Dear Lifehacker, I used to use an iPod touch for all of my music, but I have an Android phone and would like to only carry one device. With my iPod, I can just use iTunes to sync, organise and manage my music, but there's no one app that lets me manage everything on my Android phone. What apps can I use to get close to iTunes for my Android phone? Signed, Looking for All in One
Photo by Johan Larsson.
Dear Looking for All in One,
The fact that you're not locked into one application to manage your Android device is both a strength and a weakness. While using iTunes with an iOS device is certainly an easy and straightforward way to managing your device, one of the strengths of using an Android device is that you're not dependent on one company to give you that all-in-one solution. Several developers have their own mobile and desktop companion apps to help you manage your Android phone. While there's no exact feature-for-feature duplicate of iTunes for Android, there are plenty of apps that get you most of the way there. Here are a few of them.
DoubleTwist is probably the closest application to a true "iTunes for Android". The desktop app and mobile app make a great pair that gives you control over your playlists, music, and media. The app is free and available for Windows and Mac, and gives you a single app to use to manage the music you sync to your device, playlists you've created, podcasts you've downloaded, photos and videos you have on your Android phone, and even the apps you have installed. You can also use DoubleTwisty on your desktop as a jukebox app, just like iTunes if you're looking for an app that will manage your media on your computer and your phone.
The beauty of DoubleTwist is that it supports every Android device and works on virtually any computer. The mobile app gives you a robust media player and media management app that you can use to listen to music and podcasts, watch video, and more on the go. The mobile and the desktop apps don't need each other -- you can use one without the other -- but they work best together. With the $4.74 AirSync add-on, you can sync your media wirelessly with your desktop without having to physically connect your Android phone to it first.
Even though it's Windows-only, Winamp has come a long way from the days when it was pretty much the only viable media player for Windows. Winamp's development team behind it has embraced Android in a big way. While the Winamp desktop app will be familiar to anyone who's used it in the past five years, combine it with Winamp for Android, and you have an easy and painless way to sync your music and playlists with your Android device, even wirelessly. Wireless syncing for Android is free with Winamp, and while it can be bumpy to set up, when it works, it works really well.
Like DoubleTwist, Winamp for Android doesn't need the desktop app to be a good media player. The app can live on your Android phone and serve as a music player without much help, but to unlock its real potential, you'll want Winamp installed on your desktop as well. Then, once the mobile app is set up to sync with its desktop companion, your playlists, music, podcasts, favourite ShoutCast stations, and other media will move seamlessly between your Android device and your Windows desktop. Winamp for Android even supports iTunes syncing, so your old iTunes library can easily be moved to your Android device. Winamp for Android doesn't support app syncing, but that's about the only feature it's missing.
Just Use iTunes
Depending on how you feel about iTunes, this can either be a relief or blasphemy. If you have a Mac and have no desire to stop using iTunes, you don't have to just because you have an Android phone. If you use a Windows PC and prefer iTunes (although we can't imagine why) you can still use it with your Android device.
Thanks to iSyncr, you can sync your music, podcasts, and playlists (including smart playlists) between iTunes and your Android phone. The app retains play counts and ratings, and works in both directions: as in music you download on your phone or buy on your computer will be copied to the device that doesn't have it. This way, if you're already familiar with iTunes and use it for your iPod Touch or iOS device, you don't need to download another app to get the same functionality for your Android device.
Use Another App Entirely
All in all, there is no single "iTunes for Android" app, although DoubleTwist and Winamp are probably the two that come the closest. They each have their own drawbacks and limitations, and neither is quite as seamless as the pairing of an iOS device and iTunes is. Still, they'll both give you a similar experience to what you're used to with your iPod Touch and iTunes. If you're willing to give up on that experience entirely, you can look at media players like MediaMonkey and Songbird, which will mount your Android phone as a USB device in their own interfaces and copy music and media to your device for you.
Sure, you don't get the same experience of managing playlists, play-counts and ratings, or anything else, but one of the nice things about Android devices is that you can just connect most of them to a computer via USB and mount them like a drive. This gives almost any app access to the files on your SD card while they're connected. Most desktop music players support syncing to USB devices, so if you're not wedded to the iTunes-like experience, there are plenty of other apps to try and experiment with.
We hope this helps! There really is no reason to carry around an iPod Touch and your Android phone if all you're doing with the iPod Touch is listening to music — there's nothing that the iPod Touch can do in that department that your Android phone can't do as well. Give one of these apps a try and see how it works for you. Unlike iOS and iTunes, if you don't like the one you've tried, you can always try a different one, no strings attached.
PS: We know these aren't the only ways to get an iTunes-like experience for your Android phone. How do you sync and manage your music and media between your Mac or PC and your Android device? Share your tips in the comments.