February 21, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Younity Lets Anyone Turn Their Computers into a Music Cloud (Updated)

Like many people these days, I do almost all of my music listening with streaming services — on-demand subscriptions, online radio, random things shared on social networks, and my collections and playlists on various services.

Even then, I occasionally need to listen to something on my home computer — friends’ recordings, interviews, MP3 albums I’ve bought and left on one computer or another, and s on. Younity (free, iOS, Mac, and Windows) is as fast, slick, and simple a solution to that problem as we’ve seen.

Younity solves a problem we noticed with using BitTorrent Sync to play music from one’s computers. While BitTorrent Sync can actually get the file and store it locally on your iPhone (yay!), Apple then prevents you from playing it without switching back and forth between two apps every time you want the next song to play (boo!). To be fair, BitTorrent Sync works fine as a DIY cloud music player on Android, but this is a big issue with the iOS version.

Younity solves that problem and others by functioning as a iOS music player app itself — and it’s pretty decent. You can play all of the music on your home computer (running an inobtrusive app that you can access remotely by logging in to the Younity app), and search for individual artists or songs.

Unlike BitTorrent Sync, it lets you play playlists, organizes the music properly (i.e. not just by folder), from all of your computers, into one quickly-searchable, easily-browsable menu, and starts playing in 2-3 seconds instead of making you wait until the song downloads for the first time.

Younity was lighting fast on a Wi-Fi connection, and even pretty quick on a cellular connection. I could play any song on my home computer with only six or seven seconds of lag before the songs played via cellular. And once the music started playing in a folder, there was no lag between songs at all — remember, this is from my computer, over my wifi network, over the internet, onto a cell tower, and onto my phone.

It’s amazing that in this day and age, such a thing is possible. The only problem: If you play music like this for several hours a day over your cellular connection, you’re going to hit your data limit — even on an “unlimited” plan.

Update: You can actually download music files to Younity, contrary to this article’s original claim. We just didn’t see the arrow at the lower left of the screen when you’ve navigated to a song — so yes, Younity can cache music files locally to play them without streaming (nice!).

We’d put Younity right up with Audiobox as a contender for the best DIY cloud music server, for those times when you need to listen to a download, and lots of users would likely prefer Younity, because it’ so easy to use. Basically, it turns downloads into streams, for free — all you need to do is keep your computer running at home, because it can’t store music on your iPhone.

Our only nitpick, other than that locally-stored music can only be played by the Younity app (which is related to how Apple designed iOS, not to Younity’s design), is that Younity can’t sort the contents of folders by Date Modified. For those of us who use the Date Modified sort to do pretty much all of their file-finding, it’s no fun scrolling through the thousand or so files in my Documents or Pictures folder.

Bonus: You also get access to any or all other folders on your Macs and PCs, meaning that you can grab a doc from your computer and email it to yourself (to edit it on a computer) or send it straight to someone else, without even being at your home or office. All of this is free, with no limits, because all of the bandwidth is yours.

And if you’re concerned about running software on your computers that exposes it to the internet, the company’s privacy policy states, “Entangled Media does not have any ability to access your files, your file information (such as file names) or your devices. In fact, our solution does not even have storage servers where we such information could be kept,” and the services uses SSL over the internet, so as long as your password stays secure — or you decide to share certain files with other Younity users — only you will have access to your computer’s Younity-viewable directories.

YouTube Preview Image
  • http://getyounity.com/ Erik Caso

    Hi Eliot, thanks so much for the kind words. Just a few comments people might be interested in:

    – You can download (and even privately share) your files, including music. Just tap the icon in the lower left of the screen when you are browsing your music and you can choose to ‘Download’ or ‘Share’ the file(s).

    – We generally transcode files (on-the-fly) to ensure that we don’t require too much bandwidth nor eat up your cell phone’s data plan (this is particularly important for watching your videos/movies via younity where the files are enormous and would crush your data plan AND take forever to start playing).

    – It is true that we NEVER store your files, metadata about your files or have any ability to access your devices. Younity’s personal cloud links your devices together – all our servers do is manage authentication/authorization to ensure they can find each other and that things are secure.

    – One nice to know thing is that if you install younity on several computers it will unify all the contents, such as all the music across multiple iTunes accounts (something me and my wife appreciate since we buy music on one another’s computers all the time).

    Please do let us know how we can make a better music streaming app. We’re working hard to simplify the problem to give music lovers exactly what they want – easy, spontaneous access to all their music without planning ahead or storage limits. Thanks.

    Erik Caso

  • http://www.ducktoes.com/ Ducktoes Computer Services

    excellent article, very informative, thank you