MobileSheets for Android
Many thanks to Matt L., who sent an e-mail today letting me know about MobileSheets, a PDF music reader for Android. MobileSheets comes in both a paid ($4.99) and free version (the free version has ads and a limited number of songs). I had inquired about the availability of a PDF music reader on several Android Forums in July of 2011, and had not checked back on those forums for some time. It turns out that the developer has been visiting the Android forums, promoting his app (a good idea):
I fired up my Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) running HP TouchPad, something I admittedly haven’t done for the past two weeks. I went to the Google Market to download the app, and could not download the app to the TouchPad. I looked on the FAQ for MobileSheets, and apparently Google Market considers a number of Gingerbread Android devices to be incompatible with MobileSheets. Ultimately, I had to download the app from Amazon, which worked. As a person that typically uses iOS devices, I have to wonder: how many iOS users would take the time to search out an app at a second store if they weren’t allowed to buy it at the first store (It’s a moot point, as there is only one store, unless you are jailbroken and use the Cydia tools and stores)?
Note Google Marketplace’s message that “Your device isn’t compatible with this item,” even though with Amazon’s App Marketplace, it is.
On the TouchPad (Let’s call it the HP AndroidPad), I was able to open a few documents in Dropbox and import them to MobileSheets. From my experience on the HP Touchpad, pages turn both a bit slow and fast at the same time. This could be the TouchPad’s problem, but a very significant “press” is required to turn a page (sometimes not registering) but after the page turns, the draw is almost instantaneous (the draw itself is as fast as anything I’ve seen on iOS). There is a noticable lag with the page turn–but again, I’m using a ported Alpha version of Android on a non-Android device. Your experience may be better. I’ve found that a swipe gesture on MobileSheets works better than a press, but when I am peforming or conduction, I find “swipes” (other than those from my arm as I conduct) to be too involved of a process in changing pages.
MoblieSheets has some nice features, such as a zoom setting that doesn’t seem to affect the speed of page turns at all, a metronome, metadata (the categories are a little wonky for sheet music), a page slider with page preview, half-page turns in landscape mode, and the ability to use a BlueTooth foot pedal. At the current time (the app was originally introduced in late October 2011, and this review was written in early 2012), there is no way to annotate the music on your Android Device in this app. I continue to believe that annotation is a key component for any music reader, regardless of platform. Otherwise, the feature set of MobileSheets is quite nice for being the introductory app of its class. The developer has plans to add annotation and other features, as seen in the app description in the Google Marketplace:
Visually, the MobileSheet ties itself to the Android interface, much like unrealBook ties itself to the iOS interface. Both apps “get the job done,” but they aren’t necessarily “pretty” like forScore for iOS.
This is the main page, where you can sort your scores by metadata
I still wonder about the effectiveness of music reading on a widescreen 16:10 Android device, which is actually more narrow (skinnier) than the iPad or TouchPad. The zoom feature of MobileSheets will be of assistance in that matter–but I would need a widescreen device to actually see if the music would be useable in the rehearsal setting.
This isn’t a MobileSheets issue, but the continual presence of this bottom taskbar is annoying when it comes to music. I would prefer to have the taskbar at the top of the page like iOS. As I’m relatively new to Android, there’s probably a setting that will change that–I just haven’t taken the time to search it out.
In general, MobileSheets lacks the polish of forScore and the maturity of unrealBook, my favorite iOS PDF music readers. At the same time, the current feature set would make MobileSheets comparable to many of the “next level” of PDF music readers for iOS, including Deep Dish GigBook, iGigBook, and Music Reader 4.0. The developer maintains a blog and a list of news about the app, and it appears that the app is frequently updated (never purchase an app that hasn’t been updated in over a year). I’m hoping that annotation will be added as a feature, that the strange download situation with Google Marketplace will be addressed, and that other manufacturers will offer 4:3 Android tablets that will be a more natural “fit” to printed music.
Many of MobileSheet’s features are shown here, with a page scroll bar, set list, and zoom. You can also see the buttons that take you to a music player (linking audio files), a metronome, and an Android settings bar.
In conclusion, if you own an Android seven inch or ten inch tablet, and you want a PDF music reader that is intended specifically for music (i.e. not “just” a PDF reader), I’ve done some searching and I believe this app remains your only option. Thank goodness it’s a good one.
Addendum: I found this part of the FAQ of MobileSheets very interesting, discussing the iPad and music readers:
One final note: Musicnotes has a sheet music reader for Android, but the app limits you to only the music you buy from Musicnotes, which is limiting if they don’t have what you need!