Album Scout review
We review Album Scout, an iPhone app that knows your musical tastes better than you do, and guides your eardrums in the right direction
So many people are concerned about privacy these days, and with the scare stories about your iPhone tracking you, CCTV cameras on every street corner, an open list of every website owner and satellite imagery that allows anyone to look in your back garden and up your front path, it's no wonder.
But these aren't the data miners the press has labelled them as. What would be scary would be to know just how much about you, say, Amazon or Tesco really knows. Everything you've ever bought, or even shown a vague interest in, is helping to create a detailed psychological consumer profile of worrying accuracy. It's why those Amazon spam emails do actually look very interesting.
But iPhone app Album Scout proves this isn't such a bad thing - albeit on a small scale. We're very selective about the music on our iPhones, as the limited space and ease of access to individual tracks means you don't have to include a full album if you don't want. No point taking up space with the songs that bore you, or the experimental space-fillers all albums use to get to the shop shelves a bit quicker.
Album Scout takes a casual browse through the music stored on your iPhone, and provides a beautifully slick and readable interface to deliver a surprising amount of info about your favourite albums, artists and genres. Indeed, it provides a surprising amount of info about your musical tastes.
You can browse through your library by album or artist within Album Scout, and the app will fetch as much info as it can from sources such as Last.FM, and provides single-button access to the music it finds on the Internet radio station, iTunes or Google.
It does a good job of cutting down the constant stream of re-release clutter, too, by grouping together an album with its 'platinum' version, or 'extended' version, or any other 'you've only bought this album once, and we want you to buy it again for no real reason' version that studios shamelessly churn out.
But most importantly, Album Scout gently guides you toward music you don't own, which is the real appeal of this kind of semi-aware, politely nosy data scraping. By getting to know you a little, the app can lead you to the kind of recommendations that would take a while to find on your own, if at all.
During testing, there were surprisingly few steps between ambient Goa band Shpongle and the Alan Parsons Project, but listening to the short track previews available directly through Album Scout demonstrated an unexpected similarity between the two, putting the latter straight on our new list of interesting music.
And it's not just the app that helps to spread the word about new or undiscovered music. You can send out your own recommendations to a vast number of social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Google Reader, Tumblr and more, or email them out directly.
The sheer simplicity, great interface and fast, smooth response of Album Scout makes it a great app that entertains as it works, and should be given serious consideration by anyone who listens to a lot of music on their iPhone.