Notes on Android music apps
Last updated : 6/6/2023 (AIMP 3.10.1052 final choice for now)
As of 2/6/2023, I've switched back to AIMP 3.10.1052, since that's the only music player that worked really well for me. Alternatives are welcomed.
Currently looking for a new music app for Android, for these reasons:
- Starting with v3.20 (build 1164); AIMP ignores the "jump to file beginning on single previous button click" option for headset commands by default, without any way to revert this behavior whatsoever. This unfortunately kills future builds of AIMP for me, since I regularly play music with headphones that has a media control button (such as the Moondrop Chu with mic (3/5/2023 Update : It's now replaced with Khastadio ESW-01; and it has the same controls as Moondrop Chu.) & M50X with an aftermarket cable that comes with mic; both of which comes with 3-button media controls).
- Simple Music works well, with a few catches:
However, Simple Music have these advantages over AIMP :
- Folder-based playlist creation works, although not as smooth as AIMP as Simple Music would have you start from the internal storage folder every single time you'd like to create a playlist (unlike AIMP that stays where you last select a file / folder for your playlist)
- No support for manual list scanning; library is automatically scanned by default.
- Music library lasts only as long as the storage containing the files are available. Once it's off, the library is reset & the playlists are wiped, forcing me to re-create them. Can be considered a double count for my previous point as this is its side effect. However, with 5.15.0, music library no longer resets itself, which allows me to finalize Simple Music as my music player of choice.
- The overall interface of Simple Music is pretty close to AOSP music players (AFAIK), which unfortunately means it's not as good as AIMP's specialized interface for a music app. Unfortunately, with 5.16.0, it worsened with Material You being default & top section (in playlist) randomly changing color to match accent color when scrolling down.
- It's open source (and is also considered libre software), unlike AIMP. Granted, this is a point I don't care much as whatever works for me, I'll use it, regardless of whether it's open source or not. However, if I get to choose between open source & closed source and both options work for me just as well, I'm taking the former.
- More customization options, especially with Simple Thank You installed.
- With 5.16.0, Simple Music adds the ability to press X to stop music & media player notification, finally catching up to AIMP in that regard.
My personal requirements
Here are the things I will need for my next music player app :
- Works without internet access.
- No hard dependencies on Google Play services whatsoever.
- Downloadable through Git releases / F-Droid / official site (with the last one preferring a non-soydev site), not just some Telegram groups and/or Google Play Store (and any of their unofficial mirrors, such as APKMirror / APKPure / uptodown)
The downloadables must be a single APK, not some split APKs. Full APKs for different architectures are tolerated as long as they work & don't need a separate installer app other than the system's inbuilt package installer.
- Properly maintained, with effort to ensure it works on the latest Android version. Old & unmaintained builds might be fine, but as time goes on & users update to the latest Android version, these builds may eventually not work. In addition, updates must not break any default functionalities whatsoever.
- If the app features a paid-only Play Store exclusive feature unlocker, all requirements listed above this point aside from downloadable through other sources will be applied. However, the single APK requirement still apply.
- Does not play video at all. MPV & VLC automatically gets removed from my lists with these, but I'm probably willing to reconsider using VLC if I find no decent music player aside from an obsolete AIMP build (if AIMP, Auxio, Music Player GO, & Symphony continues to ignore the headset button control issue) or the inferior Simple Music.
- Create playlists from the app with folders, preferably without having to select one track at a time or use a playlist file (more details found in this Auxio issue). This is something AIMP, Symphony, & Simple Music does well, in order of convenience (from best to worst).
- Fully functional headset (at least wired, not sure for wireless) media button controls, with a back button that rewinds on first command & jumps to previous track on second command. I'm personally fine with not being able to tune headset button controls as long as the defaults (single tap to pause/play; double tap to next title; triple tap once / after several seconds of playing to rewind; triple tap twice / at the beginning of track to previous title) are respected by the app. Only AIMP (up to 3.10.1052 & disabled by default; enabled in Settings > Control) & Simple Music (by default without any options) does this, so how hard can implementing (and/or maintaining) this one feature be?
By the way, we're ignoring the headset-based volume controls - they tend to work well (unless it's a Xiaomi, Redmi, or Poco, in which everything won't work after a few seconds of not playing anything anyway) & are app-agnostic.
- Manual library scanning by default, whether through a pull-down-to-refresh or a dedicated setting. Personally, as neat automatic list rescanning could be, once you get used to manually rescanning your lists (like I did in AIMP), auto rescanning feels less intuitive.
- A simple & functional interface. Specialized interfaces are fine as long as they are easy to adapt to.
Some nice to have things for the next music player app (though actually optional) :
- Libre software (serves as a double count for my 3rd requirement, if considering Git releases / F-Droid). Whether it's coincidence or on purpose, I tend to start with Libre software since they're easier to access by default.
With my requirements out of the way, here are the candidates:
Back to top
- Current pick :
- AIMP (up to 3.10.1052) : Superior to all music players, at least until v3.20 (build 1164), which destroys the headset controls (back input with headset control button does not rewind, just goes to previous title) & makes all future AIMP builds unusable for me. Currently returned to AIMP 3.10.1052 just because Simple Music lacks manual library scanning.
- Formerly successful :
- Simple Music (since 5.15.0) : Inferior to AIMP in most relevant parts. While manual library scanning is still absent, at least library does not auto-reset anymore. Playlist creation is possible with folders, though its file manager (for adding the folders) constantly defaults to internal storage (when my files are in microSD).
- Failing after personal testing (latest tested on bottom) :
- VLC : Plays both video & music. Back when AppOps were usable (the Pie era), VLC would crash when AppOps were used to deny it microphone permission.
- MPV : Same as VLC, but also with a less usable file browser & video-oriented interface.
- Retro Music (or Metro, a fully libre Retro Music fork) : Playlist creation is possible, but requires selecting one track at a time.
- PowerAmp : Usable for only 15 days without license verification, which is tied to a paid-only unlocker in the Play Store. In addition, playlist creation requires selecting one track at a time and/or playlist file.
- Neutron : Excessively complex interface that I can't get used to.
- Odyssey : Unable to create a playlist at all.
- LineageOS Jelly : Playlist creation is possible, but requires either selecting one track at a time or importing with a playlist file. Also, no downloadable APK.
- BlackHole : Playlist creation is possible, but requires either selecting one track at a time or importing with a playlist file. In addition, this is an internet-first music player, with support for Spotify & YouTube out front.
- Zen Music : Playlist creation is possible, but requires selecting one track at a time.
- Symphony : Mostly similar to Simple Music, but with a more comfortable UI (including a dedicated file browser), no customizable icons, auto updates (can be disabled in Settings), & persistent "favorites" playlist. However, triple tap with headset media button to rewind / previous track does not work (it gets treated as double-tap for next title & a single tap for pause instead; and headset button controls can't be tuned), which unfortunately kills it for me.
- Music Player GO : Unable to create a playlist at all (it is apparently worked on, but no word beyond 9/12/2022). In addition, no triple tap to rewind/previous track (double tap to next, subsequent taps to continue forward skipping tracks one tap at a time).
- Auxio : Triple tap with headset media button works the same way as Symphony - double tap to next & single tap to pause (and no triple tap to rewind/previous track); all without the ability to tune this behavior; marked as device-specific & wontfix despite happening on my X3P & V30 (and my wired headsets), as well as the issue opener's Samsung M21 & JBL Go (a Bluetooth speaker, from what I've heard). As for the playlist, which only exists in the debug build at the moment of writing (23/5/2023); making one is possible, though it requires selecting one track at a time, as folders as playlists is not implemented yet.
Index - cellphone