Audible for BlackBerry Review

Audible is an online audio bookstore.  You can download audio books to burn to a CD or transfer to your favorite MP3 player (or Smartphone) of choice.  Audible  just released their BlackBerry application.  So, how is it?  It is a total exercise in frustration…

Where to begin?   Well, let’s start with a few positives.  First, the application is free.  Second, it is very easy to install wirelessly — just go to http://www.audible.com/bb on your BlackBerry’s browser (alternatively, you can also get the application via an SMS text message with the word “blackberry” to 35620 to receive a text message with … a download link).

Audible has an extensive catalogue of over 60,000 titles.  The application will work with the BlackBerry Storm™, Bold™, Curve™, Pearl™, or 8800 series devices.   So, in theory, you have access to a massive library of information literally at your fingertips to wirelessly download or stream.

The application description lists benefits to the mobile user, such as:

* Browse, sample, and listen to the entire Audible catalog

* Use cash or credits to purchase titles directly from your BlackBerry

* Listen however you like: stream or download over the air, or transfer to your handset with AudibleManager

* Preview audio from the “Free” channel, featuring premium titles hand-picked by our editors

I have had an Audible membership for a few years, and was initially excited to see this application released for the BlackBerry platform.   Previously, I have been downloading audio books to my computer and then transferring them over to an iPod (or straight to my BlackBerry’s micro-SD card).  It’s worked well, and it is convenient.

Wirelessly downloading the audiobooks straight to the BlackBerry, however, meant (almost) instant gratification. This would be great for commutes, or really any time that you could use to listen to an audio book of your choice.


I have no complaints about the user interface itself  (although I wish it was not missing keyboard shortcuts for stop, play, skip, etc. — but that may fall on the nitpicky side of things).   You can easily scroll using the BlackBerry track ball (or flicking through the menu using your Storm™).

Now, for the not-so-great.   The application is slow.  Painfully slow.  Hourglass-of-doom slow.   I’m was running BB OS (the latest carrier production operating system for my Bold), and each function — from starting up, to logging in, to selecting a title to download — took a minimum of two minutes per action.  So much for instant gratification. For the record, I had full 3G five-bar wireless signal 😉

This brings me to my next issue.  The BlackBerry application would not recognize my existing Audible account login.  Nope, I wasn’t typing it in wrong.  I pulled up my account on my laptop effortlessly. Each time I tried using my same login credentials, I got a nasty “login incorrect” page on my BlackBerry.   At any rate,  I went ahead and created a new account just to test out and use the application.

By this time, I really just wanted to download the  “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” audio book that Audible was letting the BlackBerry App users download for free.

This, however, was not an easy task either.  After another couple of minutes waiting (grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr), the Audible application notified me that my Bold did not have enough memory to download the audio book.  I have 3.5 GB remaining on my micro-SD card, but, evidently, I cannot save an audiobook to the card from the app.  I poured through the options on the application, and went to Audible’s website to see if I had missed anything just to be sure.  Nope, I had to save the audio book to device memory.

After deleting some applications from my BlackBerry, I resumed the download.   This brings me to another pet peeve I had with the Audible application — where was the option to stream the audio book so I would not have to download the file in the first place? As long as I have a data plan and the wireless connection, I should be able to stream the file and not even worry about on-board device memory or be forced to delete applications to listen to an audio book.

I checked the application’s “help” option in the menu, and it points me to a page that lists Audible’s customer support phone number and URL.  Yes, I want to stop and (A) Call You and/or (B) Go to my computer and pull up your customer support URL.  For the record, the  streaming option is not listed on their main support page or FAQs.  Yay!

(UPDATE: Audible has a listing for a streaming error if your device is on a BES/BlackBerry Enterprise Server, but not any support information on streaming or selecting the option to stream — and the device I am using is not on a BES, so that is not the issue 😉 )

Once the file was downloaded, I can say that I was actually able to listen to the audiobook without error.  In this case, instant gratification, was anything but instant.  In no way, shape, or form was this easier than downloading the audiobook to my computer and then putting it on my device of choice.  In fact, it was more cumbersome because I can at least make sure it goes on my micro-SD card manually versus the “convenience” of the OTA download in this current version of Audible’s BlackBerry application.

I would love to hear other users’ experience with this application.  Perhaps I am being too harsh, and some of the Gear Diary readers can add some positive notes to the Audible BlackBerry app.

Me?  I’m sorry to say it has been swiftly removed from my device.

MSRP: Free from http://www.audible.com/bb on your BlackBerry’s browser.

What I Like: Good selection of titles.  The application is easy to install wirelessly. The application itself was easy to remove from my BlackBerry 😉

What Needs Improvement: Support saving to micro-SD;  support streaming audio books; support existing Audible.com customer account logins 😉 ; test the application and speed it up — if folks have to wait minutes per each screen action, it’s not going to be used.

Categories: Reviews

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16 replies

  1. I don’t have any recent experience with Audible though I did try them several years and remember at the time finding the DRM frustrating.

  2. In minutes I was listening to my Audible collection. No problems whatsoever. Great application

  3. I had similar problems when using Audible on my Nokia E71. Initially, I used a longer and somewhat complicated password for my Audible account. I could never authenticate the Audible app until I changed my password to something shorter and less complicated. I tried OTA downloads of Audible content but eventually gave up. I found that copying Audible books to the micro sd card on the Nokia the easiest way to get content. I eventually gave up on instant gratification. I’ve found that the best Audible experience for me is on my iPhone. I’m still waiting on a solution for the T-Mobile G1.

  4. Audible for BB Review – http://tinyurl.com/p8zvqc

  5. @chrispepin: I’m very glad to see the Audible BB app is working fine on your device. I tried again after removing some more apps on my Bold, and (sadly) I encountered the same issues that caused me not to be too thrilled first-round. I’ll try to test out on a different BlackBerry model and diff OS and see if I find any difference — If so, I’ll be happy to post an update with the outcome. Thank you for posting the positive experience you’re having (that was something I really wanted to see in the comments).

    @rreifsnider: I’m in the same boat. For the time being, I’m finding it easier to just manually copy content to the SD card…or, as you stated, just use the iPhone/iTunes for audiobooks. I just happen to be one of those folks who usually has their BB with them opposed to iPhone…yes, I know…odd man out 😉

  6. It looks like the default option on my Bold is for the Audible content to be saved to the SD Card (when it’s inserted that’s where it goes, when I remove it it goes to the native memory). Perhaps you have Mass Storage Mode turned on your device (or are maybe even using the app while you’re plugged into the PC so that you can take screenshots?) Maybe a long-shot, but I wonder if using the app with mass storage mode turned off or without the USB cable in might make a difference.

    Also, in re: to streaming, once you purchase something and click the arrow in the “My Library” i’m given the option to Stream or Download before moving forward. The streaming doesn’t have any navigation to it, which is frustrating… but I do believe that the option to choose is there!

  7. @mobileguy: Thank You for the comment and especially the suggestions noted for the Audible BB App.

    Sadly, I’m afraid Mass Storage Mode wasn’t turned on when I was using the application :(. I’m still not getting any options to stream the content, either. Since this is a case of “YMMV” …I’m going to test on another device today (I’ve had to hold off a few days as I’ve been trying out a diff OS and separate devices) to see if I can get a different result.

    Update to follow…

  8. Sorry to say, Audible will nbot work correctly on your Storm. It will not bookmark your spot correctly and forward/rewind function is not likely to work.

  9. Using Bold — and also tested with Curve 8310

    There may be a brief follow-up re: Audible for BB in the coming days if there is interest.

  10. Your title captures the problem with the player perfectly. I’m a long time Audible listening. I recently switched from the Treo to a BB Bold and was amazed at how bad the Audible player was. I figured that it was in beta and would improve with the full version. I agree with your positive points and your complaint that it is incredibly slow. I would add to the complaints the following:

    1. Bizarre use of buttons on the home page: 95% of the time, I open the program in order to continue playing a book that I had previously loaded into the player. Instead of offering me a big button to go the player, there are buttons to go to the online library,the online bookstore, or the online free library. Instead I have to click through the menu to “local library” and then pick my book from the list of books. Why make it so hard to listen to the books?
    2. Once I finally get into the player, the interface is again badly designed. The text showing my place in the book is so small that I can hardly read it even with my reading glasses. There is no way to see where you are in the book–only where you are in your current section. To skip forward to your place in the book (after it has been lost, as frequently happens), you can only advance forward one section at a time.
    I miss my Treo!

    Dan O’Neil

  11. Update: I’m not sure this is entirely worthy of a *new* post, but this will touch upon some of the points from the original review. YMMV, but this was my own experience.

    I tested the application using a BlackBerry Bold (9000) and a BlackBerry Curve (8310). I had the same results on both models, so that seemed to adequately rule out any hardware-related problem. Neither the Bold nor the Curve would download the audiobook to the device’s microSD card or stream the audiobook.

    To ensure there was not a possible memory issue on the devices, I removed applications from both the Bold and the Curve. Unfortunately, I had the result — no streaming or downloading. Reading the comments, it was easy to see that this was not a widespread problem.

    I tried another OS on the Bold (I was using and decided to downgrade back to 4.5 to see if there was any improvement); but still experienced the same problems. After confirming this, I went ahead and upgraded my Bold OS back to 4.6.

    The app remained slow to respond on both the Curve (EDGE) and Bold, which had a full-strength 3G connection. So carrier network did not seem to be causing any issue.

    I noted in my review that the Audible app for BlackBerry was not recognizing my original Audible account (username/password), even after verifying the same credentials worked on a laptop. I ended up creating a new acct to conduct the application review — but the same problems (not able to stream/download the audiobook) persisted.

    Finally, I decided to create another (this was my third) acct with Audible just to re-attempt streaming and downloading. Voila! I was now getting the option to download the audiobook to microSD, and to stream. I tested both options, and while they worked, the application was still sluggish to respond IMHO. But, I finally had the functionality to stream or download the content. It took me creating a third separate accounts to make it work

    My first, “regular” audible account still will not play nice with the BB app — even though I’ve used the “regular” version on my laptop without issue. Note that the 2nd and 3rd accts were created straight on the BlackBerry (new username). The 2nd failed, but the third succeeded. These two usernames were different by one numeric character. Unless the system prefers 3’s to a 2 in a username, I don’t think it was the characters selected :)

    That was my personal experience and 0.02 :)

  12. If you don’t have a data plan then this application is useless since they don’t distribute the application except by the web and not as an ALX file. Very frustrating even with emails (3) to customer support. Audible Device manager see my it needs the application. Totally useless.

  13. I used the following technique to install audible application and it still try to active over the network. http://blackberryrocks.com/how-to-install-applications-themes-with-without-ota-data/#ota_nodata. Just gives an error.

  14. @kariato – unfortunately, even though you can install the app without requiring a data plan, the application *does* require a data plan to download or stream audio books from audible. If you have an audible account, and a ‘Berry with no data plan, then the best bet is to to use the Audible desktop software to convert to MP3 and then just use mass storage mode on your ‘Berry. Then you can play using the device’s stock music player.

  15. Thank you. You are correct. I’ll have to convert them to MP3. I appreciate your help.


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