May 16, 2013 at 11:45 am

Pros And Cons: Google Play Music All Access Subscription

javelin_google_play_music

You can stream any of 20 million songs on Google Play Music Store, just like with Spotify. So why use it instead? We have a few reasons for and against.

I set out this morning to build a chart listing the various features of the major music subscription services: Rdio, Rhapsody, Spotify, and we assume the recently-launched Google Play Music All Access, although it remains to be seen whether it will succeed on the level of those standalone music services — or whether it will become an also-ran from a company whose main business is something else (like Microsoft XBox Live Music, Sony Music Unlimited, or “MOG by Beats“).

The pointlessness of that endeavor became apparent rather quickly. They’re all so similar, essentially offering the same music (Google has about 20 million songs right out of the gate, which is on par with the rest, and four million more than MOG says it has right now).

All of their apps play music offline (i.e. locally, without streaming the music over WiFi or a cell data connection), which is great, because it’s an important feature — but not one that can be used to distinguish between these services. (In Google Play, offline playback is indicated with a Pin icon.) They also have radio features that can play music without you choosing every single song, although those vary in quality.

In terms of the big picture, the most important issue in music right now is how to collect music in these overwhelming times, when music comes at us from all angles. However, all four of the services mentioned at the top of this article are capable of grabbing the music you’ve collected on your hard drive and zapping it up to the cloud, from where you can listen to it on all your connected devices, so there’s no real difference there.

Spotify and Google do stand out in one important regard: Their mobile apps can play MP3s you’ve imported into the desktop client (in the case of Spotify) or uploaded to the cloud (in the case of Google) — a feature that’s missing from Rdio and Rhapsody.

All other things being equal, which they almost are, we’re just going to focus on specific reasons why you should or should not use the new Google Play Music All Access music subscription, rather than Spotify, Rdio, or Rhapsody.

Pro: It’s Cheaper (Right Now)

Music subscriptions typically cost $10 per month if you want the ability to carry music around on things that aren’t traditional computers. However, if you sign up for Google Play Music All Access  before June 30, you’ll be locked in at a discounted rate of $8/month.

Pro: Downloading Actual Music Files from the Cloud

In the case of music in your Google Play account that you uploaded from a hard drive — as in, you own the actual MP3 somewhere — you can download those files from Google Play. (As we mentioned above, both Spotify and Google let you play those songs on your connected devices, but this is about downloading.) Because it’s also a locker service, only Google among the major music subscriptions lets you download those uploaded files. It only lets you do this to computers (i.e. not to Androids), but still, it’s a difference, and an important one to people who use lots of computers and/or still have a straight-up MP3 or CD player that doesn’t run apps.

Con: Credit Card Required

Google’s partying like it’s 2005 in this regard, requiring a valid credit card if you want to try the service for free for 30 days, at which point the charges will kick in automatically, unless you set yourself a reminder to unsubscribe after 29 days. Spotify, Rdio, and MOG switched to a freemium model after Spotify did it first, so that you can use those for free without entering a credit card. Google will save money here, but it’s a decidedly lamer way to try something out from a consumer perspective.

Con: No App Ecosystem

If you like the apps that run within Spotify for the desktop, you’ll need to stick with that, because nobody else has anything close.

Con: No iOS Version

There’s no native Google Play for iOS. You can entrust a third-party app with your precious Gmail credentials, however, in order to use it — but then that leaves the question of whether All Access files will play in those. James Clancey, the developer behind gMusic, says this:

The current app store version of gMusic does not support Google Play Music All Access. However, I did just send out a beta last night that allows you to play music from it.  I am currently working on integrating the rest of the new features like radio stations. Also my search isn’t tied into it yet, but all of that is coming very soon.
As for user information, I am not totally sure. I do not track any user information at all. I don’t even have a server.  I just keep to playing music. I do not even have the desire to look into getting personal information.
Your call on that front. It is possible, but it’s not the same as accessing Google’s music subscription on Android.

Con: No Scrobbling to Last.fm or Facebook

Evolver.fm has confirmed with Google spokeswoman Gina Weakley that Google Play Music All Access does not have Facebook integration, meaning that your Facebook friends can’t see what you’re playing there. If you like that feature, Google’s music subscription is not for you. Likewise, we are not seeing any Last.fm integration, so if you like to scrobble, you’re out of luck there too.

For some Android folks, Google’s option is going to make sense. Hopefully this article will help inform that decision.

  • neekalus

    There is a roundabout way of scrobbling with the new GPMAA in chrome or ffx:
    http://www.danielslaughter.com/projects/google-music-with-lastfm/

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    Will this work if last.fm is blocked on the network you’re using? That’s my issue. I need to use Spotify or Rdio since they scrobble natively/remotely.

  • Edward

    The biggest reason I’m not signing up is lack of a dedicated desktop app (like Spotify).

    It really sucks to be jamming to a tune and then to all of sudden click the CLOSE box on your browser

  • Anonymous

    what do you mean by native scrobble? if last.fm is blocked, no software (web or native) will be able to contact it for posting scrobbled tracks.. how do you say is different in Spotify and Rdio?

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    Spotify and Rdio scrobble from their servers on their end, so my computer isn’t contacting last.fm, they’re doing it for me.

  • http://twitter.com/turnerburns Turner Burns

    I have been using the pro version of this app on iOS the last 3 days, and have been rather impressed. All the the features discussed in the article are covered, including scrobble to last.fm. Only complaint so far is the lack of gapless playback.
    Melodies: Google Music Client withPersonality (Pro Version) by Connect Technology Co., Ltd
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/melodies-google-music-client/id489462187?mt=8

  • http://www.PhilJComedy.com/ Phil Johnson

    You can upload/download your own collection with Google Play without a subscription. That’s been a free thing for awhile now, unless they’re changing that part. But I haven’t heard.

    I’m interested to see what MOG has up their sleeve in the long run. I’ve been using them for a couple of years and I prefer their interface and music discovery abilities over Spotify. In the rare event they don’t have a song I’m looking for, I’ll head over to my free Spotify account for that.

    Though MOG doesn’t (yet) incorporate your own collection like Spotify does. I imagine that will be part of the major release whenever they get to it.

  • Alan Ralph

    I’m surprised that Google haven’t offered a free, advert-supported version. Maybe this is because they don’t have the necessary audio advertising in place to complement picture ads, like Spotify?

    Lack of iOS support is not unexpected, but still disappointing. Lack of scrobbling is definitely a setback, though – hooking up with Last.fm seems such an obvious thing to do, at least to me.

  • http://www.prepaymania.co.uk/mobile-phones/samsung-galaxy-s4.html Lucas Shrek

    Its true that google play has many pros and cons. But the best part is that it uses cloud concept which good.
    http://www.prepaymania.co.uk/mobilephone/samsung-galaxy-s4-i9500-sim-free-unlocked-android-smartphone-black.html

  • Adam

    Run it in it’s own window.
    Use a dedicated shortcut.
    If you use Chrome you can create an “application shortcut” in the tools menu.

    Bam! No more problems.

  • izolate

    There are many things you could add to ‘cons’ list. Inability to scrobble to Last.fm is a huge one. But what about the name? What’s its real name? Google Play? Play Music? Google Music? Google Play Music XP Service Pack 3? At least with Grooveshark/Spotify/Rdio, you can type those names into the address bar, append a ‘.com’ and you’ll get to their apps. I’m always 2-3 clicks away from getting to Google’s music.

    I also find the app pretty buggy. Plenty of ajax page refreshes that really bog down the UX and make it frustrating to use. Overall, the only reason I’ll be keeping my Google music subscription running is because I know Grooveshark will eventually die.

  • grazilla

    Use Song Spout… turns GPMAA into a dedicated app pluss allows you to take Google all access music offline permanently. http://songspout.com

  • Jorge Menjívar

    The queue is not very accurate to the type of music the radio is about.
    That’s the biggest problem for me right now.

  • Nick

    Scrobbling from the last.fm app works perfectly on Android devices – - just the same as it did when I was using only my personal library with no all access service via Play Music. Since this is exclusively a mobile solution for me, the ONLY issue I have with All Access is the inability to save songs from the All Access catalog for offline use without paying for it

  • Tareq

    you can save songs for offline use with all access, it just has to be on an android device (not a PC, although you can do this with programs such as song spout). simply find the song/album/artist you have found –> click add to library –> then click the pin symbol that pops up.
    alternatively just add that song/album/artist to a playlist you have pinned already.

  • zethib

    you can get a direct link to the service with the url : music.google.com

  • Yimothy

    It’s not like their is any current music to listen to! All gone cheesy ! It’s just the oldies people want anyway. I think Aol should be ashamed being the front runners of the no free online storage for you! Cant the just did a 60$ out of you for a life time membership! I really hate how everybody tries to get people to pay rent on EVERYTHING! You know a big deal is that they rob out our garage and our freelance peoples . So you got to be on a major label to be on here and copyrighted. I have bought a few hundred dollars in CD’s my life tapes, I expected the tapes to dump on me but I don’t have any of those CD’s now!Also you know they had that mp 3 technology all along they were selling CD’s so they kinda robbed us ! Kodak your gone give it up Tower Records go work on something else ! If your not bringing a service then your a crook! I would have to say that Aol did every one the most dirty! I had mail from 10 years ago I still got in yahoo and gmail ! Aol threw away an old mans family air looms! Pictures of my ninos I’ll never see again. I bought music and stored it to Aol X Drive and swishhhhhh Aol flushed my stuff down the drain !!!!! And look now AOL kinda out of the game ! Microsoft is getting greedy now they are pissing me off!

  • Anonymous

    No iOS version is actually a bonus ;)

  • Simon Bellord

    Good article btw, I’m a little out of touch.
    So hang on, people are going to pay, to not really own a limited selection of all the music ever made, or available in a terrible format, to playback on, I presume tinny earbuds or naff desktop speakers. Or to have your music on someone elses servers?
    It’s no wonder all music has begun to be mastered to sound like cack these days, or just overloud, sometimes ‘club loud’ but it seemspeople won’t be able to tell the difference.
    Also you can lend CD’s to your friends without having to use a measurable % of CPU runtime re-coding or getting round DRM nonsense, I know they use plastic.
    I know spotify streams ogg, but surely we have the bandwidth for lossless codecs now?

  • Anonymous

    Until now

  • Jim

    So Nick you want to save songs you don’t own for offline use without having to pay for it? You don’t want much do you?

  • Jim

    Scrobbling works fine for Google music, both on desktop and android

  • Bobby Velez

    ok so I spent the money and buy an Album, now why can I not download it to my computer so I can transfer it onto CD or my actual music library in my phone (NONE google play app needed)? If itunes lets yo do that why can PLAY?

  • carson

    Does it use up data if you arent connected to the internet?

  • http://www.kcmartz.com/ Kcmartz

    If it wasn’t $17/year, I’d try that out, maybe a smaller fee? I guess I have to stick to Spotify although I’d rather GPMAA for the more than 10k song limit.

  • Anonymous

    I bought a couple of albums off it for the first time this wee. You can download an album/song 2 times as a zip file of MP3s without installing any app. The download window told me that if I download the app I will be able to download my entire library to my computer multiple times, I have not tried that app yet since it looks like it might tie it to a specific computer (what if I get a new one? what if I want to download to my work PC while at work and home PC while at home?).