Google Android is a great platform for mobile communications, but it's also designed from the ground up to offer a rich multimedia experience. Your Android device is jam-packed with features that let you manage and play your digital music in a variety of ways.
Like Apple's iPhone, Android has its own built-in music player with a large touch-screen interface that's easy to control while you're on the go. However, because Android is an open platform, you'll find no shortage of third-party music apps that go well beyond the capabilities of the basic Android Music app. Let's explore all of Android's music management features, and take a look at some of the best music add-ons available in the Android Market.
Load Your Tunes
While some phone manufacturers have come out with customized desktop applications for managing media on their Android devices, these apps are not essential for copying music and other files from your desktop computer to your Android phone. All you really need to do is connect the phone to your computer's USB port and touch the notification area at the top of your phone's screen. Tap USB connected in the notification area and then tap Mount to make your Android hard drive appear as a storage device on your desktop. This process works the same way in Windows, on the Mac, and in Linux.
Once your computer mounts the Android drive, you can open it to view the files and folders on your phone. Simply locate any DRM-free music files on your PC's hard drive and drag them to the Music folder on your Android device.
Sync With Windows Media Player
Most Android phones don't come with their own desktop sync utilities. But if you want the convenience of automatic desktop synchronization in Windows, you need look no further than Windows Media Player.
To sync your tunes (as well as your pics and videos) with Media Player, first take the same steps as described above: Plug your Android phone into your PC's USB port, tap USB connected in the phone's notification area, and tap Mount to make your phone recognizable in Windows. Then launch Windows Media Player and wait for your phone to appear as a drive letter in the left pane of Media Player's Library view.
To set up syncing to your phone, click the Sync tab in the upper-right corner of Windows Media Player and then click the small (and unlabeled) Sync options drop-down menu under that. Click Set up sync... and then either name your device or leave it as the drive letter, at your preference. When you click Finish, you'll have a sync relationship configured so that your phone will update to mirror your PC's Music folder whenever the handset is connected.
Amazon MP3 Store
In addition to dragging music directly onto your phone via USB, you can purchase songs and albums from Amazon's online music store and download them directly to your phone over the air.
Tap the Amazon MP3 icon to enter the store, where you'll be greeted by options to view the top 100 albums, see the top 100 tracks, browse by musical genre, or search for tunes. To hear a 30-second preview of any song, tap its title. When you find a song or album you want, tap its price button once; the word 'buy' will appear. Tap it again, and you'll see an Amazon login screen. Enter your Amazon-registered e-mail address and password to continue--and if you'd like to speed through this process next time, check the box to enable 1-Click ordering.
Once you've completed the purchase process, the song (or songs) will begin downloading. You may be prompted to switch to a Wi-Fi connection; doing so isn't necessary for downloading music, but if you have access to a Wi-Fi network, that method is generally the fastest way to get songs from Amazon onto your phone.
Amazon music downloads live in a folder labeled 'amazonmp3' on your phone's SD Card. As a precaution against data loss, connect your phone to your computer and drag your purchased songs over to your hard drive for saving as a backup. Since the songs are sold DRM-free, you can also listen to them on your PC at that point, if you want to.
Music Home Screen
When you tap the blue speaker icon for Google's Music app, you'll find yourself at the app's home screen, which is divided into four options that let you search your music collection by artist, album, song title, or playlist. Tapping any of these four items will take you into an alphabetized list that you can scroll through to select the music you want to hear.
Also available from the home screen are two menu options that you can access by pressing the Menu button on your phone. The first, Party Shuffle, will instantly create a shuffled playlist of everything in your music library.
To create playlists on your phone, tap and hold any song title until the context menu appears, and then tap Add to playlist. Choose an existing playlist or tap New to create a playlist. Give your new playlist a name, and return to the song list to select more tracks to add.
More Music Apps
In addition to Android's built-in music player, you can download a wide variety of music apps from the Android Market. Pandora, Last.fm, and CherryRplayer are just a few of the most interesting options.
For comprehensive tips about Android and reviews of the best apps and devices to help you get the most out of the mobile operating system, order PCWorld's Android Superguide, on CD-ROM or in a convenient, downloadable PDF file.