After moving over to iOS I faced a dilemma over what I should do with many of my main apps and workflows. Luckily, I had already reverted back to Evernote for my note taking and Google also some good apps for services such as Google docs however there was still a gap over music. Thankfully with the new Google music app for iOS I don’t have that dilemma anymore.
Google music initially launched with a unique proposition. Instead of offering a streaming radio service they offered a service where you can upload up to 20,000 songs to the cloud for free using their downloadable Google music manager. From that you can stream or download the music onto your mobile device. Costs are reduced on Google’s end by only keeping the best copy of the song online.
Google also uses it’s music store to sell music to its users and then more recently it introduce Google Music All Access.
Google Play Music All Access
Back in the summer Google introduced its streaming service, Google Music All Access. Like Spotify, Pandora and other services there is a web app as well as mobile apps. Also like Spotify you can save music on to your device as well. The main reasons I jumped at the chance to use Google’s version was because it was with the initial sign up discount it was cheaper than the alternatives, had just as good features, plus I had been using Google’s free service before.
The iOS version
The day the app came out I downloaded it and moved it into my homepage. Loading it up showed a familiar interface but with some slight difference. All in all an Android user will recognise the app but wonder where certain features are. The top has a classic hamburger menu button that brings out a draw with the main options: listen now, my library, lay lists, radio and explore. There is also a cog that brings up further settings such as blocking explicit songs, allowing you to activate all access and alter when the streaming service is active and the quality of streamed songs.
With the app the albums and songs have that classic google cards style that is spreading across all of googles apps and services. It works well with the album arts, titles and a small three dot symbol to bring up options such as start radio, shuffle album, add to queue, add to playlist and go to artists.
If you go into an album there is an option next to the album logo to download a local copy of the music, useful for saving data when traveling.
The biggest difference between the interfaces is the inability to see only songs downloaded onto the device rather than songs held within your entire library held online. Hopefully this feature will come in future iterations for those users with limited data plans.
One of things that really sets Google music apart is what Google does best. Search and relevant adverts. Although I certainly appreciate not having adverts in general, with Google Play Music All Access you rarely need to purchase an album (unless you directly want to pay an artist for their music.) and so the recommendation are more like a system for finding good music from an intelligent recommendation service.
It’s just like having a friend with great music taste who is always telling you about the next big thing. Except you don’t have to listen to him go on about why vinyl records are better and how he has a new fixie.
You can create your own playlists but just like iTunes genies Google can also make playlists for you as well. If you have upgraded to all access then the playlists will include anything from Google’s extensive library. If not then are limited to the songs you have uploaded via the download manager.
On the audio side of things the audio quality using the same headphones and the same app on a different platform is much improved. The bass seems stronger and more defined. The mids are clearer and the overall the audio quality of the songs are just better. Of course you can set different sound quality settings that will also increase or decrease the data usage of the app. By setting lower quality you are reducing the music quality but saving your data. By setting higher you’ll get better music but at a data cost. Of course you can set the app to only download and stream over wifi to save your data too.
Overall Google Play Music has entered the music streaming on iOS with a mature, good looking and easy to use app. With it’s large back catalogue it might be a great choice for you. However, perhaps Google has waited to long to bring this app to iOS, after all with iTunes radio who needs Google play music?