Aug 17 AT 9:29 AM Jess Blanchard 15 Comments

Review: Get your head in the cloud with Skifta


By now, most people have at least heard of “cloud computing” and DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), even if they’re not entirely sure what it is and how it works. Now, I’m not the most integrated circuit in the chipset. But we wanted to test this Tony Stark-level technology on someone who is more in line with the level of technical ability (“techtitude”) you could expect from the average consumer. Over the past week, I got to explore this new horizon, and I gotta say: it was a mostly painless and enjoyable experience.

Using a Samsung Captivate, Sonos ZonePlayer S5 and WD TV Live Plus HD media center, I tested Qualcomm’s Skifta project app for Android.┬áThe idea behind Skifta is that it allows you to turn your Android device into a DLNA remote control, integrating and transferring your media between your laptop, TV, game console or speaker system.

The UI is simple and nice to look at. It helps make navigating an intimidating new technology nearly effortless. But like most new technologies, Skifta is limited in that compatible devices are not prevalent in the wild. By downloading and synching with their desktop app, you’re able to take your media with you wherever you go… so long as you have a Wi-Fi connection available. However, if there are no DLNA appliances around, you’re limited to accessing your media on your handset. That’s nothing ground-breaking, but it is nice. It basically removes the middle man by eliminating the necessity to transfer the media you already own to your device. There is some lag when loading or changing songs, but it’s negligible. (It’s in no way reminiscent of RealPlayer, God have mercy on its soul). Something of note here: when trying to access files, the app returned “No media found” when attempting to list “All Music.” However, it had no problem returning results when I viewed my music via “Genre,” “Artist,” “Album,” etc.

Skifta also allows you to stream media directly from the cloud via “channels” included with the app. Unfortunately, the selection here is rather sparse. And the functionality of the channels is really nothing to write home about. As best I can tell, each music channel provides roughly 35 hours of listening time. While you are able to fast-forward and rewind, the ability to skip through individual tracks is painfully lacking. (This is a problem we haven’t had to deal with since the extinction of cassettes!).

Another shockingly outdated aspect of Skifta channels is their partnership with Napster. Like most people, I don’t have a Napster Music account. I was tempted to sign up for a free trial in order to test this part of the app, but there was no way I’d consent to give Napster my credit card information.

Other channels also include Picasa and Facebook Photos, which let you view your photos on your TV via DLNA connectivity. Personally, I would have liked to stream any online content to my television, but I didn’t see anything that would let me do so.

All this aside, Skifta really shines when you have the proper environment for it. In my living room, amidst the HD media center, Sonos wireless speakers and my trusty ASUS laptop, I was a media god. With the press of a button, bam! We got tunes from the PC on the wireless speaker. Oh? You wanna see my vacation videos from my trip to Florida? There they are, on my HD-TV.

But once the newness wore off, I realized that, in order to stream a strange underground techno song (confusingly titled “Dog Butt”) through one tiny-but-powerful speaker in the corner, I had to pause Spotify, which had been streaming a vast library of songs I don’t even own (not titled “Dog Butt”) through my Onkyo 7.1 Digital Surround Sound via my laptop and a VGA cable.

If you’re looking for an app that lets you access the media on your home devices while on the go, this isn’t it. But if you’ve already gone DLNA (or plan to do so soon) and want a handy and simple way to control your set up, this app is worth a look. Or if you’re looking for a way to impress your less tech-savvy friends and family, play around with Skifta a bit. It definitely has some “wow” factor.

Unfortunately, sometimes when you’re first to market, you have to wait for the market to come to you. As DLNA and the cloud expand, Skifta could really see some possibility for growth. Are any of you DLNA-friendly? How do you control the experience?

Words are hard. I word good.

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    Great review Jess… Will take a look at some point…

  • geiko

    I love me some Oxford commas. They’re like eating good food, like pizza, cheese burgers, a good steak, or sushi. ;-)

  • Jason

    I’ve been using Skifta in conjunction with my ReadyNAS and it works pretty well to stream videos (in .avi format) to my Samsung Epic 4G in my house. The playback is smooth and the video is nice and vibrant. However, if I’m in my house, I have other ways of accessing the video on much bigger, not battery-powered screens.

    Skifta also works remotely but it requires a Wifi connection. This seems to be the bottleneck for me to really find the app useful. It’s nice to have but limited. Skifta joins a number of other desktop applications trying to allow you to take your media with you, so it’s going to have to figure out something to make it stand out. Right now, it’s required Wifi connection has me looking more at the alternatives.

    • Slith

      I wonder if the newest version will work over the cell networks.

  • Interpol91

    Awesome! I always like to take advantage of all my phone’s capabilities and I will definitely be checking this out.

  • ihatefanboys

    wow this review is late. ive been using this app for upwards of 6 months. its great.

    • Futureboy

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  • aj


  • Kevin

    DLNA – the generation’s connection.

  • joshua

    also have a look at Twonky (but sucks now that it requires a paid license) and iMediaShare (free & better than Twonky) for DLNA.

    i’ve used both on my Thunderbolt to my 360/ps3 and iMS works best.

    • Francis

      Twonky does not allow remote access besides the mobile application is quite buggy. The UI is nicer though.
      I like the fact I can access my server from a remote location and stream my media to a local DLNA device (NP3500). I don’t really need this to happen through cell network, WIFI is enough for me especially for lossless / high quality formats (Flac, etc.). Skifta is great.

  • Chris

    I’ve recently fully converted from MS to Linux, and the only thing holding back the transition was a Tversity replacement. Skifta is a really good piece of kit in this respect and I’ve found it excellent for streaming from my main desktop to my tab. Recommended.

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  • _Diego

    Sounds intriguing, but I’ll wait some more before I’ll get into this :-) Will be following this up though, looks very promising!

  • Rustem

    I used to use Skifta, it has nice interface but not good usability as for me. Now I stopped on ArkMC. It’s not such nice looking, but do what I need from it. Last update added YouTube support. And its able to stream few 1080p movies simultaneously for hours!