the iTunes software. Yes I am running it on a PC, not a Mac so that is probably to be expected. My biggest annoyance with Zune is using the software on multiple machines. Primarily with the Zune Pass music in my collection. One of the steps of building a new Zune is restoring all of the Zune Pass content related to your account. So it knows what content you have access to, why do I have to manually perform the steps to download it? Now that I have two machines (desktop and laptop), why doesn’t my collection on one machine update when my account shows activity or recent history? Yes I could move my Zune collection to a shared drive, and I did that at first, but with all of the talk regarding “cloud” computing this seems like a no-brainer.
Okay, so back to the post. I wanted to see if I could go with just my Windows Phone 7 device, leaving my Zunes home and safely in their cradle. The normal routine is listening to podcasts during the morning hours and then eventually playing a playlist until I get in the car for the ride home.
Unable to fit my whole collection on this device I created an “Auto” playlist that is comprised of all the songs in my collection that I have marked as liked and named it “Phone Playlist”. That is very nice feature as it allows me to keep the playlist current without managing the actual playlist. I set that to synch to my phone and then configured all Podcasts to synch to my Windows Phone device. All loaded up and ready to go.
After a few weeks, my observation is that this will not replace my Zune. Yes it is very convenient, especially when a phone call comes in, the media pauses automatically, the call is tended to and when the call is ended the media picks right up. The menu system, as the Zune interface always has, works for me and I find it easy and intuitive to navigate my collection for podcasts or music.
Where it fails is playback. Now I have to admit that I added memory to my device via MicroSD. For that reason my results might be expected and certainly fall into an unsupportable situation. That said, I have found that playing music the playback will begin to skip and stutter near the end of the track. This does not occur on every song and I really have not been able to piece together any real pattern. I remember that the early Zune had a similar issue that was quickly addressed and resolved with a firmware fix.
Another playback failure is video podcasts. I have always had an issue with how Zune handled video, such as the play stopping when you lock the screen. This is especially true with video podcasts. Most of them seem to have gone video for no specific purpose (my guess would be ego) and are just a waste of bandwidth. However I have found playback of these podcasts (using Redeye or even Microsoft’s Channel 9 Hot Apps) quickly becomes skewed where the video does not match the audio. I had seen something similar on my Zune64 with a few CNET podcasts (again, there is really no reason most of them are video) but just wrote it off to “HD” or not.
Since this is about the Zune-like features of Windows Phone, I have to gripe about the connector. I have a nice cradle for my Zunes, makes it so easy to synch my device up, even use my small zune as the media source for my alarm clock. On this phone device there is no such connector. Just one more cable to keep track of and playing connection carousel with my connected USB ports. Yes it is nice that they are using a standard connection as I have usable cables and chargers from my Blackberry Storm and Motorola Droid so if I lose one I should be able to find another. I bought a bundle with my Zune 64 that included HDMI out, would’ve been nice to provide that capability with Windows Phone 7.
I upgraded the OEM ear buds with microphone to a pair of Skull Candy Full Metal Jacket which work very nicely. However I was a big fan of the Zune premium ear buds and hoping they offer a new model of those with microphone and media controls soon.
It hasn’t been a complete loss. Considering this is a phone, camera, internet access device the general media player features are admirable, just need some refinement.
Update: I had to include a recent article on wpcentral as it talks about the Sound issues and it might not be limited to the Samsung Focus.
Update: I did fail to update this one. NoDo update did seem to resolve the audio stutter and video playback issues.