A few weeks ago, I pulled off a major feat for a 40-something relic in the company of a 15-year-old. I taught him something cool about his phone.
After my friend's son, Davis, described the advantages of his Droid X, he came to its "one big downside."
"I can't get my iTunes music on it," he said.
"I've got an app for you," I said. "DoubleTwist."
He looked it up on his phone. "Wow," he said. "That's it."
DoubleTwist, which is free, gives people a way to easily sync their iTunes music library with their Android phones. As such, it's one of the most important, yet often overlooked, pieces of software on the Android market.
DoubleTwist can be a bit confusing at times, and it has limited features when it comes to transferring photos between your phone and your computer. But for Android users who might otherwise feel forced to carry around an iPod for music, doubleTwist is a great option.
Getting started is a two-step process. Users must download the doubleTwist desktop application (from doubletwist.com) as well as the Android app. Next, you synchronize the media on your phone and computer.
Syncing isn't intuitive
Unfortunately, the initial syncing process isn't quite as seamless as it could be. When you start the desktop application, it greets you not with a guide to getting started, but with a pitch urging you to buy the doubleTwist AirSync app. (More on that great little app later.) As an alternative, the desktop application says, you can "sync via USB for free."
But this raises questions. Should you first open iTunes or just connect the phone to the computer? Should you download the Android app to your phone and perhaps open it before connecting?
DoubleTwist offers little help, if any. I searched the desktop application for tips, but no "quick start guide" or "getting started" sections existed, and nothing on the doubleTwist website's user forums suggested which way to go.
I opened the doubleTwist app on the Droid2, and it prompted me to send an email to my account - perhaps with startup guidance - but no email arrived.
So I grabbed a cable with a mini-USB plug on one end (for connecting to the phone's power source) and a conventional USB plug on the other. With the doubleTwist app open on the phone, I connected the Droid2 to my Mac.
Success. The connection set off the opening of a new window on my desktop screen, prompting me to import music, videos and photos from my phone to the computer, or sync my iTunes music or videos to the phone.
Instead of trying to export my entire music library to the Droid2 or selected playlists among the many I have, though, doubleTwist asked if I wanted to choose among three playlists: "Most Played," "Recently Added" and "Top Rated."
A doubleTwist executive, Monique Farantzos, said the software was developed to detect all playlists on a user's computer and allow people to choose what they want to load onto their phone. She could not account for my experience and said it was only the second time the company had heard that a user encountered trouble of this sort.
iTunes Plus needed
After some unsuccessful troubleshooting, I chose to download all three playlist options, and five minutes later, I had 75 songs on my phone that weren't there before.
I also received an error message stating that 47 of the songs I'd been downloading to the phone were not available for transfer because the songs had not been upgraded to iTunes Plus.
For the uninitiated, iTunes Plus is an audio standard introduced on iTunes in 2007. Tracks are of higher quality and free from copy protections. As a result, you can burn music to a CD as often as you like, or play songs on multiple devices without restriction.
But if you bought songs on iTunes before 2007, as I did, you'll need to upgrade them if you want to transfer them to an Android. (To upgrade, look for the iTunes Plus link on the right side of the iTunes homepage. The cost is 30 cents a song or $3 an album.
DoubleTwist's AirSync app ($5 on Android) is well worth the price. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection, and instead of plugging in your phone each time you want to transfer new iTunes music from your desktop computer to the phone, you can merely open AirSync and start the sync.
That's right: wireless syncing.
Once Android users set up their iTunes on the phone, they will enjoy some other features that make it a more versatile music player than an iPhone. As the song plays, for instance, you can tap on the musician's name and a box appears, offering options for buying more of the artist's songs or watching related YouTube videos, for instance.
You also can set that song as your ringtone or, if you're feeling psychedelic, watch a dynamic graphical interpretation of the song. (There are 10 visual effects to choose from.)
It's heady stuff for Android phone owners who have had to deal with iTunes withdrawal and iPhone envy. With one strategic download, the tables are turned.