Review: Google Music
Having waited for this moment for so long, I held off on posting any sort of review of the service until I was sure I knew precisely how I felt about it.
It seems that time is finally upon us.
Let’s get the dirt out of the way first — uploading your music is going to suck. Google, who at the time of this post does not have a deal with the four major music labels, lacks the matching capability Apple is prepared to offer (wherein Apple simply sees you own a song and allows you access to a perfect version of that song from their own server.) As far as I can tell, Google is really pulling your music up to their servers, and it’s going to take a very, very long time. My collection took days and days to finish uploading, and trust me — to an even more serious collector, my collection is a drop in the pond.
I know Google called gmail beta for so long you almost don’t believe the word beta applies to anything Google related, but bear in mind that this is actually a beta. Uploading music is a straightforward process that utilizes a desktop app (a rarity for google) that runs mostly in the background once you set it up. Mine essentially stopped working at one point until I reinstalled it. Not a huge deal, but it’s worth noting that beta really does mean beta this time (albeit a relatively polished beta that feels pretty close to ready for prime time.)
I’ve also found that some of my music was either uploaded twice, or the music seems to not have uploaded successfully. Not a deal breaker, but not good.
If you have a large enough collection, there will be a temptation to give up on uploading halfway through the process. Don’t give up, because when you do make it through the uploading process, the real magic begins.
music.google.com is now your full-time music libarary management system and music player (aka itunes) and it has every song in your entire library. Whenever you can reach the internet, you have access to everything. The UI takes an intuitive, no-frills approach, and for the most part works without trouble (or certainly no more trouble than you’d expect from a beta.)
In terms of UI, once again I’m a big fan of this app. The background color changes as you switch songs to better match the album art, and once again the UI was reasonably intuitive.
Playback has been flawless for me so far on all music that didn’t have a problem uploading (as mentioned earlier.) The app features your standard shuffle as well as a wonderful ripoff of the iTunes genius playlist that I’ve enjoyed immensely when I wasn’t sure what to listen to.
When traveling in areas that loose 3g coverage, the app does sometimes seem to have trouble recognizing when we have re-entered 3g and sometimes stays offline longer than it should — an issue which ocasionally requires a phone restart to fix (app killers did not seem to do the trick.) Then again, reconnecting to 3g seems to be a recurring issue for all radio apps on my Droid2 (verizon) so we might be able to chalk this issue up to the carrier or the hardware.
It also bears mentioning that the music app looks gorgeous and works flawlessly on my wifi-only Motorola Xoom tablet, which runs the latest version of android software (Honeycomb) – a major selling point of both the tab and the music service in my opinion.
Both the app and the service are free for now, but it remains to be seen how long that will last. For now, for what you’re paying (nothing) Google’s music service is a steal, and works quite well for a beta. I use the Google music app on my phone as my primary mobile music listening device, and despite some recurring frustrations, have not looked back.
I give the Google music service a 9 for delivering on what it promises just slightly better than you’d expect for a beta, and for flawlessly (and attractively) syncing across all Google devices, all while being free for an unlimited amount of music. If Google starts capping uploads or streams, or puts a price tag on the service, they better be prepared to iron out the rough edges. On the other hand, with the unveiling of Google+ the possibilities for social integration are limitless. The only thing that can stop Google Music from being a serious threat to all late entrants in the cloud music service field is Google hurting themselves. Rather than waiting to find out how that resolves itself, I’d hunt down a beta invite and enjoy it while it’s free.