Sight, Sound and the Pictures: Entertainment Apps for Symbian

Posted on 11/02/2011

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As we all know, our smartphones these days are powerhouses, and have become incredible computing machines. On the flip side, this power can be harnessed for fun, as can be seen from the thriving gaming scene in mobile. Now I’m not much of a gamer, but do like to have some fun with my phone, listening to (A LOT) of music, watching videos and using the awesome camera on the N8.  So todayI bring you a themed post looking at three entertainment options for Symbian devices, centred around  Music, Movies and Photography, that enhance the way I use my smartphone for fun.

Music: Lyrics

I’m sure you will recognize the moment. Singing along to one of your favourite tracks and suddenly a line comes up and your mind goes blank. If you are like me, you’ll want to figure out what that line, or verse or chorus was. For the most part I usually jump into the browser and Google the song. Then have to sift through a number of ‘lyrics’ website, usually serving up pages with annoying pop ups and even the absence of the promised lyrics. By the time I find the right song, the moment will probably have passed. Lyrics by MusiXmatch, is a stunningly simple and elegant cross platform solution that aims to cure your lyrics woes. And succeed. The app is based around the principle of simplicity, and succeeds by finding the lyrics you need quickly. When starting up the app, the first thing you notice is the styling, which is based on the unique Metro UI that drives Microsoft’s Windows Phones OS. So it’s big fonts all round and side swiping. You are greeted with a chart of the most popular lyrics. Swipe left and and you are presented with a list of all tracks on device and a search bar that filters tracks by title. Swipe left again and a general search page to search the musiXmatch database. All of these gestures are smooth meaning you can find what you want quickly, data connection permiting and of course the availability of lyrics you want.

Overview of musiXmatch

The power of musiXmatch however is apparent when you are actually listening to music. The bottom toolbar is now replaced with music playercontrols. Brilliant.

Playback controls in Lyrics

So lets revisit the scenario presented above. You are listening to a track. In my case (shameless plug for an awesome band) ‘Let’s play guitar in a five guitar’ by Minus the Bear. I’ve misseda lyric and I open up Lyrics. Tap on the song title and the app in a matter of seconds presnts the lyrics to me. What’s even better is that with dedicated music controls keys in the app, I can quickly go back to the start of the song before searching for the lyrics. In song lyrics view, the Metro style UI  is used to good effect. Swipe left here and yiu get a short bio of the band. Swipe left again and you are presented with an alphabetized list of other tracks by the artist on the musiXmatch database.

Lyrics, Bio and More view

As I said, simple, effective and a looker to boot as well.

Version: 1.1.2
Buy/Download Link: http://store.ovi.com/content/112611
Score: 85%

Movies: Cine Whiz

Something sorely lacking on Symbian at the moment is an app for the excellent Internet Movie Database (IMDB), your one stop access for all the information you could want on pretty much any movie, cast lists, reviews, release dates, trailers, it’s all there. While we wait (and wait), help is at hand. Alongside IMDB the exists a community driven alternative called The Open Movie Database (TMDB), in their own words:

themoviedb.org is a free and open movie database. It’s completely user driven by people like you. TMDb is currently used by millions of people every month and with our and powerful API, also used by many popular media centers like MoovidaXBMCPlex,MythTV and MediaPortal.

And while browsing around the Nokia Store I chanced upon a client for the service, Cine Whiz, updated yesterday to v 1.1.0 Cine Whiz takes it’s design cues from the TMDb site design so it is instantley familiar for themoviedb.org frequenters and also means lots of green all round!

Cine Whiz Landing Page

Search can be achieved two ways. First the standard keyword feature for movie titles or people. Results are presented below the search bar with side scrollable thumbnail lists. Tapping on a thumbnail brings up a brief movie listing, title, movie ttpe, rating, synopsis and some meta data, budget, box office takings. Below this are two buttons for viewing the crew annd associated images The crew page is a simple text list and images are just thumbnails, no tapping through to view full size images.

Search and Film View

Crew and Gallery

Alternatively if are just looking to browse with no specific title in mind, there”s a general movie filter, where you can select genres, and rating and release date cut-off. Results can be sorted by rating, release dat or title, in ascending or descending order. This works pretty it must be said.

Film Browsing

Overall I must say I am impressed with Cine Whiz. I have been looking for a decent film app for a while now and this does the job. I would like to see some sharing options and support for TMDB accounts to rate movies on device.

Version: 1.1.0
Buy Link: http://store.ovi.com/content/212174
Score: 75%

Photography: Camera Bag

Instagram has a lot to answer for. Everywhere you look on every network, and even on dedicated photo sharing sites like Flickr you find many mangled enhanced photos where people have applied filters like Lomo, Helga, Old School etc. And it’s all Instagrams fault. On one level, proper photographers cringe when laymen butcher a perfectly good photo by applying these filters. But you know what it’s a bit of fun in my view. Most of these photos end up on Facebook which applies it’s own harsh compression anyway, so the photos that are visible are ultimately never as great as the original anyway. I wouldn’t hang these on my wall in the lounge mind you. Instagram is sadly iOS only but we now have MoloMe on Symbian, Android and Blackberry which achieves much the same as Instagram with cross compatibilty to boot. It has it’s own sharing capabilities, with fellow Molo users, and MoloMe can dump a link onto Facebook and Twitter.

I’m not a fan of MoloMe though or the extended social network idea. I could never find a way to just apply a filter and save to disk without first having to submit to MoloMe. I prefer to just be able to apply my filters and decide where I send them. I just never got on with the all or nothing approach.

For that reason I use Camera Bag.

Camera Bag is a clean looking simple app, previously on iOS. It launches to a blank canvas of sorts. The bottom toolbar has selection icons, for Camera, Sharing, Save and Photos.

Camera Bag Interface

The camera icon opens a minimalist camera interface, with going anticlockwise a  zoom slider, a capture key, cancel  buttob and a camera switch for front or rear camera. The main shutter key is disabled, and there’s no focusing possible. Once a shot is taken, you are taken to preview mode with only two buttons on the right hand side, Use or Retake. Tap on Use returns to the main screen which now serves as the filter selector. Filters are changed by swiping left or right through the 11 possible filters. Illustrated below (excuse the doughty subject) in the following order Helga, Colourcross, Lolo, Plastic, Magazine, Instant, Silver, Mono, 1962, 1974 and Cinema.

                    

Once the desired effect is found, the image can be saved to the gallery. Tapping on the final icon, brings up the Gallery. With a lot of large images, this does take a while to populate so some patience is required here. Tapping a photo opens it up to be edited like a snapped photo.

Saved Image View

I much prefere this no strigs attached approach to creating images but here the weakness comes through. There literally is no sharing facility in the app other than via Email. Luckily sharing to Facebook or Twitter is something Symbian handles well if you have logged in to the Social client. This sends images to Twitpic or Mobile Uploads folder in Facebook. Alternatively just use Gravity with it’s awesome photo upload interface.

Overall, there is a nice selection of filters, simplicity though using captured images could be faster.

Version: 1.0.1
Buy Link: http://store.ovi.com/content/139420
Score: 70%