I found a great free iPhone/iPod touch application recently that displays lyrics for songs, line by line, as the song is playing. It’s called TuneWiki [free, AppStore link]. This app, like all other apps for the iPhone/iPod touch, doesn’t store the lyrics it finds in the songs being played from your music library. It’s just not allowed to do so. That limitation aside, the app takes on a unique twist to displaying lyrics. It also uses advertisements to help offset the cost of running it’s servers, so you will see ads on certain screens.
Instead of displaying the entire lyrics to a song. While the song is playing, it scrolls the lyrics, line by line, with the music as it plays. This can be accomplished by storing time stamps with each line of the lyrics. As the song plays, when the time stamps passes, the app moves to the next line in the lyrics.
If there are no time stamped lyrics for a song in it’s database, it displays a message stating that they need the users help with the song. Asking the user to tap the lyrics box to advance the lyrics as the song plays. I’m assuming that just one sample isn’t enough for this app to start moving the lyrics by itself. I have to assume that it needs samples from several users before it stores the time stamps permanently.
With the songs on my iPhone, it did an amazingly accurate job of scrolling the lyrics as the music played. There were quite a few songs it didn’t know and helping the app out was pretty easy for songs I knew well. For newer songs I didn’t know that well, tapping to let the app know to move to the next line was trickier than I thought it would be. I think I’ll leave that task to folks that know the songs better.
The application also lets you stream radio powered by SHOUTcast Radio. I was pleasantly surprised that the lyrics scrolled for streamed music as well as music stored on my iPhone. It’s not perfect though. The songs I listened to on the “radio” were a little behind what was playing at the time.
There were also times when the song stopped streaming. I’m assuming this was when the app was pulling the time stamp data for the song from it’s database. This could have just been coincidence and not related at all. However, this happened three out of four times with one song not stopping. In all cases the lyrics were about a line or two behind what was playing on the stream.
Other features of the app include the ability to watch music videos stored in YouTube. The app chooses videos that have lyrics displayed with the videos if it can. Otherwise, it just plays videos it finds.
The application also has a Community section that displays songs being played near your location as well as preselected locations. It also has a search that lets you locate a specific location.
[Top 50 Songs for this month in choosing Missouri]
[Top 50 Songs for this month in Missouri]
[Top 50 Song “Beautiful World” by Coldplay]
It also shows you the top 50 songs by location as well as Hour, Today, the Week, or the Month. This includes the entire world, and you can select down to a specific state if looking at the United States, or country for the rest of the world. In this case, it doesn’t play the song. It just looks up the lyrics with the same search engine it uses for user searches to locate the song and display it’s lyrics. you can buy the song on iTunes, comment on it, play a video if its on YouTube and “Blip” on the video as well. Blipping on a video will send a short message to Email, TuneWiki, Facebook, or Twitter, or any combination of them.
The User Interface seems a little cumbersome and is probably a web based system hidden behind the app. There is no indication of places on the screen where the user should tap. They just have to tap and hope that it’s a button as opposed to text. The only well defined buttons are the Tab Bar buttons at the bottom of the app screen: Music, Radio, Video, and Community.
If you tap 4 or 5 levels deep in a section of the app, you have to use the back button at the top of the app to return. There isn’t a way to return to the first page of a given tab. Tapping the tab should do this, but it doesn’t.
It does allow you to return to the location in the app where a song is currently playing if you navigate away from the library or radio players. This is a nice touch.
That said, I would prefer an interface that is a bit more standard. If it is web based, its not that hard to emulate the iPhone HIG (Human Interface Guidelines).
The application was also a little buggy. It crashed out a couple of times and wouldn’t start once. They might have been attributed to low memory. With all the restrictions that Apple places on apps in the AppStore for approval, not reporting that the application is about to crash due to lack of memory is one that I’m surprised isn’t enforced. I’m pretty certain that an app can state that it is about to die due to this condition since there is a “delegate method” in the SDK that is called when the app is about to die due to lack of memory.
Even with the applications flaws, it’s definitely worth checking out if you are into reading the lyrics of songs being played.