Considering the kind of profile other apps and services the search giant has in its stable, Google Play Music doesn’t seem to get anywhere near the publicity it deserves. It does all the things iTunes does, with a bit of Pandora thrown in. It also has some serious benefits over those two services. If you have yet to explore it, here is everything you need to know about Google Play Music.
Google Play Music was launched in 2011 to relatively little fanfare. Since then it has been steadily refined and improved and now delivers a very good music streaming service. In fact, I would go as far as to say it was the best music service out there right now.
What is Google Play Music?
- What is Google Play Music?
- How does Google Play Music compare to other services?
- What are the standout features of Google Play Music?
- Get more out of Google Play Music
Google Play Music is part of a huge suite of apps and services designed to support the Android operating system. It is now six years old and last year had something of a makeover. It is a music streaming service that does things a little differently and I think, better than the competition.
Streaming is what it does best. You don’t download tracks to your computer or smartphone. That’s so last decade. Instead, any purchases or samples are stored in the cloud in your allocated space and streamed to whatever device you’re listening with. That means no DRM issues, no having to manage device storage or sorting through hundreds of tracks. As long as you have a good network connection, you can listen anywhere at any time.
It will, of course, work with any music you already have saved on your device and play it seamlessly.
There are two aspects to Google Play Music. One is the free locker where your music is stored. The other is All Access that provides the streaming, personalized playlists and radio. All Access is a subscription service but is well worth the cost.
How does Google Play Music compare to other services?
I stand by my assertion that Google Play Music is the best music service out there right now. Usability is way ahead of the competition. The app is super-simple and designed around the needs of the user. There is also a web companion app you can use on your desktop that is synced with all the tracks, playlists and favorites.
Better than iTunes? – Definitely. iTunes is a good system but is too caught up in DRM and maintaining its own ecosystem. It is easy to navigate but restrictive and not exactly a pleasure to use.
Better than Pandora? – Sure. Pandora has ‘only’ a million or so tracks where Google Play Music has over 35 million. Plus, who needs the Music Genome Project when you can use Google machine learning to offer suggestions? It uses fewer ads too.
Better than Spotify? – Absolutely. Their behavior analysis is superb and delivers some very good personalized playlists but simply cannot compete with Google Play Music.
What are the standout features of Google Play Music?
The main feature of Google Play Music is the sheer simplicity of it. A lot of time and attention has gone into making the app and the service as a whole very usable. Login to the app, enter a credit card number and you’re away. Google does require a credit card to verify your location for licensing but won’t charge it unless you subscribe or buy something.
The locker is free and comes with enough space to store 50,000 tracks. All access is a subscription but worth it. You can either buy and store tracks in your locker or upload your own from your device. If you’re planning to upload lots of music, Google Play Music has a music manager app that will take care of it all for you.
The other great feature is the playlists and suggestions. This is Google we are talking about, so using data is part of the package. Google recently introduced machine learning to Google Play Music that collates everything it knows about you into some suggested playlists. If you don’t want suggestions, you can turn it off too.
Suggestions are pretty good if you have used Google Play Music for a little while. Log in and you will get five suggestions, I got ‘Working Out’, ‘Working a Beat’, ‘Getting Lost in a Story’, ‘Unwinding´ and ‘Throwback’ the other day. Each day is different and is actually quite accurate to y tastes and listening history.
This stuff is what Spotify was originally known for but has lost its way a bit recently. Now, Google Play Music is most definitely king of the hill when it comes to suggestions.
Get more out of Google Play Music
Once you sign up for Google Play Music and begin playing around with it you will quickly see how powerful it can be. Once you’re up to speed and have gotten the hang of things, there are a few tricks you might like to know that can make life easier and a bit better.
Identify Songs Playing Around You
If you have ever used Shazam and liked it, Google Play Music can do the same thing. If you’re ever out and about and need to identify a song playing somewhere, you can do it with Google Play Music.
Open up the Google Play Music app and tap the search bar. Select Identify what’s playing and let the app listen to the music. It will then work its magic and identify the track if it can. Once identified, you get the option to play the song, save it to your locker or add it to your playlist. No need to a separate app and no need to rack your brains for hours trying to remember a track. Done and dusted in seconds.
There’s a video for that
As Google also owns YouTube and if you subscribe to All Access, you also get a subscription to YouTube Red as part of the package. If you’re playing a track on Google Play Music, there will likely be a video link to the corresponding YouTube video which you can also watch. Ad-free thanks to YouTube Red.
Once that video is finished, you are returned to Google Play Music and your playlist. It is a very neat little trick.
Upload your own music and stream it anywhere
I mentioned the upload aspect of Google Play Music earlier. As well as streaming music and videos from Google, you can also upload your own music to your locker to use with the app. There is even the music manager that manages those uploads for you. If you use Chrome, there is an extension to make it even easier to upload.
Free users have space for up to 50,000 tracks which is enough for anyone. Then you can stream it to any registered device, anywhere at any time. For free.
Music to work out to
Work out much? Use Google Play Music and Android Wear and your gym time gets much more interesting. Pair some Bluetooth headphones to your Android Wear and stream music from your Google Play Music locker directly to your device for supercharged workout sessions.
Google Play Music is primarily a streaming service but you do get the option to download tracks should you want to. If you’re going somewhere with poor cell service that means you should never be without your music. Most urban areas have great LTE coverage, but step out of town and that can fade pretty quickly.
Access a track in Google Play Music, tap the three vertical dots to access the menu and select Download.
Google Play Music has radio stations too and you can browse them as you need to find one you want to listen to. When you’re in the radio section of the app, use the slide-out menu on the left and you should see Browse stations. Tap that and you will see a further slider with a series of genres. Select one to see a range of stations who are broadcasting in that genre which you can browse.
If you’re not comfortable with Google Play Music watching you to get to know your habits, you can turn it off. You can also delete any data held within the app. Go to the Settings part of the app and find Delete recommendation history to delete everything it knows. You can also turn tracking off in the same area too.
The final neat trick available in Google Play Music is the sleep timer. If you like to listen to something as you go to sleep, this is for you. Go into Settings and scroll to the Sleep Timer. Set it for anything up to 12 hours 59 minutes in advance and the music will automatically stop once the timer hits your limit.
Google Play Music is one app that genuinely deserves more attention than it gets. I think it is the best music app out there and is only going to get better. With serious personalization potential and the link to YouTube, it is my music app of choice right now.