Welcome to the third edition of Editor’s Pick of the Week. This week, our editor, Simon, tells us about a very nifty DLNA/UPnP app for Android – Skifta.
With the recent trend of shipping devices with less and less local storage, in a very transparent attempt and pushing users towards the cloud, users are left with either giving up “owning” their media, or picking and choosing what to store directly on their devices. If you’re inclined enough to have set up a DLNA or UPnP media store in your home network, then you might want to take a look at Skifta for Android.
Skifta is much more than a DLNA/UPnP app. It is developed by Qualcomm Atheros, and if you’re unfamiliar with them, they make the chips that are likely powering the mobile device you’re reading this on. Skifta is DLNA certified (it was actually the first Android application to be DLNA certified), fully supports the UPnP standard, and if QCT has their way, will be pre-packaged in a wide range of devices.
Most DLNA/UPnP applications support client and server mode. That is, you can either host media and push it to a device in server mode, or you can use client mode, and pull media to your device. Skifta does both, but also has the addition of local storage support for when you’re offline or not within range of your home network.
Skifta is very straight forward to use, as you basically have 3 options before you start listening to music or watching movies. Firstly, where do you want to get this content from? Local or remote. Second, where are you playing it to? Local or remote. Third, what do you want to play? If you’re smart enough to answer those 3 simple questions, you’ll be enjoying your media wherever you want, in no time flat.
Upon selecting a file to play, Skifta will immediately attempt to buffer the entire song over whichever connection you have available to the media server. If you’re using an 802.11n network, this happens very quickly. Almost instantly. It would be nice if the application would load the next few songs in the album in order to reduce “seek” time when moving to, or skipping, a track. The lower blue indicator line indicates buffer status.
While Skifta does display embedded album art, this is only shown on the “now playing” screen. Instead of thumbnails when selecting tracks, a small placeholder icon is used to denote a folder, audio track, video file, or picture. While it doesn’t detract at all from usage, it would be a nice bit of polish to have.
Skifta also doesn’t seem to do any caching of any sort, even if the network was remembered. This means your entire library is polled every time you reconnect. This isn’t a large issue with the proliferation of fast wireless networks, but if you’re offloading media storage to a dedicated machine because your device doesn’t have enough local space, you’re going to be adding up the seconds that it takes to load a large library.
Like most 3rd party audio players, Skifta sticks itself into the notification drawer, but 2 icons are present. One indicates the network you are connected to, the other shows your media information about the media being played. Unfortunately there are no media controls, but tapping will bring you to the according screen.
All in all, Skifta might not be jam-packed with features and fluff, but it does a perfect job at pulling or pushing media around from a DLNA/UPnP server. If you’re looking for a fast and stable media player, Skifta by Qualcomm Atheros is a great app.