Android’s musical side

Thanks to the legacy tie-in with iTunes, the iOS series of devices have a pretty strong musical connection – all of the devices come with the onboard iTunes app, and make it incredibly easy to purchase new tunes with just a couple of taps.

The latter is also true with Android in the US, thanks to the availability of music in the Google Play store, but in Canada (which doesn’t have music at Google Play just yet), you have to look for other options. Thankfully, there are a number of options to check out when you want to bring the tunes to your Android device (and accessories).

The Apps:

Sirius XM
While both Sirius and XM started out as satellite-only services, the combined company now offers both satellite and online streaming for its subscribers. While users have been able to stream music online for a while, Sirius XM now has an app available for Android users, for listening right on their tablet of smartphone. The app is free, but of course you’ll need a subscription to the service, which is $15.99/month. That’ll give you access to the regular Sirius XM content; as always, premium channels will cost extra. At the time of this writing, the Sirius XM app isn’t available in Google Play yet, but you can download it directly from the company site.

While there are a number of web streaming services out there, Rdio has captured a good chunk of that market thanks to its deep catalogue and availability (it was one of the first of the big players into the Canadian market). It’s $4.99 a month for web-only streaming, but if you bump up to the $9.99/month plan you can listen to Rdio on all of your mobile devices too, as well as home accessories like Sonos, and share your favourites between them. Again, the app is free but will require the subscription to do anything.

Slacker Radio
While also a web streaming service, Slacker has a slightly different model – there’s a free level available if you want to try the service first. This mode shows off the company’s heritage as a radio-style service: you choose the channel you want to listen to, and Slacker will choose music for you in your style of choice; you can skip ahead a short handful of times during your session, and then you’re stuck with whatever comes up. Bump up to the $3.99/month Plus subscription to get rid of the ads and give you unlimited track skips, or choose the $9.99.month Premium subscription to play music on demand and create playlists of your favourites in addition to the Plus options.

If you’ve ever been in a public place and wanted to know what music was playing on the overhead speakers, Shazam is the solution: just fire up the app and tap the big Shazam logo, and it’ll start listening for you. Once it has enough music to analyze, it’ll send some data upstream, match it against the Shazam database, and then tell you what it is (if it’s in the database). It’ll save “tags” for items it identifies, so you can go buy them later, but you can also search for the tracks on YouTube, or open them up in Rdio directly on your device. The Shazam app is free.

The Accessories:

Parrot Zik headphones
While there are a lot of wireless headphones out there – and while there are some headphones out there that are quite expensive – few of them have Zik’s designer pedigree and Android compatibility. Designed by Starck, the noise-canceling Zik headphones sound awesome and feel exceptionally comfortable, which is not something you can say for all headphones…even ones that are similarly priced (the Zik runs about $429). But that’s not all the Zik has going for it: the touch-sensitive side panel allows you to swipe your finger up and down to adjust the volume, and left or right to adjust your track. Tap once to pause the music (or simply take the headphones off and it will automatically pause). But if you have an NFC-equipped Android device, here’s the coup d’grace: just touch your smartphone or tablet to the left earpiece, and the headphones will instantly pair. That’s right, no messing around with pin codes or Bluetooth discovery…all accessories should be this easy! Parrot also offers an app called Parrot Audio Suite that allows you to tweak the sound on your Zik headphones (turn noise cancellation on and off, adjust EQ, etc.)

Sonos Play:3
Originally a high-end audiophile company for those who wanted to go digital, Sonos has morphed into the audiophile company for everyone with a digital bent. The Play:3 wireless speaker runs a relatively affordable $329, and streams music from shared folders around your home network, or from online streaming services like Rdio and Songza. Because the system is modular, you can add other components any time you like, and stream your music simultaneously through all of them (or listen to different music in different parts of the house at the same time). What makes this a great Android accessory is the free Sonos Controller app that allows you to control your music from anywhere in the house – the one for phones is good, but the version for tablets is great.

Pioneer SW-SMA4

The SMA stands for Smart Mobile Audio, and that’s because this $399 DLNA-certified wireless speaker is designed to be used with mobile devices. While it has AirPlay, for quick and easy connections to the iPad or iPhone, it also comes with HTC Connect, for automatic streaming for users of the HTC One series of phones. (For those with a non-HTC Android device, it also has a direct WiFi connect feature, which can be a bit of a chore to set up. Or of course, you could simply plug it in using an audio cable.) The speaker has a nice rich sound, and comes with a remote for controlling overall system volume from across the room.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers is a freelance writer, video producer and host based in Toronto, Canada. Most recently, he was a Senior Producer at, where he was responsible for the conception, writing, production and editing of a number of web video shows, including Lab Rats, How Do I?, Status Update, The Noob, and more.

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