Kinoma Play – the first network media player

I shall start with my conclusion first – if you live in the ‘cloud’ and you use a Windows Mobile phone, buy Kinoma Play. That’s all. No other software provides the same level of seamless integration with such a wide variety of web services, and for the value it provides, at such a low price.

 

Kinoma is an adequate, even good media player. The music player makes brilliant use of album art, both in thumb nail view and full screen when you are playing the music. The controls are easily fingerable, and the animations when moving through pages are iPhone good. Features like adding to an On-The-Go playlist and setting favourites indicate a high level of thinking regarding the user experience. Audio quality is excellent, with great bass and a wide range. The player automatically remembers where you left off a particular piece of music, meaning even with long podcasts you immediately start where you left off.

Read more after the break…

Unfortunately Kinoma Play lacks in an important way which will keep it from becoming my main audio player – no A2DP and AVRCP support, meaning it does not play well at all with Bluetooth stereo headphones and car kits. You cannot control playback with the media transport controls on your headset, and when you connect and disconnect it does not check which output to use, resulting for example in music continuing to play over the internal speaker when it should be routed to your car stereo. However if you do not use A2DP this impediment will not be an issue for you at all. A second, more minor issue would be that podcasts should have had its own high level subsection, separate from music, as they are actually fundamentally different forms of audio and do not mix well.

The video player is also adequate, with a good level of codec support (except the strange omission of not supporting the AMR-NR audio codec used on my Tilt to add sound to recorded video). It supports .flv video, meaning there will always be a ready source of music videos available on the net for example. Unfortunately it also has the fatal flaw of not being able to view video in landscape mode without rotating the screen for the whole OS (which on my Tilt involves massive lag).

The picture viewer is very good, with a brilliant zooming interface (who needs multi-touch!) and simple picture rotation. Unfortunately flipping from one picture to another can involve a few seconds for the next picture to be loaded, and the picture gallery lacks any form of organization, meaning pictures cannot easily be separated in albums. The slide-show feature however is beyond brilliant, with a very nice pan and zoom feature which really brings your pictures to life.

Now at this point, while the player sounds nice, it may not sounds $29.99 nice. That’s because I have not come to the killer features yet –online services integration. Out of the box Kinoma Play supports Audible, Flickr, iDisk, Live365, Orb, Shoutcast and of course YouTube, meaning there should be at least one service you are using already. For me it was Flickr and YouTube, and I also gave Live365 a go.

Let’s start with YouTube. The Kinoma Play YouTube client beats the socks of anyone else’s implementation, meaning you can do nearly everything you can do on the desktop except read comments (You can however add them!). Playlist, favourites, subscriptions etc are all supported, and the best thing is that it’s YOUR playlists and subscriptions. You log on to your own account, and can take advantage of all the features of it. This includes uploading video, and this feature is fully integrated with the video library, meaning you can record video one minute, view it the next, and another minute later upload it directly from the Kinoma video client to YouTube, where another few minutes later you can watch it using the built-in YouTube viewer. It’s all incredibly slick, and by itself almost seem worth the price (I wish I this came out before I spent $24.95 on Core Player for a much, much poorer client).

Flickr works similarly well, and also with your own account. On a good connection it is almost as if you are looking at your local pictures, and all the same functionality works, such as the aforementioned brilliant slide-show feature. Its also extremely simple to upload pictures you have just taken to Flickr.

I have never been much of an online radio listener, but after browsing the free 5 day VIP trial on Live365 I have become a convert. I found radio stations I likes (Adult Alternative) easily enough, and using the favourites feature was able to add it to the top level Favourites subsection, meaning I would never have to dig to find it again. On Wi-Fi it played flawlessly, but had some buffering issues on the slower HSDPA connection.

I did not try out Audible, iDisk, Orb and Shoutcast, but apparently the Audible Audiobook service is giving away free content if you sign up, and Orb allows you to stream media directly from your desktop, and even upload files directly the other way.

The Kinoma Guide features prominently on the home screen (which should really be easier to reach after you have navigated 6 screens way to a piece of media) and features a wide collection of internet media (podcasts, video, even pictures). I was able to find most of my favourite podcasts without any problem. Unfortunately Kinoma is pushing streaming podcasts as the best way of accessing them (but still allows you to download) but in my experience streaming half an hour of audio would easily use up around a quarter of my battery life, whereas downloading the same podcast would only use a few percent. Also I mostly listen to podcasts on my commute, where connectivity is at best intermittent (think tunnels, blackspots and high speed travel). I hope the clearly excellent Kinoma engineers can add a scheduled podcast downloading client to the software, which should make this part of the feature set perfect.

In its absence, it’s nice to know that RSS feeds can be added like any other media to the favourites subsection, meaning actually activating streaming (or even downloading) of your favourite podcast is no more than a 3 click affair.

Search also features prominently on the front page, and a wide variety of services, including Google Images, Flickr, Shoutcast and YouTube can be searched without having to drill down to each respective service sub-menu.

The software even supports automatic checks for upgrades, and automatically downloads the software and installs it, in a seamless nearly no user intervention process, meaning any criticism I have raised could easily be fixed over time and pushed out to users.

There is a whole lot more to this excellent software, and even after a thousand words I feel I have only scratched the surface of its functionality, all wrapped up in an excellent user experience. It almost feels like the first software really designed with the network in mind. Suffice to say that only the internet services integration is more than worth the price of entry, and I heartily recommend the software. Download a trial and purchase it via Kinoma here.

Pros:
Great user interface.
Brilliant internet service intergration.
Very wide range of features and functionality (Audio, Video, Pictures, Internet Radio etc etc)
Wide range of device support (both touch and non-touch Windows Mobile).
Automatic on-device update.

Cons:
No A2DP and AVRCP support.
Annoying scanning for changes and bandwidth checking in odd places on the client.
No portrait mode in video.
No album organization in pictures.

Features
Value
Implementation
Overall
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