Tue 25 Nov 2008
Posted by andy under Toys
Squeezebox owners who also own iPhones or iPod Touches have been patiently awaiting the arrival of native apps to control their Squeezeboxes. The iPhone was an obvious candidate as a remote control for the Squeezebox and the iPeng web based remote interface has been available for quite some time.
While the iPeng web remote was very good, it was just too slow. Mobile Safari can only throw data around so fast.
In the last couple of weeks we suddenly have a flood of Squeezebox control apps hitting the App Store. The one I was waiting for is the native version of iPeng. It finally became available today for £5.99 ($9.99 in the US).
In summary, rawr. It is pretty much everything I hoped it would be.
If I was starting now I probably wouldn’t buy a Squeezebox Controller, the iPhone + iPeng native beats it in very nearly every respect. The only place were it doesn’t beat it is hardware buttons and the volume control.
It is still quicker to pick up the SBC and hit pause than it is to do the same on the iPhone. That is if the SBC is in its completely awake state, if it is in its first partial sleep state then the iPhone has it beat. Not that there is much in it when the SBC is fully awake. Picking up the SBC and hitting pause takes a second or so. With the iPhone if iPeng was the last app loaded then it takes 2-3 seconds, if another app was loaded you need to add another couple of seconds.
The volume control has similar issues, but also suffers because it works the same as the iPhone’s iPod app volume control, I wish it worked more like a Windows slider control. I shouldn’t have to carefully click on the thumb and slide, I should be able to click to the right of the thumb a couple of times to boost the volume a bit.
You can navigate via all the expected routes:
- by artist
- by album
- by the normal Internet radio menu (complete with AlienBBC and iPlayer if you have them installed)
- by searching (with keyboard input, and quick matching, the results update as you type)
- by genre (quite who browses this way I don’t know)
- by favourites
- by playlists
- by “new music”
- by podcasts (not sure how that works, my menu is empty)
- by last.fm and Pandora (both listed under “Internet radio”)
It is quick and easy to toggle between “Add”, “Add next” and “Play”. There is a icon/button in the top bar that shows you the current mode and switches between them.
You can choose whether it implements some iPod-isms. In particular by default it collapses artists that have only a single album down to “Artist->Tracks” instead of “Artist->Album->Tracks”, thankfully you can turn this off. You can also decide whether playing a track in an album just plays that track or the rest of the album.
Fast forward and rewind work better than on the SBC, using SC 7.3 at least. I was skipping back and forth within iPlayer streams pretty much flawlessly.
It is also fairly configurable. Like the iPod app you can choose which items appear on the bottom toolbar.
Overall it is designed to behave much like the iPod app. On the now playing screen you swipe left and right to switch between the multiplayer screen, current track details and current playlist details.
On the multiplayer screen you can sync players quickly, adjust all the volumes together etc
It isn’t perfect yet, there are one or two visual bugs I have spotted. I have no doubt Jörg Schwieder, the developer, will fix them quickly and they don’t detract from the functionality.
Here are a collection of screenshots from the app: