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.
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.