Why isn’t my MP3 more like Flickr?

The last great MP3 player (and I’m obviously talking about phones here) was the N73. I’m not talking about any old N73 either. I’m talking pre-internet edition, pre-music edition, I’m talking the original, the beautiful N73 v2 firmware.

Why? Because this player gave you a glimpse of the future – as well as the present.

But why is this important? And how does it relate to the question of the title?

Allow me to explain…

The N73. Classic.

Album art is all very well, visually appealing and – depending on the artist – sumptuous to feast your oculars upon.

However, since the N73 nothing has changed.

Consider the scene:

Our hero is strutting along the pavement, 32GB of his favourite tracks randomising every 3 minutes or so and he stumbles into some Kings of Leon. He hasn’t listened to them in AGES and decides that in fact, an afternoon of the best rock music the Kings can offer is most certainly in order. He takes out his device, hits the back button a few times, then hits search, then search by artist, types in a few letters, finds the Kings of Leon and then finally hits play (interrupting his current track in the process).

Not the most seamless of experiences is it? Yet we’ve all done it.

But where does Flickr fit in all this?

Flickr, for the uninitiated amongst you, is a photo-sharing service that you can upload your images to in chronological order, storing them in various albums etc.

You can probably see where this one is going already

A diagram by James Whatley
Empty Underground, a photo from Flickr
  1. This is your main image. This is the image that you are viewing right now. Look at it. It’s lovely.
  2. Here we have your comments field. Like the image? Leave a comment.
  3. This is your photostream section. Displaying thumbnails of images both before and after the one you’re viewing now (see item 1). This is good. Useful even.
  4. This part highlights what other sets, groups or albums this particular image belongs to. You can and close this with a single click and, if the inclination takes you, step off into a whole new stream.
  5. Tags. Pure and simple. Different photos are tagged with different words which then in turn, allow you to filter (and track) your images with ease.

Taking all of that into account, think back to my original point about the MP3 player. An album cover can only be pretty for so long; what we need now is a useful user interface.

What do you think?
  1. Album art lives here. We’ll keep it in along with the track details that are playing right now. Track length etc.
  2. Here we have the past and the future. With the words PREV and NEXT replaced with the track and artist name of the songs coming before this one and after.
  3. These two buttons are for diving into the albums that the current track playing appears on and also the playlists. Our hero will no longer suffer any problems when it comes to listening to his favourite Kings.
  4. Rewind, play/pause and skip. The usual fare.

It might seem busy at first, but there really is no real reason why a modern day MP3 player on any mobile shouldn’t look at least a little something like this.

Each track semantically linked to its individual playlist and album streams, creating a simple and easy to use UI that flows seamlessly from whatever track you want, to the next.

Now… Who wants to build it for me?

Image credit: N73 music player screenshot, WirelessInfo.com

Special thanks to Stefan Constantinescu of IntoMobile and Rafe Blandford from All About Symbian for their help in locating the N73 screenshot. Geeks. We love ’em.

Last updated by at .

63 thoughts on “Why isn’t my MP3 more like Flickr?”

  1. i like the concept of restructuring the music player interface to feel more like flickr, but i think you've fallen short with the proposed interface. at least for me you have.

    here's my issue, and my suggested improvement:

    issue: when playing, say, 'all songs' shuffled, i might stumble onto a track i haven't heard in a long time and decide at that point, “i want to listen to more of this stuff”. maybe i want to listen to tracks by that artists or constrained to that very album; here your solution works well. but what if i want to listen to tracks from that genre and/or time period?

    solution: i'd suggest a column on the right side of the interface, with a 3-mode selector next to each piece of metadata for the track. the selectors in this column would be used to define a filter for the next-track-selection. the 3 modes would be “similar”, “different”, or cleared (ie: not part of the filtering).

    now, when i hit that wonderful track in my otherwise totally random playback of all my tunes, i would pull the phone from my pocket and see that this track is from 1994, a cover of Bob Dylan but played by U2, in my Folk genre, in an album of random tunes from some movie. Maybe i like the track because i like Bob Dylan? maybe I like it because i like U2? or the 90's? or that it is a cover and i want to hear other covers?

    i could select “similar” next to the flag 'cover' and the composer 'Bob Dylan' to listen to other covers of bob dylan's tunes. after growing tired of dylan but still wanting covers, i could press the selector next to bob dylan to change it to 'different'.

    -bit

    [Reply]

  2. Fantastic input bitflung, thank you. My afternoon scribbles left out the need for browsing by genre, but yes – that too could/should be implemented. Having sat in a number of mobile UI talks in my time, I guess my emphasis was on simplicity. The real estate is limited and – like I mentioned above – it's easy to make it messy. Good shout though chap, nice one.

    [Reply]

  3. Fantastic input bitflung, thank you. My afternoon scribbles left out the need for browsing by genre, but yes – that too could/should be implemented. Having sat in a number of mobile UI talks in my time, I guess my emphasis was on simplicity. The real estate is limited and – like I mentioned above – it's easy to make it messy.

    Good shout though chap, nice one.

    [Reply]

  4. I quite like the way the media player on Android is currently set out. It's not too different to what you've drawn out actually.I've never really used my phone as a media player regularly as the battery is bad enough without listening to music! Smart phone, bad battery.

    [Reply]

  5. I quite like the way the media player on Android is currently set out. It's not too different to what you've drawn out actually.

    I've never really used my phone as a media player regularly as the battery is bad enough without listening to music! Smart phone, bad battery.

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *