Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone: Audio

Nokia Lumia 928

Nokia Lumia 928One of the primary uses of my iPhone is to play various types of audio – podcasts, audio books, and music. So when moving from the iPhone 4S to the Nokia Lumia 928 I want to keep these functions. I’ll break down current state of these three areas for me and cover audio in general at the end.

Podcasts

Let’s start with the worst of Windows Phone audio abilities. I use Downcast on my iPhone and it works great. I automatically download new episodes of podcasts I’ve subscribed to and they get added to playlists which are further sorted. It also supports playback at faster speeds. Downcast is by no means the only iOS podcast app with these abilities. Instacast is a competitor.

Nothing on Windows Phone even comes close. I’ve tried a couple apps: “Podcast” and “Slapdash” which are both free. I’ve had issues with both, even for the basic stuff like subscriptions and playback. Neither approaches the podcast management of Downcast so I haven’t aggressively looked for work-arounds or fixes.

My iPhone remains my podcast player. Hopefully things will improve for podcasts on the Windows Phone front. I paid for downcast and I’m willing to pay for a podcast app on Windows Phone. But none of the ones I’ve tried are worth paying for. And the remaining ones in the Microsoft store don’t seem to come close either.

Audio books

While podcast apps are the bottom of the barrel on Windows Phone, audio books have risen to the top. For me, audio books mean Audible and this completely meets my needs on Windows Phone. The Windows Phone does not support all the iOS features but luckily it has all the ones I want. Whispersync doesn’t work on Windows Phone. While the ability to sync playback locations between devices, or an eBook, sound like something I’d want the reality is I never used them on iOS after the initial curiosity wore off. The WP Audible  app only support playback at normal speeds. Because I like the “performance” of most narrators I only use normal speed.

The only repeatable issue I had was some playback glitches when I was downloading additional books at the same time. The playback would stop and jump to an earlier, random chapter.

There was one time where the Audible book lost track of where I was and started over from the beginning. This only happened once while listening to one 8 hour book. I would also have similar problems with the Audible app on iOS so this is hardly unique. Hopefully it remains rare.

Overall I’m very pleased with the Audible app.

Music

I don’t use iTunes for music anymore, not on the iPhone either, so I’m already past the biggest hurdle. I’ve been using Synology Audio Station for my music along woth storing all my songs in Amazon Cloud Player.

There is a Synology music app for Windows Phone. But as I’m learning, it’s features aren’t on par with the iOS app. Songs can’t be stored locally on Windows Phone although they could be with the iOS app.  In addition, Quick Connect doesn’t work. Dynamic DNS and port forwarding can be used but Quick Connect is easier to set up. But my music on Synology NAS are ripped at a high bitrate so they’re fairly large files, I don’t really want to be streaming them over my cellular connection since I do have usage quotas.

There isn’t an Amazon player for Windows Phone. I did try the web player but that didn’t actually play the songs. So Amazon Cloud Player wasn’t an option.

I prefer audio books and podcasts when I’m out of the house so the lack of local music isn’t a big issue for me. I decided to go with Pandora for those times I do want mobile music. When installing the app I found Pandora is offering ad free streaming through 2013 for Windows Phone app users. It’s still streaming over cellular, but it will use less data than the songs on my Synology NAS.

I gave XBox music a try back when I got my Surface RT. I wasn’t at all impressed with it so haven’t given it a try on Windows Phone. A music subscription doesn’t appeal to me.

So music falls in between podcasts and audio books. It’s not as terrible as podcasts but it doesn’t have all the features I want like the Audible app.

I can always move songs to the phone manually but I’m not the type who wants to put that much effort into managing my music. I might load it up before heading out on a vacation but that’s about it.

Audio In General

Back of the Nokia Lumia 928My iPhone earbuds (the older style from the iPhone 4S) work OK for music and audio. The microphone and phone buttons don’t work. The Nokia Lumia 928 doesn’t come with earbuds. So far I haven’t  needed any but I’ll probably pick up a pair if I find some at a good price.

Bluetooth connectivity to my Jambox speaker worked well for all audio. It also worked as a speaker phone.

The phone speaker is on the back, towards the botom of the phone. The location works well. I can put it in the cup holder of my car and it gets some good reverberation so it’s easy to hear. It’s great for podcasts, audio books and GPS turn-by-turn directions. The power adapter plugs into the top of the phone which is also ideal for cup holder placement.

Overall the Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone is a capable replacement for my iPhone 4S when it comes to audio. Podcast handling need to be improved greatly but audio books and music are OK.

Other Windows Phone articles include my first impressions and migrating my contacts.

Whispersync for Audio

I was happy to learn Audible books could now be synced across devices. That is, the “read to” location can be synced. I’ve been waiting for this. Coinciding with that new feature is Whispersync for Audio. Since Amazon owns Audible they’ve enabled syncing the “read to” location between Kindle ebooks and Audible audiobooks.

This has to be enabled for the title in order to work. Amazon claims over 15,000 titles are enabled. While not specifically called out, I did expect there to be an incremental cost, if not a requirement to pay full retail for both.

So I went looking for a book to buy. I found one Audiobook I already owned was enabled and in that case it was full retail for the Kindle edition. The purchase is supposed to start on the Kindle book side, but it was easier to find the enabled books at Audible.com since they were being promoted. Then I searched for it on Amazon. There is an incremental cost for “professional narration”. It varies by title but is significantly less than the full audiobook price. I found a book that was only 3 cents more for both the audiobook and ebook than it would be for the audiobook alone. (“Swarm” by B.V. Larson)

After buying the Kindle edition I was given the option to add “professional narration” for $1.99. The audiobook was currently selling at a sale price of $5 and has a regular member price of $13.96. I clicked through to buy the audiobook. I was brought to the Audible shopping cart where the book was listed to be purchased with an available Audible credit. The cash price was $13.96, no mention of the $1.99 price. So I unchecked the “use credit” box and sure enought, the price to be paid became $1.99 and I completed the purchase.

Using the sync was a bit wonky, but sync often is. I used the Audible app on my iPhone and the Kindle app on my iPad. I started off reading the ebook then fired up the Audible app. (I made sure I had the recent update first) It started at the beginning. I went back to my library and hit the “Refresh” button and things synced up. I’ve had to manually refresh the library in all my testing. The Kindle ebook seems to sync OK but does prompt me to approve the sync each time. I wouldn’t call it seamless, but it wasn’t burdensome either.

I’m not sure how much I’ll use this feature. I mostly listen to Audiobooks these days, while driving. The sync may make me use the Kindle more but I’m not sure I’ll be buying both editions up front. Nice feature. I’ll probably never use it.

Anyone looking forward to syncing audiobooks and ebooks?