There are apps for merely streaming music and audiobooks, and then there is Google Play. It should come as no surprise, though, that Google would not put out simple music streaming app. Instead, they have provided users with an entire digital marketplace for audio content, apps, and pretty much anything else under the Cloud.
Anytime that Google puts out something, you can guarantee that I will be excited to try it out. And Google Play was no exception to this rule. When it comes to crafting excellent software, year after year, decade after decade, few companies (excluding Microsoft and Apple) are ever coming close to competing with Google.
However, as far as Google Play is concerned, it would probably be fairer to compare it to iTunes or the Apple App Store than to compare it to Spotify or Tidal. That being said, it does everything that all of those platforms do … and some would say it does so better. But we’ll get to the bottom of whether that is true by the end of this review.
Google Play is a truly unique media distribution center. Sure, music and audiobooks may be at the center of it, but that is far from all it does. So, without further ado, let’s unpack everything that Google Play does have to offer. I will, though, just to note at the outset, primarily be looking at how Google Play functions in the context of a music streaming service today.
Google, obviously, is one of those tech companies that clearly needs no introduction. We use it every day (even if you aren’t aware that you are). And, thus, it has a pretty impressive reputation to uphold. So, when the time came to develop a streaming and digital content distribution service, the people at Google did not take the task lightly.
Google Play, as we know it today, derived from the consolidation of three formerly separate products: The Android Market, Google Music, and Google eBook Store. The good people at Google, geniuses that they are, figured, ‘why not just roll these 3 services into one mega service? And, so, they did – resulting in, I think, a much more convenient service overall.
The Android Market was originally announced on August 28th of 2008. And it became available to users on October 22nd of the same year. For the following 2 years after that, the Market was improved and convenient features like product filtering were added until it was a robust online app store.
In 2010, the Google eBook Store was launched, on December 6th. On the day it debuted, it featured 3 million eBooks, which made it officially “the largest eBook collection in the world.” Only Google could roll out a launch so large.
The following year, Google’s media storage just kept growing, this time in the music space. In November of 2011, Google announced Google Music, a new section of the Android Marketplace, on which people could purchase individual songs or full digital albums. It wasn’t until March of 2012, however, that Google finally merged all of these platforms into one. And, thus, Google Play was born.
Google Play has undergone many interfaces and design changes over the years. It has oscillated between looking like an app store, something similar to iTunes, and settling into the more sophisticated and modern design that it boasts today.
Today, Google Play looks not entirely unlike Netflix. At least if you are viewing it through a web browser. In the center of the page, you’ll find a gallery of new and hot content. Scroll through by medium – movies, music, books, etc. Or you can browse more precisely by using the content filers found on the left-hand side of the page.
The design is characteristically Google – bright colors and intuitiveness lace every page of the site. Easily browse by Apps, Movies and TV, Books, Devices, and Entertainment. Clicking into each section also allows you to either browse for new content or peruse your library, separated by type of content.
However, once you enter the VIP area for Google Play Music, the site changes almost entirely. It is less generalized and made for flawless streaming of your favorite artists and songs. One thing that I love about Google Play Music’s design is the fact that artist pages span the entire page, making for a more cinematic (if you will) listening experience than many other streaming services can provide. It creates a very immersive experience, offering in-depth artist bios and any other information that Google Play Music can provide.
When you log in, you will be greeted by the top songs of the moment. Below that, you’ll find all of your recommended listens, be it of a podcast or a new single. Google Play Music is all about catering to you, the user, and offering a beautifully vibrant and colorful site design in the process.
As far as the number of songs is concerned, Google Play Music is nothing to roll an eye at. With more songs than Spotify, Google Play Music is certainly a contender for the top streaming app (especially if quantity is your quintessential concern). Google Play Music boasts over 40 million songs, from a broad range of musical genres. Oh, and hundreds upon hundreds of popular podcasts as well.
Plus, you can do just about everything on Google Play Music that you can do on any other music streaming services: download songs and listen offline and enjoy radio stations based on mood/activity/situation/genre/etc. And, one of my favorite aspects of Google Play Music is the fact that you can upload up to 50,000 of your own downloaded songs onto their servers. This means that if Google Play does not carry a particular song or artist, simply add them to your library with no problem.
Oh, and if you choose to upgrade to Google Play Music Unlimited, you also get access to YouTube Music. So, essentially, you are getting two great music streaming platforms for the price of one. Can’t go wrong with that, right?
Desktop and Mobile Experience
I have already delved into how much I enjoy the desktop site a bit, but what of the app? Well, I feel like I can’t stress this enough … this app is made by Google; so, you can basically bet money on the fact that it is going to be well designed.
And if you were to gamble on that, you’d be collecting your winnings right now. Because this app is extremely user-friendly and simple. Some apps like to get a little too full of themselves with features and redundant buttons, but Google Play Music just keeps it simple … here is your music, here is your search bar, here are the charts; have fun! I like that hands-off approach, personally, when it comes to app design. No clutter, just flawless functionality that is easy on the eyes.
Pricing and Plans
Well, as I sort of implied earlier on, Google Play Music is a freemium service. You can, by all means, enjoy Google Play Music without ever paying a dime. However, you will be missing out on a few key features. Allow me to illustrate what I mean by bringing you through what Google Play Music Unlimited offers for $9.99/month:
-Ad-free, unlimited listening of over 40 million songs
-The ability to access songs on-demand
-The ability to download music and listen offline
-YouTube Music access
So, although you do not have to upgrade, it is highly recommended. At least if you want to get the most out of Google Play Music.
Suggestions that I have for Google Play Music
Well, I would actually like to see on-demand song playing offered in the freemium version. Come on, Google, are you really that cheap? Ads aren’t enough for the free version? Anyone who has used the free version of any music streaming app already knows all too well that frequent ads are more than enough to inspire an upgrade. If nothing else, they annoy you into action. At least let us poor folk choose a song and listen to it as we wish!
All in all, Google Play Music is certainly a contender in the music streaming space. It is a formidable service, to say the least. With killer trademark Google design, tons of music/podcasts, the ability to upload your own libraries, and a competitive monthly price point, there are plenty of things that are working for this music streaming service.
However, I think that Google is a little stingy with services in the free version of the service. Plus, there is not really much that Google Play Music offers that you couldn’t get on any other music streaming service; there is nothing content-wise that is really setting it apart from the bunch, in my opinion.