App Review: Retune 13
HP was gearing up to try something really interesting with webOS. We're not entirely sure how Music Synergy would have worked and where HP Play could have gone, but as you well know, things didn't go what we could call "according to plan". If you're an iTunes user, you can get a little bit of TouchPad musical synergy going today for free, all thanks to a delightful app named Retune.
Personally, I nearly skipped over Retune when browsing the App Catalog thanks to its less-than-stellar icon. But for whatever reason I tapped it and a surprise I did receive. Retune is a full-fledged iTunes remote, duplicating in parts the iTunes interface and layout, but still keeping it very webOS. It is reliant upon a Wi-Fi connection to your computer (Mac or PC) running iTunes; everything here is pulled from and pushed back to iTunes. The app is an incredibly fancy remote to control iTunes or your Apple TV - it's not a remote iTunes player. That distinction must be made clear. But let's be honest, your computer or TV is likely hooked up to the better speakers in the house, not your TouchPad. This is for changing tracks or pausing the music while in another room or just without having to put down your TouchPad and dig up yet another remote. And at that, Retune excels.
The first launch of Retune will prompt you with concise instructions on how to pair up your TouchPad with iTunes. It's pretty simple: open iTunes, select your TouchPad from the devices menu, and enter the four digit code displayed on your TouchPad. It's the same scheme used by Apple's Remote app for iOS. Retune seems to have access to all of the same features and content as the iOS Remote app. The app places your playback controls and a search box at the top, library, playlist, and current album artwork on the left, and the playlist itself on the right, dominating most of the screen. Across the bottom are buttons to browse your library by Songs, Artists, Albums, Genres, and Composers.
When viewing the Music, Movies, TV Shows, and Podcasts libraries, Retune displays album artwork in the list view, though in playlists it does not. Tapping on any album/artist/genre/etc will open up another list where you can then tap on a track to play it through iTunes on your computer. Scrubber tracking is accurate and fast through Retune, and the play/pause controls only run a fraction of a second behind actually clicking the button in iTunes.
Retune lets you access more than just your raw music and movies - you can actually even use it to access iTunes' Genius feature. When playing something a little bullseye appears in the bottom left next to the repeat button. While not immediately obvious, this launches into iTunes Genius, which attempts to find similar music in your library to what you're currently listening to, you know, since you tapped that to find similar music. As with everything else, Retune is merely chatting back and forth with iTunes, tapping that little Genius button fires the request to iTunes, which itself loads the Genius playlist and transmits it back to Retune. Retune can also access iTunes' Genius Mixes, which essentially is iTunes automatically and assembling Genius playlists based on what's in your library (for example, it gives me a Swing Revival Mix and a Classic R&B Mix, among others).
For all of its awesome iTunes remoteness, Retune isn't without faults. The biggest and most glaring is that switching to another app forces Retune to resync with iTunes on return, which takes at least a few seconds and dumps you back into the Artists view instead of what's currently playing. Hand-in-hand with the loss of a connection upon leaving the app, Retune also lacks a set of notification dashboard controls for controlling your music while in other apps. There's also no way to get back to the currently playing playlist, though one would think tapping that little currently playing album artwork in the bottom left corner would do the trick.
Retune does have some neat tricks up its sleeve too. Tapping the speaker button in the top bar opens a pop-over volume control that lets you manipulate the volume controls. Yes, controls - just as with the iOS Remote app, Retune can independently manage the volume on multiple wirelessly-connected speakers through iTunes. The list pane of the interface also has a fast list scrubber in the form of a translucent grab handle that you can drag down to any point of the list and Retune will jump to that point. It's a poor substitute for the alphabet jump list in the iOS app, but it's better than nothing when going through a very long list like the individual songs list.
All things considered, Retune is a brilliant reproduction of the capabilities of the iOS Remote app. Comparing the two we couldn't find anything in one that was missing from the other. There are still some user interface details to work out and the lack of dashboard playback controls is frustrating, though not nearly as much so as having to wait for the app to resync itself when returning to it. But this is a free app, and for the first app from SquallyDocs Studios in the App Catalog it's not a bad first attempt. If you're an iTunes user who listens to music through their computer or Apple TV, Retune is well worth the download.