Google Play Music: The Verdict
I’ve seen Google’s music streaming service mentioned a couple of times over the past few weeks. Being a long time user of Spotify, I didn’t really take note. After all, how different could it really be?
We listen to music every minute we’re in the office. From the radio to audio books, and from the smoothest of jazz to the heaviest of metal, we certainly get the most from our Spotify subscription each month.
With this 50+ hours of music each week, we found ourselves being the perfect candidates to pit this new Google Play service against the old dogs. Keep reading to find out what we liked, and what we didn’t like so much.
This is a small feature but one I really like. Being a bit of an avid music fan I like to take an interest in each album that a band produces, especially for bands with larger discographies, where band members have changed through the course of time, or when discovering a band for the first time.
The radio is a feature we use a lot as it can be left running to play music from the selected genre. I liked the Google Play Music radio for a number of reasons:
1) Something that gnarks me off about Spotify radio is that you can’t go back when listening to the radio, and you can only see the current song.
Google on the other hand lists the next AND previous ~30 songs making it easy to go back in the event you missed a song or want to replay it again, and forward should you wish to skip a couple of tracks in the queue.
Being the search giant they are, you’d expect the search to be pretty darn good and thankfully it is. The search results are nicely broken down into sections by artist, albums and top songs.
Fuzzy searching is great too in the event that you misspell an artist or band name. Spotify does sometimes display the ‘Did you mean‘ option, however I often find this doesn’t pop up all the time, even when I’ve made simple mistakes.
Being in the office most of the time, the mobile side of listening to music doesn’t really effect us. However, for the purposes of this test we gave it a go and the results were impressive. We tested it on an Android HTC One which comes by default with the ‘Google Play Music’ app installed. Everything you can do on the desktop version could also be done via the app.
The app wasn’t previously available on iOS devices but as of mid-November this is now available.
No desktop installer
This was my biggest gripe with the Google Play Music service. Some people will no doubt prefer this but I found it a constant challenge to remember which browser window it was in and which tab. In my profession I often have 10+ tabs open at any one time so I ended up pinning the tab so it didn’t take up too much space.
What this then meant however was that I had to open the tab to see which song was playing. This became very tedious very quickly.
No free version
When signing up for Google Play Music you get a 30 day free trial before having to pay the £9.99 monthly fee. We currently do pay for Spotify and personally I would be more than happy to pay that due to the amount of use we’d get out of it.
That being said, I can imagine that there are a lot of people out there that maybe only listen to a couple of hours of music a week, and therefore there isn’t an option available for them. Spotify, for me anyway, trumps Google in this area by providing an option for everyone.
Spotify has a ‘Discover‘ option that recommends new artists or albums based on your listening history. I love this feature and have used it pretty much every day since it was released.
Google Play Music has a similar feature called ‘Explore‘ but it’s just not as good. A lot of the albums and artists under this tab were choices that I would never ever listen to, and in the pick of recommendations it was listing artists completely unrelated to things I had listened to previously.
For example, it was listing Lionel Richie, The Proclaimers, Ronan Keating and boy band Blue after a couple of days of listening to nothing but metal.
The song choice comparative to Spotify was like-for-like. I couldn’t find a single artist or band that featured on one but not the other. This also included bands like Pink Floyd that Spotify only got onboard a few months ago.
Spotify allows you share songs to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Google on the other hand understandably only allows sharing to their Google+ network. I don’t really share songs or albums so can’t comment on this but think it’s an important point to note if you share songs a lot.
The Google Play Music service is excellent. Really excellent in fact. Will I be paying for a subscription and scrapping Spotify? Well… No. Not just yet anyway. The lack of desktop version is a massive blow for me and is unfortunately the deciding factor on whether to switch.
It’s a shame because I really like certain aspects of the Google service. For now I will be continuing with Spotify but will certainly be keeping a close eye on the progress made by Google and maybe in the future I’ll reconsider.
Have you tried out the Google Play Music service? What did you think? Please post your comments below.