A few weeks ago, Google launched its eponymous music streaming and syncing service. Hot on the heels of Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, Google’s offering is minimal, fast and easy to use. In this article I will provide a quick walkthrough and my thoughts on the service.
Google Music is currently in beta invite-only mode for US users. So, if you live in the US, head over to music.google.com and put your name down for an invite.
Once you receive an invite you will be able to log-in to Google Music, just as you do any other Google service. After logging in your music library will be empty. The first thing you will have to do is select “Add Music” from the top right to download the Music Manager.
The Music Manager, as in the description, is a simple tool to upload all your music. Hence, it does not have a lot of functions aside from the ability to choose your music source, schedule uploads, and throttle bandwidth.
Slowly your the online music library will begin to populate as your files are uploaded. Be warned, this process takes a long time!
Playback and Features
Depending on your internet connection playback can be seamless or a little flaky. At home on my broadband connection a song takes about 2-5s to buffer after it starts playing. Subsequent songs load instantly. The quality of the song depends on the quality of your original track and playback quality seems to marginally lower than the original. In fact for most tracks it is hardly noticeable.
The music library also features the basic playback controls, in addition to the seek bar, shuffle, repeat, and volume controls.
There is also a binary rating system whereby you can “thumb up” or “thumb down” any of the songs.
You can also create “instant mixes” which are randomly generated by Google Music. These can be really quite random at times!
Google Music has a couple of interesting features, however don’t expect it to replace your desktop media player completely for anything other than basic playback.
My favourite aspect of Google Music is the Android app that allows you to stream all your songs from the cloud to your smartphone.
The app, like the web-based library, is quite barebones giving you the option to browse through your synced music and play it back.
You can also create “instant mixes” straight from your phone.
The services offered by Google and Amazon will face stiff competition from Apple, who have announced that it will be launching a new service at its upcoming WWDC Keynote called “iCloud”. In the space of a few months three of the four biggest companies in technology have launched or are about to launch competing music streaming and syncing services and with rumours of a partnership between Facebook and Spotify, the fourth horseman cannot be far behind.
However, right now only the services from Amazon and Google are available and between the two Google is my favoured music player for a number of reasons. Firstly, Amazon only gives you 5GB of free space (approximately 2000 songs) whereas Google allows you to upload 20,000 songs for free, irrespective of quality or size. However, there is a note on the Google Music page that states that the free service is available for a limited time only. It is uncertain at this point what the charges for Google Music will be. Secondly, Google’s interface is a lot more streamlined and easy to use. Thirdly, I own an Android smartphone and the Android Music app syncs with Google Music seamlessly allowing me to stream all my songs.
Until Apple rolls out its service, a fair comparison will be difficult, so let us wait a while and come back to the battle of the online music services.