Tidal seeks fix for Android app bug

Tidal Rolling Stones Nexus 6

My third month as a Tidal subscriber started today, but nearly not at all. Last week I prepared to cancel the pricey, streaming service after encountering a disastrous functional flaw listening on either Nexus 6 or 9. Songs skip to the next track part way through playing, which is unacceptable behavior—made more so because of expectations that higher audio fidelity and loftier monthly subscription fee set.

I would have stopped subscribing yesterday, at the billing cycle's end, if not for Tidal offering a free month of service. Whether or not our paying relationship continues depends much on the music streamer resolving an app problem. "There is a bug with Nexus and Sony phones with Android 5 unfortunately", according to a tech support specialist, "We are working on fixing this. Mostly after 26 megabytes have been streamed, it skips. So for now we do not have a solution yet",

Yikes! If your experience on said devices is like mine, now you know why. The question: When is the fix? On this fine June 1st, every song played from the Android Tidal app on my Nexus 6 skips. None finishes.

Well, Frak Me

My problem started with Google's HTC-made tablet, then spread to the Motorola-manufactured smartphone. Last week, I contacted Tidal support, sending this email:

My service renews May 31. I plan to cancel on the 29th.

I have an ongoing problem with the Android app on Nexus 6 and 9, where songs skip ahead and do not complete. This anomaly started soon after my second month of service, which is my first as a paying subscriber. The places where songs skip to the next is fairly consistent. Today, listening to Rolling Stones classic "Sympathy for the Devil", the track abruptly ended about halfway through the 6:18 play time.

There is no pattern I can discern. The problem occurs with some albums and not with others. It might occur one day consistently with every song on an album but on another day play just fine. I do not see the errant behavior using the webapp in Chrome on my laptop.

Your FAQ section isn't helpful, and I see no support forums for subscribers. I was in the process of canceling service when making the decision to send this email first. But without resolution, I must use another service, which is tragic. I will truly miss Tidal. Lossless listening is joyous, but useless if songs skip.

Can we fix this? Seems like a service-side problem to me. Otherwise, I must cancel, but in two days, so you can respond.

I sent the message at 12:42 PM PDT on May 27th and received response about 10 hours later; the email text puts the time as 8:21 AM the following day. which would be about right for Norway (where the service was founded before being acquired by Jay Z). Response time is acceptable enough.

Cue the Record

Besides acknowledging the app bug, the tech-support specialist addressed something else: "We do not want support forums as they tend to be filled with spam and other things that are not very relevant. Most answers can be [found] in the FAQ, and if the customer is wondering about something he/she can contact support for further assistance".

Well, frak, I actually see the sense in that. Tidal appeals to people willing to pay more for superior sound. Again, high pricing—about twice other paid services—raises expectations about quality of service and customer support. One-on-one support is more sensible and presents better public image if support forums don't: 1) Fill up with span; 2) Become repository for complaints.

I most certainly can hear the difference between 320kbps MP3 and Tidal's 1411kbps Free Lossless Audio Codec. But I concede that many listeners either won't, or the difference they hear will be dissatisfying because of the bassy, muddy sound to which they are accustomed. That's why last month I put forth the Tidal challenge: Listen to nothing else for 21 days, then compare to the more compressed tracks.

But benefits are meaningless if you can't appreciate them because songs skip. The experience might be grumpily acceptable for a free service, but certainly not at $19.99 per month. As much as I really, really, really like Tidal's HiFi streaming and the curated playlists, something else pulls me away: Last week, when signing onto Google Music from Nexus 6, the service offered 6 months free should I resubscribe. I couldn't refuse no billing until after Thanksgiving.

I could save $100 by just canceling Tidal before July 1st and using Google Music instead. Will Tidal fix the Android app bug before June 30th? Will I find the superior sound so satisfying as to pay more when I can get otherwise similar benefits for free? The drama! We shall see.

Photo Credit: Joe Wilcox

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