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August 11, 2009 • Reviews

Audible BlackBerry App Review

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Audible provides audio books.  Customers can download the audio books to their computers or mobile devices — including iPhone/iPod, a variety of MP3 players, and BlackBerry devices.  Last week, the Audible team released an upgrade to their BlackBerry application (version 1.4.2).

It is no secret that I was less than thrilled with the first release of the Audible application.  Performance was painfully slow (when it worked), and the process proved — for me — to be more cumbersome than simply plugging the BlackBerry up via USB and dragging the audio book over manually via Mass Storage Mode and playing the file from the BlackBerry’s native media player.

Did Audible do any better with this updated version?

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I have to say, while not perfect, this upgrade makes a world of difference compared to the last version.    The application starts up and transitions much more smoothly — and much faster!  My main complaint was that the original version took two (or more) minutes to start up.  Then the application would take another two minutes per each menu action.  I deleted other apps on my BlackBerry to free up space.  I used another BlackBerry altogether.  I even changed my BlackBerry operating system just to make sure I went through as many different variables as I possibly could to use the application.  Needless to say, the first version of the app was frustrating and was promptly removed after a week of use.

Audible’s development team has definitely listened to customer feedback.   Version 1.4.2  incorporates a number of improvements, including:

* All menu screens have been optimized to load faster.

* Improved user interface performance (scrolling through lists, audio playback buttons, etc.)

* Landscape typing for the BlackBerry Storm is now supported.

* The Curve 8900 is officially supported (and, although I was not able to try first hand, I suspect the 8900 version will work on the BlackBerry Tour since both devices share the same 480 x 360 display).

*My Library is now stored directly on your device for faster loading of your purchased titles.

* Audio playback bug while Audible for BlackBerry is minimized has been fixed.

* Improved support for devices on BlackBerry Enterprise Servers.
* No more waiting to get back to your audio. You are immediately taken to the player screen upon loading the application, if your last action within the app was listening to audio.
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I was able to listen to a sample audiobook in my car using Bluetooth A2DP with no application problems. The options to stream or download the content have been improved.  Streaming, just like if you are using Pandora or Slacker radio on your BlackBerry, works great and was more convenient than downloading the content wirelessly over-the-air (OTA) to your device’s microSD card.   The only issue with streaming, which is true for any streaming service, is that the service may be interrupted depending on your cellular data coverage area (I found this especially true while driving around town).

If you stop the application, it will keep your place (bookmark) in the audiobook — which is great if you need to quickly take a call or do some multitasking between applications on your BlackBerry.  I was also pleasantly surprised that if I turned off the BlackBerry or did a reset (Battery Pull or ALT+Shift+Del on a QWERTY keyboard BlackBerry) , Audible would still retain my last spot in the audio book 😀

After using the application for several days, I can definitely say that the Audible developers put in a great deal of work to improve this BlackBerry application.  Unlike the last version, it’s not been deleted off my device after a few days of pure frustration.   I’m going to keep it loaded (at least for a while) and load up on some audio books for an upcoming trip.   I’ll be using the ‘Berry for all my media needs on the trip (music, audio books, and I’ve even loaded up a full-length video from a DVD onto the microSD).

Last time I ran far away — and advised others to do the same — from the Audible BlackBerry application.  This time I can say it is worth your time to try.  The audiobooks load and stream much faster, and the performance has been drastically improved.  It’s not perfect (I still had a few instances where the application seemed to hang, and I ultimately had to exit and then restart the app — but that is something I’ve encountered with almost all BlackBerry applications, especially if the on-board device memory is low).

If you are a BlackBerry user and enjoy audio books, you may be very pleasantly surprised with this application.

MSRP: The application is free.  Pricing for the content will vary by subscription plan (although you can purchase audio books individually without a monthly subscription).

Content Selection:  Very good. Audible has over 60,000 titles available for download or streaming.

What I Like: Drastic improvements to the overall speed and performance of the application.   The application will retain your spot in the audio book even if your device is turned off or requires a reset/battery pull.  Streaming and download options in the menus have been improved.

What Needs Improvement:   The application will still sometimes “hang” but that is not uncommon for BlackBerry apps (more.  on-board device memory. RIM.  Please.)

Get the Audible for BlackBerry application at http://audible.com/bb.


3 Responses to " Audible BlackBerry App Review "

  1. The Cell Phone Junkie Show #168 « Mickey Papillon says:

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  2. djeddieo says:

    I don’t know how/why my experience could be so different than yours. Admittedly, I’m not a big Audible fan. I was an LG Voyager user the first time I signed up and their files wouldn’t play in it. When I first decided to sign up again and use it on my BB, I signed up using my PC, downloaded my first book, and dragged it over to my tethered BB’s MicroSD card as I do with mp3s. That turned out to be a no-no, as the Audible app didn’t recognize it. I then downloaded a second book using the BB itself for the download, and it took forever. Good thing I wasn’t getting calls. Looking at the two book files on my PC, I couldn’t figure out how to “rename” the first ones to make them play, so I had to re-download that book using the BB. Again, painfully slow. I’m listening to “Hot, Flat and Crowded” while running, as I’m training for a marathon. While the app USUALLY remembers where I left off, attempts to rewind a couple of minutes proved exasperating. Without my reading glasses, it’s just impossible, as the numbers indicating elapsed and remaining time are so tiny as to be invisible. Selecting “rewind” and then attempting to select “play” a few seconds later proved to be an impossible feat. Ultimately I just re-listened to about 40 minutes I had already heard.

    Perhaps you had better luck due to your willingness to delete apps and give Audible plenty of room, but is that a real world test? How many of us in the real world can afford to delete some apps to improve one? I wish I had chosen Audible for iPod; then I might justify a dedicated iPod for audiobooks. Just my $0.02

  3. Jason Reese says:

    “When I first decided to sign up again and use it on my BB, I signed up using my PC, downloaded my first book, and dragged it over to my tethered BB’s MicroSD card as I do with mp3s.”

    Keep in mind the desktop app is a completely different “animal” than an on-device BlackBerry app. What I mean by that is that the desktop application from Audible saves in a proprietary format, so just dragging that audibook over to a BlackBerry using mass storage mode won’t work (the Desktop Audible audibook must be changed to .MP3 or another non-proprietary format for it to be playable on a BlackBerry. Another issue is that the file — if not changed to MP3 format using the Audible Desktop application — was loaded directly to the BB, it would likely be a larger file size (and add to the time needed to transfer over to MicroSD).

    The on-device BB app downloads the audiobook in MP3 format wirelessly (options are to download to the microSD card, or to stream the file wirelessly just like one would do for an internet radio station a la Pandora or Slacker Radio. As far as the wireless download and/or streaming, that really depends more on your device’s wireless carrier coverage at the specific location of trying to download/stream than the application itself.

    I tried to judge the app based on the original experience of Audible’s first try (which was very frustrating as the on-device menus took minutes to load) versus this 2nd iteration of the App — where it ran much more smoothly. That’s purely my experience with the latest version of the application.

    Since the Audible for BlackBerry application is free (and Hot, Flat, and Crowded was a free audiobook) — then there seems no harm. The app can be deleted from your device and no money was wasted 🙂

    As far as deleting apps from the BB, that is purely personal preference. BBs, unfortunately, have a very limited on-device memory. Sadly, apps themselves can’t be stored to run from microSD. Using and testing many apps means I prefer to delete some (then reinstall if need be, using BlackBerry App World, or via direct application OTA links) to make sure I can test an application with as much memory as needed — and I do use QuickPull or ALT+SHIFT+DEL to clear those java memory leaks on the device frequently as well 😉

    Again, since the app and the content were free for the BlackBerry app, then it seems like it should be a non-issue. Just personal preference. If you’re an audible fan and prefer using iPod/iPhone, go for it. This app is simply an option (not a mandate) for BlackBerry users that is currently available.

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