Have you ever wanted just a dash of Apple in your Windows Phone? The company's co-founder would go as far to say the late CEO was 'reincarnated' in the platform, but we're talking more along the lines of features exclusive to iOS. Well time to cross one off your 'want' list because Linknode's AlbumFlow should satisfy your craving from some Metro-flavored cover flow action. But imitation isn't always the sincerest form of flattery so does AlbumFlow have what it takes to live up to the original, or is it a misguided attempt to bring an iSheep into the Windows herd? Read the full review after the break.
It's Cover Flow for Windows Phone. I'm not sure it's possible to go further in-depth than that, because the app is essentially a clone of the graphically-rich interface Apple made famous with the earlier generations of the iPod. If you've been living in a hole for the past decade, AlbumFlow mimics Cover Flow which displays your music in a sliding "flow" of album art. However AlbumFlow isn't meant for iOS devices, it's meant for Windows Phones and as such it implements a more Metro-friendly aesthetic. We'd argue it's also more intuitive than the original because every feature of the app can be accessed from a single screen -- no submenus, no pop-ups, nothing in excess. The app also plugs into your phone's Music + Videos Hub so you can see the currently playing track in the native Hub.
With Cover Flow, it's main appeal stemmed from its polish and speed on devices and in the iTunes software. Thankfully Linknode prioritized this and as a result, AlbumFlow benefits from absolutely wonderful performance. The album art glides from one to the other as your finger swipes through your collection, creating a very impressive effect. It's also very functional in spite of its emphasis on looking good. The player includes common functions we tend to forget about like shuffle and repeat, and in general the user interface makes browsing through several dozens of songs simple and easy. Plus it has a pretty darn good landscape interface, which you can see just below.
In addition to this, AlbumFlow can be used as an (almost) complete replacement to the stock Music + Videos Hub, barring a few limitations we'll go into later. Still, the interface lets you quickly navigate your entire collection much, much faster than the default player which is a small perk we think many would enjoy. Finally what's the best part of AlbumFlow? Duh, it's free with zero advertisements! It's hard to argue with a value proposition like that, especially the high quality in return.
The oddest complaint we have of AlbumFlow is that music won't appear in the app if it doesn't have album art. It's a peculiar oversight and for many who may download independent music or who create their own music, the omission of songs just because some files may not have an image means the app probably couldn't fully replace the Music + Videos Hub. Of course this is a problem that will only affect some, and if you're well-organized with your music you likely won't face the issue but it's one worth taking note of anyway. There's also one argument we have against AlbumFlow: the flow of art loops infinitely. In Apple's Cover Flow, the interface could be sorted with filters and it would have a beginning and end; meanwhile in Linknode's app the music constantly rotates which can make it problematic to track down an album without accidentally skipping over it.
Finally there are just some small nitpicks/recommendations that we wanted to point out that could improve AlbumFlow. For one, we'd like to see the OS register the app as a music player so the drop-down controls can 'link' back to it (see video for example). Other music apps like 8tracks do this to great effect, and in general it makes more sense to us to go back to the app that we started listening to our music from instead of the default. Lastly, we'd love to see AlbumFlow embrace live tiles whether it's for the main app to show the most recent album played or with secondary album tiles that you can pin to your Start page. Adding some of these features could give users enough functionality to feel confident enough to replace the music player with AlbumFlow.
The Score: 8 / 10
As you might have been able to tell with the previous paragraph, we enjoy AlbumFlow so much we want to see some great new features to flesh things out. As it stands today, your decision to pick up AlbumFlow will ultimately come down to your opinion of the eye-candy interface, but I think you're going to enjoy what Linknode's app has to offer. It's fast, functional and best of all free -- if you're already a fan of cover flow, then what's not to love?
AlbumFlow is available for free in the Marketplace. Download it by clicking on the tile or link below.
by linknode Ltd.
Note: AlbumFlow version 1.5 is now available in the Marketplace and addresses most of our concerns in this review, including added landscape support and the ability to browse albums that don't have any cover art.