Android folks are used to reading about stuff they can’t use. Today, it’s the Apple iOS crew’s chance to feel left out.
Hotspot.fm purports to be the “world’s only 3D music service,” and it’s only available for Android. Indeed, this Finnish-born Android app does have some elements that might be considered three dimensional. To use it, you first choose an artist, either by name or by browsing a genre. This works with any artist you already know you like — or maybe one you’ve been reading about, but haven’t actually heard yet. Basically, you just need a starting point for your voyage of discovery.
That artist forms the center of a ring-like structure, with similar artists grouped around it. Tap on any of them to hear what they sound like — and to make the the center of their own little ring. When you focus on a new artist on the outside of a ring, you move “forward” in virtual space, and will see that artist in the center of a new ring. Don’t worry, though — you can always pinch the screen to zoom back out, moving “backwards” to the bands you’d been looking at earlier, and then sideways to other bands.
While not three dimensional in the sense of actually grabbing stuff with your hands on three axes, this three-dimensional interface works well as a way to check out new bands, because it mirrors how we discover music — delving deeper into a certain sound, or sideways to another one. And the app plays full tracks from most of these bands (although you do run into the occasional 30-second sample), so you can really get a sense of what each band sounds like.
The interface looks nice, especially for an Android app (ouch), and provides a quick and easy way to jump from band to band, liking artists and songs as you go (Note: Hotspot.fm incorporates some music data from The Echo Nest, which publishes Evolver.fm). This is a crucial step, because without a means of collection, the process of discovering music might be fun, but it’s also fruitless if you are trying to use the app as a way to find stuff that you really want to incorporate into your life.
In other words, in addition to introducing you to new music to check out, Hotspot.fm gives you a way to follow up on the stuff you’ve found, whether to buy it, collect it in Spotify or Rdio, write it down to bring to a record store, or do whatever you like to do when you commit to a new band. You can create an account (email or Facebook) to track your collection, likes, and dislikes over time.
So, should you grab this app for free? Well, it’s free. And in our testing, we found that it provided a new way to explore past our own musical taste, listening to bands we’ve heard of, but haven’t actually heard — and that’s always a good thing.
As for this notion of browsing musical relationships in three dimensions, this is a good start, but it will be cool when the whole thing moves past smartphones and onto the television with gesture controls. We have a feeling we’re going to have to wait a few years for that, though.