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Verizon Song ID review and accuracy testing

September 19, 2009

in All Articles,Audio,Cellphone reviews

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Verizon Wireless has a feature on their cellphones that sounds very cool: while listening to music, you can let your cellphone listen for a few seconds, after which it will identify the song, artist and album.

The full name of the application is “Verizon V CAST Song ID”. It’s a free application from Verizon that you can load on many of Verizon’s MP3-capable cellphones. And, just like that, hold it up to music, and identify your song. Once the song is identified, Verizon gives you options for purchasing the entire song track, or a shorter ringtone.

Theoretically, this sounds great. But to me it originally seemed to nudge a toe over the line marked “too good to be true”. So I decided to run a Verizon Song ID test process and see if Song ID can do what it claims. Does Verizon’s Song ID work? Here’s what I did to find out.

I opened my current media storage program of choice: iTunes. I began playing my songs, one at a time, trying to let Song ID indentify each one. If a song wasn’t identified on the first try, I gave it one more try before I marked the song as unidentified.

I originally wanted to attempt an ID for each song in my entire iTunes collection of 305 songs. However, I stopped after 108. This is because, by that point, the scanning and ID process was behaving in a predictable pattern. I of course can’t predict how Song ID will work in every situation, but I tested it enough to 1) determine trends, and 2) define under what conditions it works the best.

Verizon V CAST Song ID: Test and analysis

Let me give the quick numbers, and then I’ll detail my Song ID test and how it might work for you.

I tested 108 songs. Verizon V CAST Song ID was able to identify 76 of them. BUT, this is not the final score. Keep reading…

This is a low score until you take into account that many of my songs are certainly considered arcane. I honestly don’t expect a song identification service to know about old CDs created by independent musicians or MP3s released by some anonymous person on the Internet. In my case, these include music from the old TV show “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, or tracks from the demo album of the not-safe-for-the-easily-offended Stephen Lynch, or the Internet-only release of “The Picard Song” by DarkMateria.

Again, I wouldn’t expect a music ID service to be able to identify everything I listen to. And if you remove the “unfair” songs, the songs that simply aren’t available in major outlets, the final score changes. Removing the “arcane” stuff in my collection gives a success rate of 76 identified out of 84 total songs.

So, my adjusted Verizon Song ID accuracy: 90%

Not bad at all. Next, we examine: of the songs that were missed, were there any patterns to them? Yes, I found certain types of songs were just not easily identifiable.

“Old” songs: If a song was a big hit in the past, it gets identified. If it was of lesser popularity, it has a much lesser chance of being identified, even if the release was country-wide or world-wide. Examples are “Evan” by Jan Hammer (1985), “Look Mum, No Hands!” by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine (1992), and “Beverly Hillbillies”, by Weird Al Yankovic (1989).

Cover songs: Cover songs are not identified well. Example covers for me that didn’t identify include “In the Year 2525” by Ufa, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Jake Shimabukuro, and “Kashmir” by Led Zepagain.

Cool exception: The cover songs limitation did seem to apply, except when dealing with spoofs! I thought this was really impressive. Verizon’s V CAST Song ID could tell the difference between Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, and the Weird Al Yankovic spoof “Couch Potato”, even though Yankovic closely mimics the song itself as well as Eminem’s voice. Other correct IDs were for “Come Sail Away” by Styx, and “Come Sail Away” by Eric Cartman (South Park).

A small note about the album ID: Your artist and song may be identified correctly, but the album might be wrong. Since songs from one album can be exactly the same on another, I think this is understandable. It’s not important to me, but I still wanted to mention it. This happened with perhaps five or ten songs, including “Sinnerman” by Nina Simone, “Flash’s Theme” by Queen, and “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix.

Verizon V CAST Song ID: Conclusion

What does all this mean? It means something very important:

If you are trying to identify modern mainstream music, Song ID accuracy will be very close to 100%.

If it’s on a pop radio station, if it’s by an artist still active today, chances are very good that Verizon’s V CAST Song ID service can identify it. I’m guessing this will apply to the majority of users.

I was really impressed with the Song ID service. If you don’t know a song, it can indeed listen and help you out. It’s a free service, so you don’t even have to pay anything unless you decide to purchase a song or ringtone. For any Verizon user with a compatible phone, I recommend the V CAST Song ID application. What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll have a cool toy to show off at parties, you’ll better personalize your phone, and you’ll improve your music collection.

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