Fri | Jul 10, 2020

Software engineer brings music to phones

Published:Sunday | December 12, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Samuel Folkes (left) and André Glegg. - Contributed

Krista Henry, Staff Reporter

Entertainment comes in many forms. Improvements in technology have made that true more so now than at any time in man's history.

The transformation from cellular phones to smartphones has accelerated or accentuated that change, and today, entertainment includes what you can do with your phone.

Applications (apps) have become big business in the bid to keep a tech-driven world entertained. Apps on a phone is now a market that will not soon be exhausted or saturated.

Jamaica has caught on.

Software engineer Samuel Folkes is helping to change the way Jamaicans listen to radio with unlimited access to radio from anywhere in the world through your mobile phone.

Working under the Zip and Irie FM banner, Folkes is one of the main players in bringing Zip FM to everyone with an iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry with unlimited access, no matter where you are, and as the slogan says, it is 'Zip inna yuh ears.'

The 24-year-old has been working with the station for the last six months and has since brought technology to the forefront of getting Jamaican radio and music to people beyond the FM dial.

A self-taught programmer, Folkes, alongside 21-year-old interface designer André Glegg, who does the graphics, brought the Zip-BlackBerry (BB) application to life.

Software applications now make it easy to receive Internet streams, traditional AM and FM radio, and even SIRIUS XM-satellite programming on your cellphone and iPad, but until now, this has not been utilised in the Jamaican market.

Zip debuted its software for the iPhone earlier this year and launched its application for BlackBerrys last Wednesday, and has since, according to Folkes, got good reviews.

Folkes told The Sunday Gleaner: "It was a natural progression to release the BlackBerry application seeing that we did one for the iPhone. The BlackBerry rules the local mobile-phone market and we wanted to make Zip accessible to local people on the go.

"At Zip 103 FM we try our hardest to use technology to make our product better. No other local radio station has a mobile application of any sort. Sales are going great. So far, we've sold a little more than 200 keys. The reviews are also doing great as well; persons are enjoying it," Folkes explained.

The Zip BB application allows you to listen to Zip 103 FM from your BlackBerry once you have a data plan on your phone, or you have access to WiFi. It gives you access to a free 96Kbps zClassic-audio stream at good quality. If you have a zPremium account, which requires monthly subscription, you can use the app to access a 128Kbps stream, which is like CD quality.

Best network

The app is best used on 3G networks or with a WiFI as it is very data intensive, though in most cases an EDGE network will suffice.

"Compare it to streaming a YouTube video: with a slow Internet connection your video will buffer a few times during playback. On a fast connection, however, it will play non-stop," Folkes continued.

Currently, the application is not available to the BlackBerry Pearl family, but Folkes says he is working to alleviate the problem.

He said: "We're currently working on developing Android versions of the application as Android as a mobile OS is gaining a sizeable chunk of the mobile OS market share. It's all about making our station accessible to more people.

"We're not only trying to reach Jamaicans, we're trying to reach the world."

Having been a lover of computers since the age of three, Folkes plans to keep on pursuing his love for programming and entertainment, with great plans in the future to make technology easier for the Jamaican environment.

Glegg, also self-taught, loves everything technology related and is currently working with Folkes and the ZIP family to create a technology revolution.