Is doubleTwist A Real iTunes Alternative?

iTunes has become the de facto standard for desktop music organisers, leaving those with non-Apple devices in the cold. doubleTwist syncs, shares and converts your media quite handily, and as of today, has a built-in Amazon MP3 store.

doubleTwist does a lot of neat things that iTunes will never do:

  • It recognises and synchronises with a ton of devices, and otherwise works with any device that your computer recognises as a storage space.
  • Converts music and videos back and forth from device-specific formats, with quick upload links to Flickr and YouTube.
  • Makes it super-easy to send music, video or pictures to anyone, whether or not they're using doubleTwist.
  • Downloads videos from YouTube for local viewing or listening, or converting to your phone or player.
  • With the latest Windows update, due today, both versions of doubleTwist have a slick-looking Amazon MP3 Store integration.

Does that make it a free and DRM-free iTunes replacement? Not really — at least when it comes to playing and organising your music on your computer. In fact, doubleTwist seems to have been built as a complement to the libraries and playlists set up in iTunes or Windows Media Player, and doesn't have much in the way of playback functionality beyond, well, "Play". And since the Amazon store isn't yet functional for Australians, it's not an alternative for buying tracks. But if you're not a hyper-organised music fan and just want to keep some great tunes on your phone, PSP or other device, doubleTwist is a great option.

Let's take a look at what doubleTwist can do. These screenshots are from the Windows 2.3 Beta. Click on an image below for a bigger pop-up view.

Device syncing

It's doubleTwist's greatest strength, and it's hard to believe it took so long for someone to make it possible. DoubleTwist recognises a lot of popular devices — Android phones, most BlackBerry and Windows Mobile models, PSPs, Creative and Sony MP3 players, iPods you didn't just buy at the Apple store (though iPhone/touch functionality comes and goes, it seems), and just about anything that has storage space and a USB plug. Want to manage what's kept on an external hard drive? Go ahead. Plug any device in, and when doubleTwist picks it up, you tell it which music playlists and folders of pictures and video you want it to match up with. If doubleTwist knows the device, it automatically converts files to the format needed to play on it. Best of all, doubleTwist can either automatically pop up and synchronise with your device whenever you plug it in, or leave you to manually push the Sync button, if you prefer.

Library setup and iTunes importing

On Windows and Macs alike, doubleTwist doesn't make you import libraries or create playlists if you've already got it all set up in iTunes. That's a strength for those jumping away from Apple's music manager, but for those without a loaded iTunes library, it means either a fairly simple drag-and-drop library addition (on Macs) or having to properly set up and occasionally tweak Windows Media Player (on Windows). Depending on where you're coming from, that's either a time saver or an annoying time suck; with the latest Windows update, at least, Windows users should get the manual import option. Once you're set up, at least, doubleTwist does a decent job of watching for new additions and playlist changes.

Sending and sharing files

As with device synchronising, doubleTwist makes this seem ridiculously simple and open. Choose your music file, hit "Send", fill out an email address (or choose it from your Gmail or Yahoo contact books), and the recipient gets a download link and full stream of the file to check out. The link expires after a few weeks, but there doesn't seem to be a limit to the number of files you can send, even if we're pretty sure there must be a size limit. If your friends eventually get down with doubleTwist, this gets even easier — send them the file, and they'll see it in their "stream" that loads at startup and notifies on new items.

YouTube importing

Lots of great music lives on YouTube, in rare live performances, early-release music videos or catchy independent productions. doubleTwist can't search out the links itself (hint, hint, developers), but feed it a YouTube video link and it grabs the file as an FLV video and saves it to your library location, available for your viewing or listening pleasure whenever you'd like. Even easier, drop it onto your phone device, and doubleTwist converts it for small screen watching.

Music playing

This is not the shining point for doubleTwist. On Windows, at least, you manage your current playlist from a small mini-player window that you can't close or dock to the side, and adding to it requires a manual drag and drop. There's no visualisation tools, album art pick-up is hit and miss, and there's really just back, forward, and a play/pause button — no shuffling or rating for you, though that latter aspect might be something you leave in iTunes, anyway. On Windows, doubleTwist was very finicky with my MP3 collection — some tracks just wouldn't play, while unprotected AAC files usually fared just fine. Not that all my collection comes from fine-toothed ripping of physical CDs I purchased (ahem), but it's still disappointing to see. Worst of all, when doubleTwist decides not to play something, it does it with a pop-up window that halts the music until you acknowledge it with an "OK" push.

The overall look and interface has a really rough look to it on Windows, and while the Mac app looks better, it similarly lacks much of the functionality that music lovers live for. Let's hope the actual enjoyment of music gets a good looking-to in the next version.

Amazon MP3 Store

Already running on Macs and soon to drop on Windows, it's exactly what you might imagine: A (generally) cheaper music store that downloads files you can play just about anywhere these days, making it a perfect fit for the device-friendly doubleTwist. Search out artists, browse what's popular, and buy tracks and albums with your Amazon credentials — when we get a chance to peek around on Windows, we'll post a bit more information.

Have you happily fled iTunes for doubleTwist, or maybe an alternative music manager? What would you want doubleTwist to incorporate next (besides total iPhone compatibility) to lure you in? Tell us your take in the comments.

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Comments

    Im still using itunes as it is still the most tightly integrated media player with the iphone (for obvious reasons), when the same functionality gets ported, I am swapping immediately. Doubletwist i use for all my other media devices, i think of it as an add on which allows me to sync my music collection held on itunes with all my other products.

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