When someone on the street thinks of the alternatives available to them for listening to music on their iPhone, they almost always think of two alternatives: or iTunes and its optional integrated services or Spotify . Yes, these are the two most widely used services, but there are several other alternatives.
And precisely, one of the most powerful alternatives that is always overlooked is Google Play Music . And when you ask about its capabilities, many confuse it with an iTunes and a Spotify with options in the payment cloud. Let’s solve all the doubts and review what differences there are, because Play Music has a bit of everything and maybe you’re ignoring a service that can be useful to you.
The free part of Play Music: a cloud as you imagine it
First of all, let’s review : Spotify is a streaming service with which you can also sync songs locally stored on your computer. iTunes is not streaming (let’s ignore iTunes Radio, which is not yet in the UK and is still not comparable to Spotify), but it does allow synchronisation between your phone and downloading songs from the cloud as long as we have bought them from your store. And let’s not forget the iTunes Match option, which allows us to have our entire library in the cloud regardless of where the tracks come from.
Google Play Music in iOS is a “yes but no”. It’s nothing like that, but it takes points from all its rivals to create what Google thinks is the best bet. And that’s up to the user, but it must be said that they get what the user thinks is a “song cloud” .
Imagine a drawer in the cloud where you can store and play 50,000 songs. That’s essentially Play Music
What Google Play Music offers us is a free place in the cloud to store up to 50,000 songs , which can come from anywhere. They are uploaded from a desktop web browser, and can be streamed or downloaded from any other desktop or mobile device. Roughly speaking, it’s like a pure Dropbox with songs.
Thus, the task of managing our music library is reduced to uploading them from one place and seeing how they are automatically available for playback or downloading from other terminals. There’s no need to synchronize or configure anything , just sign in with our Google account. In addition, Play Music recognizes iTunes installed on our Macs and offers to upload your entire library.
The pay part of Play Music: a little bit of everything
Obviously, at Google they also think about business. Google Play Music mixes what its competitors offer and provides us with a music store, iTunes Music style; and at the same time a streaming service called All Access for 9.99 euros per month. This means: brings together the concepts of Apple and Spotify in one place . You can choose to do what you want, buy the tracks or choose to subscribe to the catalogue.
The streaming part, in fact, also has features that mimic iTunes Radio: you choose a song and create a virtual station that you listen to related songs, which Google’s algorithms think you might like. That also integrates with YouTube Music Key, Google’s service for listening to songs uploaded to YouTube without advertising.
On a technical level: how are the Play Music applications?
Well, here we have perhaps the weakest point of Google Play Music: there is a native player for Mac, but is nothing more than a web page embedded inside a system window. What is native is an assistant that uploads the songs to the service in the background from the folders we want (including iTunes), so that we don’t have to worry about uploading them manually.
It’s not a wonder, but Google Play Music in iOS is decent
However, that means you have to be connected to the network if you want to use Google Play Music from your computer, so you might prefer to listen to it locally from your hard drive using iTunes. However, we’re hardly ever offline anymore and when we are, we always have the option of using Google Play from the iPhone or iPad where we can download the songs as many times as we want without any problem. If we also download Radiant Player, we’ll have a mini Google Music player in our OS X menu bar.
And on those devices Google Play Music has quite capable applications, although with an interface based on Android Lollipop that perhaps does not have the aesthetics to which we are accustomed. For me, the best thing is that we have the application optimized for the iPad and its use is based on gestures . Something that may seem unimportant but is tremendously comfortable to use when we’re walking on the street: it’s much easier to make a gesture in full motion than trying to get your finger on a button. Its performance, moreover, is adequate.
Let’s summarize what each service has and what it doesn’t have in one place, so that we can compare them better:
iTunesSpotifyGoogle Play Music “Classical” Music StoreYesNoYesSubscription to streaming catalogueNoYes, 9.99 eurosmonthYes, 9.99 eurosmonthVirtual stations based on recommendationsYes, with iTunes Radio (not available in Spain)YesCatalogue>43 million songs>30 million songs>30 million songsSupported QualityMP3, AIFF, AAC, M4A, WAV, QuickTime Audio, AudibleMP3, AACMP3, AAC, OGG, WMA, FLAC, ALAC (. m4a)Offline synchronization of songsYes, locally stored songsNo, everything is uploaded and managed from the cloud “Store” of songs in the cloudYes, with iTunes Match, unlimited if in the official catalog and up to 25. 000 unrecognised songsNoYes, free up to 50,000 songsStreaming playback from mobileOnly with iTunes Match activated or if we have purchased the song from the iTunes StoreYes, those available in the official catalogueYes, anyDownloading of songs from mobileOnly with iTunes Match activatedYes, those available in the official catalogueYes, anySyncing of songs with iPodsYesNoFuture? Music subscription service with Beats Music—-
In summary, and after a few days of testing, I think Google Play Music has reached a level of quality in their iOS applications that deserves a test . There is no other service that offers a cloud of 50,000 songs completely free, and after years of jumping between iTunes and Spotify I found the concept surprisingly convenient and simple.
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And it doesn’t have to be a main player either: Google Play Music can do the backup function of our iTunes library as long as we don’t go over those 50,000 songs. That way, if something happens on our Mac, we can count on our records being safe.