My 5th generation iPod and it’s predecessor the Creative Zen Xtra both have/had a great feature that I used practically every day. This feature, Album Shuffle, was ideal for someone like myself who prefers to listen to a whole album as it was released rather than just a random song. I also have a number [...]
My 5th generation iPod and it’s predecessor the Creative Zen Xtra both have/had a great feature that I used practically every day. This feature, Album Shuffle, was ideal for someone like myself who prefers to listen to a whole album as it was released rather than just a random song. I also have a number of live recordings that need to be played in order. Apple, in their infinite wisdom, decided to disable the shuffle by album feature in both the iPhone and iPod Touch. Did you notice how I say ‘disable’ and not ‘remove’? The feature is present in the .plist file for Settings.app but this is only available to jailbroken phones and those with access to Xcode – which dramatically reduces the number of people it is available to. It also requires connecting to a Mac every time you want to change your shuffle mode from ‘by album’ to ‘by track’ so is no good when you’re on the road.
So, what are the other options? Well, as Apple rightly advertise: ‘There’s an App for That’ although in this case there are 3 that do the job and are currently available in the UK AppStore. In alphabetical order we have: ‘Album Mixer – Shuffle by Album‘, ‘iAlbum Player‘ and ‘Quick Music‘.
Here follows a brief rundown of the pros and cons of each app.
I didn’t get off to a good start with this app. On first run it told me I had no music on my iPhone and that I should change some auto-skip settings. I couldn’t even FIND any settings but later realised it is one of those annoying apps that require you to close it to change any settings. Once closed you go to the main iPhone settings and scroll down to find the app. Here you can turn on/off ‘autoplay at launch’ and ‘auto-skip’. Auto-skip has two further settings to choose a minimum rating and a mysterious ‘track lacking’ (which I THINK is the minimum number of tracks in an album). Both these have an option of ‘never’ implying the app should play the album regardless of rating or number of tracks. However, even after setting both to ‘never’ the app still told me to change the auto-skip settings and that there were no music albums on my iPhone. Occasionally it would play an album and the screen did look nice and clear but by this point I’d given up with iAlbumPlayer. In theory I should be able to press the stack of CDs on the main screen and it plays me a random album but it’s too buggy for me to even bother. I’m impatient, and this app has now felt my wrath! A shame really, as this seems to have the nicest looking display once it decides to actually play something!
Album Mixer: Shuffle by Album
On launch you are faced with a big ‘shuffle albums’ button along with ‘filter’, ‘settings’ and some play controls. Good, the settings are easy to get to! Within the settings you can select how many albums you want the app to shuffle, set the app to shuffle on launch and also choose shake to shuffle. As I mainly use my iPhone in the car I always turn off shake to shuffle features as pot holes and speed bumps usually give undesired results…! For the purpose of this review I turned it on, shook my phone and, yes, it worked! In use it is as simple as pressing the big ‘shuffle albums’ button and a playlist of random albums is generated. It shows the album art on screen and, as the playlist is already generated, closing the app or putting your iPod/iPhone into standby means you can still listen to the albums in order. Back in the app you can shuffle the albums at any time, skip between tracks and also skip between albums. You also have a ‘filter’ button that puts all your music genres and playlists into a single list. Selecting multiple items from this list will filter which albums will be chosen when you next shuffle. I like this app; it does what it was designed for with enough settings to fine tune your playlist too. The only downside, in my opinion, is the track names are illegible at the bottom and the artist and album title are quite small too.
This app isn’t specifically an album shuffler but it does have it as one of it’s advertised features.The main purpose of the app is to select music quickly. You can shuffle all your tracks; define your favourite artist and play only their tracks; define and play your favourite album; play tracks by a single random artist; and, the important one, play a random album. The settings are accessible from within the app and give you the option to start any of the play modes at startup (eg play favourite album at startup). You can also set your favourite artist and album here. Looking solely at the shuffle album feature here, it is slightly lacking. Yes, it will play a random album but as it only chooses a single album it means once the album finishes you need to open the app again to choose the next one. On a short journey this would be fine but on a long trip where you would normally listen to 4 or 5 albums it would get slightly frustrating having to continuously restart the app and/or press the ‘Play a random album’ button. When an album is playing the bulk of the screen is taken up by the play options and the artwork and track title seems squeezed in at the top. You can, however, put the iPhone into standby and view the full album artwork by viewing the lock screen though.
The purpose of reviewing these apps was to find a way to reinstate the Shuffle by Album feature that Apple disabled. As such, the clear winner is AlbumMixer: Shuffle by Album although the text size used in the app is miniscule, the actual album shuffle feature is very well implemented. Second place, and only because it isn’t actually specifically an album, shuffler, is Quick Music. Third place goes to iAlbumPlayer as it is too buggy to use.