Of the built-in apps offered up by Apple in iOS, the default Music app offers one of the better experiences. The minimal design and easy-to-use interface provides iPad users everything they need to listen to their music. However, one of great things about the App Store is that if you that don’t care for the app that’s been offered up by Apple, there are plenty of third-party alternatives available.
If you’re into Microsoft’s Modern UI, then Track 8 is a great option. If you like a lot of bells and whistles in your music player, perhaps Groove 2 is more to your liking. If you’re a fan of bare bones minimal design and gestures, then CarTunes is may just be the music player app you’ve been waiting for. Join us after the jump to learn much more.
Regardless if you use CarTunes in portrait or landscape mode, the interface is divided into two sections: library and player. The library displays all of the music stored on your iPad, and is divided up into five sections including songs, albums, artists, playlists and podcasts. The player section displays information about the song you’re playing, including a progress bar, song title, band name, album name and the album art.
What’s really interesting about the interface is how if changes when you rotate the iPad. Unlike most apps that simply rotate as the iPad is being turned, the interface layout is unique for all four available positions. If you’re holding it in portrait mode with the home button at the bottom, the library displays on the top and the player on the bottom. If you rotate the iPad around so that the home bottom is at the top, the player is then displayed at the top and the library on the bottom. It’s a nice feature because it provides a lot of options, but it can be annoying if the setup you like isn’t at a convenient orientation.
By default, CarTunes opens up to the Song section of the library, displaying all of your songs in alphabetical order. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide a search option, so if you want to find a song quickly, it’s best to tap and hold the song’s first letter in the side navigation bar and slide up or down until you find your desired song. To play a song, you only need to tap it.
The way in which you use the Album and Artist sections differs from the Songs section, however, both sections function in a similar manner and display content in a grid view. If you tap on an album, you’ll transition to a new page that lists all of the songs available for the album you selected. You can play any song by tapping on it, and the remaining songs will play in the listed order (you can shuffle the songs by tapping the Shuffle icon located above the song list). To return to the main Album page, simply flick right anywhere in the library.
The Artist section displays each Artist individually, but you may see duplicate artists if you don’t have your iTunes library organized well (for shame). Tapping on an artist will transition into a new page that displays individual albums for said artist. Similar to the Albums section, tapping an album will transition into a second page that lists all the songs available for the album. If you want to return to any of the previous pages, flick right again anywhere in the library.
To quickly return to the main Artist page, you can tap the Artist icon in the navigation bar.
Overall, I really like the organization of each section. Finding tracks in the Songs section is really simple since the album art is displayed next to song, making songs easily discernible. The Album and Artists sections are not far removed from the default Music app in terms of layout, but I really like the transitions into each individual sub-page for albums and/or songs, as well as the ability to easily return to the previous page with a simple flick.
Easily my favorite feature in CarTunes is the gesture based control scheme. Unlike most music player apps that require to find and tap a button to control music, CarTunes utilizes gestures. The best part though, is that they can be performed anywhere within the player section. For example, to play and pause a song, simply tap anywhere in the player section.
If you wish to skip to the next track, flick to the left; to reverse the action and return to the previous track (or go to the beginning of the song if you’re more than couple seconds in), flick to the right. You can rewind or fast forward through a song by tapping and holding anywhere in the player and then dragging the the perspective direction (left for rewind and right for fast forward). To change the volume, again tap and hold anywhere in the player, but this time drag up or down.
When changing the volume, it’s best to tap somewhere in the middle of the screen to ensure that you alter the volume levels from maximum to minimum without having to perform the gesture more than once.
One of the really nice things about CarTunes is that you can customize quite a few things; unfortunately, you’ll need to travel to the Settings app to make any of these changes. Perhaps it’s just me, but I find it surprising when developers use this option when it’s much more convenient for the user to tap an icon to access settings from within the app.
Most of the available customization options deal with CarTune’s appearance, starting out with a variety of font options (nine in total) that range from minimal to classy to urban. In addition, you can turn off/on the progress bar and time indicators. My favorite customization is the color matching feature, which will make the progress bar and text color match a color in the album art. Finally, you can turn on a clock, which shows the current time (useful since the status bar is not visible while using CarTunes).
The Bottom Line
You’re a fan of gestures and don’t like hunting for buttons while playing your music, CarTunes offers of a great experience. The controls are intuitive and easy to remember, and the minimally designed interface offers up only the necessary information and controls; however, in my experience, the app can be a bit crash happy, especially when you exit and return to the app. In speaking with Ryan Oksenhorn (developer of CarTunes), he stated that an update will be released soon (within a week or two of this review being posted) to fix these issues.
So, until the update that will remove whatever bugs are plaguing the app’s stability is released, it may be best to hold off on purchasing CarTunes. But, when Oksenhorn gets everything cleared up, I highly recommend using CarTunes as a full-time replacement for the built-in Music app.