Selecting a small footprint local storage music app for A11 watch

For use on my LOKMAT APPLLP 4 pro.

I have no connection to any of the app developers and only offer this post as an account of my experiences in selecting a 3rd party music player for my new Android 11 watch.

Music players, in alphabetical order:

  • Folder Music Player V1.0.1 (4.87MB) Data usage = 8.24KB (Storage)
  • Foldplay V223(10.33MB) Data usage = 171KB (Storage)
  • Lisna V1.46.3 (610KB) Data usage = 8.23KB (Microphone [optional] + Storage)
  • mMusic Mini V1.19.6.1 (1.67MB) Data usage = 16.57KB (Storage)
  • Music Player V2.1 (9.01MB) Data usage = 621 KB (Storage)
  • Okla Music V1.0 (8.59)MB Data usage = 19.17KB (Storage)
  • Shuffle+ V2.0.17 (79.66MB) Data usage = 27.39MB (Storage)
  • Simple Music Player V0.9.020 (1.12MB) Data usage = 8.12KB (Storage)
  • Vanilla Music V1.1.0 (9.55MB) Data usage = 8.23KB (Storage)
  • Yaark Player V6.0.3 (6.53MB) Data usage = 8.25KB (Storage)

Duplicate trials on Galaxy Tab A (2017) SM-T380 Android 9.

My criteria, most importantly, no adds. In addition, I imagine, most would have for a round faced watch with locally stored music files, the smallest footprint possible, and a functional interface. Evaluating installed size, permissions, data usage (initial set up with a trial playing to Bluetooth headphones), headphone controls and battery load taught me a lot about the watch.

Of the massive amount available on the Play Store the short list, above, presented itself reasonably quickly as there are a lot out there that are trials for subscription players or clones, with ridiculous amounts of permissions including phone, contacts, gallery, payments, and network access, right up to full modification of running processes.

The 10 listed have their own focus on either playlists or folders. All have their own quirks in their interface and function, some of which are great on a tablet but simply do not translate to a watch.

The list was further reduced when a few players wasted most of their screen on irrelevant navigation features at the expense of play controls, or simply defaulted to an alphabetical list of songs much like the native player in the watch just reskinned. (eg: Foldplay). Some tried to redeem themselves with a quick option to play folders rather than just a song list, but again they had little structure to the order of titles (not even alphabetical) so searching was impractical. (eg: Yaark Player).

Once these were dropped a few used the simple internal folder tree system we are all familiar with but added their own quirks to help with a focus on playlists more so than whole folders. (mMusic Mini had a unique three screen swipe system the watch coped with but suffered in the font size. The left to right didn’t compromise the swipe to clear required by the app.)

The next cohort employed selection by Track, Album or Artist but, unfortunately, gave a lot of space over to album art at the expense of play controls or quick searches.

The folder structure imported from most media players in computers already has the song order from an album nested in a folder for the album, nested in a folder for the artist. Unless you go to a lot of trouble creating custom playlists selecting an album or artist has its own order already for use. Locating a song in the watch without a player is simple in this regard. It is just unfortunate that it only plays the one selected when opened. The final players capitalised on the pre-existing structure and added much sought-after common-sense value in playing songs in their pre-set order.

Accidentally, I did select and play a song from the watch storage and quickly scroll to the generic music player (next to the step counter), hoping to discover the folder would have replaced the simple alphabetical song list. While it didn’t, it did demonstrate the watch can play more than one song at the same time… a testament to the processors power albeit misguided in this case.

A couple on the list disgraced themselves by taking over the notifications screen once launched (eg: Vanilla Music) and not easily letting this go. I imagine this function would be useful on a conventional phone where the notifications can sit on the lock screen. This allows for music controls but is not useful on the watch particularly when the app screen is only one swipe in the other direction from the watch face. Even less useful when considering the use of headphone controls.

All the apps needed to be displayed using the watch in square mode. Doing so highlighted the need to have scalable fonts for navigation. Here my final choice of “Lisna” distinguished itself.

Lisna had the smallest footprint of all and had one simple feature that all the others omitted or left to the operating system to try and sort out, that being the display font size. This is easily selected from the RH bottom corner and gives a range in both font and line spacing. The defaults work fine but selecting the largest suits the watch and tired eyes.

Upon opening the app Lisna asks for permission to use the microphone. None of the others did this. The app doesn’t actually use the microphone but uses the internal path to generate a moving bar graph of the songs frequencies as it plays. This one concession to eye candy is not necessary for the app to function and can be turned off later or not applied by not granting the permission.

The song selection process requires a root folder to be selected. This is not to be confused with rooting the watch. The root folder is just the standard ‘music’ folder, but the app needs to know where this is. Once selected it builds the familiar folder tree alphabetically by artists. Select an artist folder and the app will play every album in order within that artist folder. Release the folder and select another artist without issue, continuing deeper by selecting a specific album of the artist and further still if desired to a specific song. There is an option to play all in the list from that point onward, or the familiar play once, shuffle within folder etc. Repeat is a 3 step toggle, one track, all tracks, and off.

A good-sized play control appears in the bottom LH corner, and an optional sleep timer and equalizer is the top RH corner.

Once started though there is no need to have the screen on and the Bluetooth headphones can control all the rest.

There was a definite need to follow Dr_Andy_Vishnu’s 7 steps to allow apps to run in the background on A11, although I can’t execute step 3 even using a stylus… I chose to disable notifications from the app too as they vibrated the phone on every song change and loaded up the notification screen with the play controls that other apps wouldn’t let go of. Once disabled the app opens fine, an artist, album or song can be selected and started then the screen can be changed back to the watch face, and the Bluetooth headphones take over the navigation controls.

The songs play in the folder order and a good time can be had, as it should, without any further issue. I have battery % listed in a recent post in the A11 string. 2.5hours continuous playing and pausing for phone calls dropped by around 30%. Quite happy with that as a benchmark so far.

When finished I always long press the power button to clear recent apps and the process reports that it was only using 15-20MB. The app remembers the song you were at even after this procedure when next opened. Easily cleared if not desired.

I am going to see how the app integrates with another app ‘AllConnect’, which isn’t available of the Play Store anymore it appears, that adds the ability to cast to almost any receiver, wifi, dlna, air play, chrome cast etc. One player on the list (Shuffle + ) had this function as native. It was the largest app on the list, but the function was fun to use and there are definitely times when rescuing a party can, and should be performed discretely from your watch…

Thanks for your time. I hope this post is of some interest.

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very informative and thorough research! Thank you for all the work that went into this! This is really useful.

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Thanks for taking the time to look over the post.

I need to mention one of the apps must have slipped through on an ‘auto correct’ in the word processor I was using. Shuffle + should read as Shuttle + . It is the app that can cast to my Chromecast and prompted me to explore applying AllConnect as an extension to the casting tangent.

AllConnect, somewhat strangely, works perfectly well with all the dlna devices and Apple TV devices I have access to on a couple of networks (wifi) but struggled with the Chromecast. Not because of any issue with the watch or the strength of the wifi signal but because of something the Chromecast itself does with the initial connection request. For some reason it opens a redundant webpage on the tv that asks to accept cookie options. With no way to interact with this the app on the watch times out before it can complete the handshake and apply the selected media to the cast.

In any case, the battery drain isn’t noticably different to that of Bluetooth and this simply opens up more options for the watch and quite possibly some more discussion over the codecs that produce the best quality audio ( wifi vs Bluetooth ).

Something else to test in a new post as I would like to trial the watch microphone with a couple of spectral analyser apps…

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