First Look: Kinoma Play for Symbian

by Ben Smith on 30th October 2009

Kinoma Play is a media-consuming power-house of an S60 application. Fast and refined, even in this its first non-Windows Mobile incarnation it justifies a hefty $30 price-tag, giving my pre-historic N82 a new lease of life.

Kinoma - We Make Mobile Media Work - Video | Music | Podcasts | Radio | Webcams | Pictures

When the initial pitch on an S60 application – especially an S60 3rd edition (non-touch) application – is referenced as handling media with iPhone-like ease my heart tends to sink. Doubly so if it’s originated on the Windows Mobile platform… However, Kinoma Play – the recently released S60 media application – is just that and was introduced to me in just that way. Prepare yourself… this could be a rough ride…

Except it’s not. It’s a bloody good app. Damn.

What use are pre-conceptions if they’re going to be wrong?

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So what is Kinoma Play? At heart it’s a media player, but that description sells it short. It’s an audio player, picture viewer, a video player, a podcast manager (and player), a YouTube client, plus it’s got interfaces to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

The trouble is, that longer description makes it sound like a mess – trying to be all things to all people… But it’s not. And that’s actually made me a fan. It’s the polish… the refinement, the usability.

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Yes. I just said ‘polish’, ‘refinement’ and ‘usability’ about an S60 app. It’s not often that happens.

Kinoma Play’s real skill is getting you to you media quickly and efficiently. On loading the application you’re presented with a menu of what are effectively plug-ins (Kinoma calls them apps), which can be customised, updated, added to or removed. Each plug-in handles a different type of media, but all have a refreshing focus on discovery… images are scanned and updated automatically, a podcast library makes finding quality content a synch and the YouTube player makes searching quick and simple.

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Once playing media is buffered, scaled and processed elegantly too… there are settings available to tweak if you want them, but by default everything’s handled brilliantly. During playback users can jump back to the main menu to search and subscribe to further media and – crucially – use Twitter or sharing functions. With a multi-tasking OS such as Symbian this is all achievable with separate apps, but the integration is slick, quick and – frankly – much more pleasant to use. A feature I began to appreciate very early on was the ability to set audio or video playback to the background (whilst still playing) to do other tasks without interrupting them. The slick and responsive UI (similar to, but not identical to the Symbian standard) also makes this fast and easy.

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I quickly re-produced my media library (normally on my iPhone) onto my now-ageing N82 – podcasts, audio in multiple formats (including non-DRM content from the iTunes Store) and RSS feeds were all viewable just as easily as the iPhone. It’s advanced enough to keep the geeks happy and I’d happily give it to a ‘non-geek’ to use too, it’s that good.

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In terms of criticisms, I did manage to crash it when ‘sharing’ a link to a podcast via SMS, but the developers have acknowledged and promised to address that fault (otherwise it was rock solid). The podcast library is quite US-centric and limited compared to iTunes, but I found plenty of my favourites in there and adding unlisted feeds is easy and quick to do. It’s also non-touch devices only for now (although they will be supported eventually)… Kinoma Play’s not lacking much for not having touch – I just repeatedly found myself wishing my media had a larger screen.

The only real issue is the price $29.99. Yes 30 US dollars for a mobile application. Ouch.

It is too much… possibly a throw-back to its Windows Mobile past, pre-app stores and the expectation that nothing would cost more than a few pounds. But it’s only a little bit too much…. You could easily spend all of your ‘mobile day’ in Kinoma Play and its plug-in architecture promises to grow and support new services over time…. As I write this, a revision of the YouTube feature has just been announced.

Twitter / Kinoma: New! YouTube update now av ...

So, go mad. If you use media on an N95, N86, E71 or an N82 (or the Samsung i8510 – I’d expect that non-Nokia list to grow) treat yourself to an early Christmas present… and if not for you, buy it for the ‘normob’ in your life.  They’ll thank you.

I still can’t stop thinking how great a touch version would be on a wide-screen device like a 5800…

If you’d like to know more about Kinoma Play, Ewan Spence has also written a very thorough feature-review at the always-excellent All About Symbian too.

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