Google had a substantial upgrade to their music service this week. It's now another player in the very congested space of streaming music services such as Pandora, Spotify, MOG, Amazon, and many more.
Like Spotify, it has a monthly fee of $9.95/month, although if you sign up before June 30, 2013, its $7.99/month.
You can upload all your purchased music to their cloud service (up to 20,000 songs) for playback anywhere. They use a matching service which will greatly speed up this process. One pretty neat feature, if you have a lot of songs in your library that were purchased at a low bit rate: if Google Play finds them, they will now play back at 328kbs (depending on your internet connection speed). Bonus!
I have to say, the new interface is really slick as you would expect from Google. It's pretty much a copy though of Spotify, however, I'm not sure how they could have added much more anyway. You'll easily find a bio on the artist and a list of related artists. The visuals are great for moving around and learning more.
A feature I enjoy in Spotify is the "What's New". Google Play has this as well. A quick check today, though, showed only 25 new albums under Google, whereas Spotify has 40.
Another very interesting feature is the recommendations section. While I've not played enough music yet for this to start working well, Google claims it will learn the music types you enjoy and start to show you more music of similar types for you to check out. If (and this is a big if) Google harnesses the full power they have in their search engine technology to pull this off, it will be awesome.
One the other side of the ledger for Spotify, they have a section called "Rolling Stone Recommends" which is lacking in Google Play. This is a list of new albums that Rolling Stone magazine thinks are significant and I think it's a great way to find new artists and music.
Pandora changed the way we all listen to music with their artist or genre type stations where you can fine tune them with a thumbs up or down. This is the area Google Play did take a leap past the competition. As you probably know, in Pandora or Spotify you do not have much control over the next song. Well, in Google Play, you have a list of the next 25 upcoming songs with full ability to play any of them on the fly. They also have the same thumbs up/down feature found in Pandora or Spotify.
So, all in all, on a computer, the Google Play system gets a thumbs up from me.
However, if you are an iPhone user, you'll currently find it sorely lacking. There is no official app for IOS, so you have to go to Google's website for Play, where you will find an extremely rudimentary interface lacking in most of the great features I described above. To be fair, the Spotify mobile interface is fairly dumbed down as well.
Finally, in playing around I noticed something that just made me think - huh?? Google's search engine is fantastic for taking into account misspelled search terms and figuring out what you really meant. They must not have flipped the switch in Play for this feature as you can see in the comparison screen shots below.
To summarize: I think if you are just getting streaming music and like Android devices, you should check out Google Play. Especially with the deal for $7.99 month before June 30, 2013. If you already use Spotify you will probably not want to switch. However, if you are mostly a Pandora user and want to learn about more new music and artists, I would check both of them out! One thing that could make your decision easy, at this point in time, the world's best music streaming device, Sonos, does not have full support for Google Play.