iCrates is an online magazine site exploring the dusty old world of vinyl music, with reviews and other items of interest. Strangely enough, they have recently branched out and developed an iOS app to assist you when making your purchases or just browsing for music.
The app is designed for you to access quick information about specific releases, trawling the combined online resources of eBay, Discogs, iTunes and Amazon. (First point: It would be great to see this list extended to cover some other major online resources such as Gemm and maybe a few larger music stores like Juno.) As such it will appeal to the trainspotter in you – and you’re a DJ, so whatever format you play, you do have a trainspotter / cratedigger / charity-shop-bargain-bin-botherer inside you somewhere, don’t you?)
First impressions/setting up
The main screen is basic enough for you to instantly feel at home without any complex instruction. You can quickly search via the text entry field or via the Scan functionality which uses the back camera of your iPhone/iPod Touch.
I tried several different CDs with the scanner and I couldn’t get a result at all, despite knowing that all of those releases were returned in the results if I typed the barcode into the search field. I double checked the barcode scan functionality with a couple of other “barcode scan” type apps and perhaps it’s my shaky hands or the light bouncing off a CD case which causes a problem during the scan.
When the search results quickly come back, you have a good amount of information per release right down to the release number. In the example above I searched for a fairly new and non-mainstream artist (Duke Slammer) who had a few releases out in the second half of last year, I was pleasantly surprised that the artist was returned in the results. The release artwork sometimes features a small grey box at the bottom right; this will indicate the format of the item listed.
When you click on a release you can see the full details with track listing and blue circle icons to indicate when a sound clip preview (sourced from iTunes) or video clip (from YouTube) is available.
If the release is available in iTunes a corresponding link is displayed for an easy instant digital purchase from the store onto your device. If the app found the physical release for sale on Amazon, eBay or Discogs then an estimated value is displayed (based on average price) as well as rarity. In this circumstance, you can click on the estimated value which takes you through to a “Marketplace” page.
From here you can purchase the physical release through whichever site you wish. Ideally, I’d like to see an indicator on the main results page to show that you could purchase the physical release. At the moment you have to drill into each search result and look at the “Estimated Value” to find out. Don’t forget that you may be able to purchase the item cheaper elsewhere. From the release, you can click on the Label to display some basic detail about the label (including contact details) as well as releases on that label by other artists.
By clicking on the artist name you get taken to a neat summary page, it looks like these details are coming from the artist page on Discogs and in some cases, there are links to interview videos as well. If you’re looking at a band’s profile it will list the band members too.
The configuration of the app is simple yet effective. You can switch off the online resources you don’t want to include in the search as well as only using specific country domains for inclusion when using eBay. The value can be shown in your local currency as well. A useful addition would be to have the ability to filter out particular formats in the search results.
Since the app has been developed by an online magazine site, it makes sense that they include a mobile version of the site in the app as well. You may never look at the “Mag” section of the app, but I found it interesting and had some decent articles on artists and genres that perhaps I wouldn’t have explored previously.
The app does a good job at quickly trawling a number of different (but mainstream) online resources for music purchases and information. I know you could do this all separately and it would cost nothing, however, the neat all-in-one solution is useful and a quick way of buying tracks.
Even though the barcode scan feature is not for me, but I could always tap in the barcode and find the release straight away. This app may just save me from overpriced impulse purchases while out and about!
Is a one-stop-shop solution for online purchases a good idea? Would you like to see this functionality on Android? Have you already got this app? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.