Recently, I became interested in Google Music All Access and decided to try it. I had already used my free month back when the service first became available, so this time around I had to shell out $10/month. I’m used to that price, though, having paid the same for Rdio and Spotify before it. I went ahead and cancelled my Rdio subscription because I only need one streaming service at a time.
It wasn’t that Rdio displeased me so much that I wanted to try Google’s service specifically. I have an Android phone and was curious if Google’s own app would integrate with it in some cool way that Rdio does not. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t seem to. Nick tells me that Google Music integrates with some car systems better than his Spotify Android app, but my car is old enough that it doesn’t support Bluetooth anyway, so that’s moot.
One thing that did annoy me about Rdio on Android is it clung too tightly to my home wi-fi network. When I would leave the house in the morning, I would get out to my car where the wireless network was still visible, but the signal was too weak to actually load anything. My Nexus 5 would remain on the wi-fi instead of switching to LTE and Rdio would just spin and spin. I would have to turn wi-fi off on my phone and sometimes force quit Rdio to get it to come to its senses and use LTE. I’ve taken to just leaving wi-fi turned off on my phone all the time now.
One feature Rdio had that Google Music does not is built-in Last.fm scrobbling support. I use Last.fm to keep track of what I listen to and Rdio lets you connect with Last.fm in the Rdio settings page so that regardless of where you stream music, it gets scrobbled to Last.fm. For Google Music scrobbling, I have to use a Chrome extension, so of course music I listen to in the car on my phone doesn’t get scrobbled.
Another feature that I’m ambivalent about is how Rdio kept track of what I was listening to across devices. I could listen to a song on my phone and when I would open Rdio in my laptop’s browser, it would show that song queued up. I had the option to say “play on this device”, otherwise Rdio on my computer could act as a remote for playing Rdio on my phone. This was sometimes annoying if I hit the play button on my computer before telling it to play on the computer, because suddenly music would come out of my phone’s little speaker, which was never what I intended. I don’t think I ever really used the remote feature of Rdio, so I can’t say I miss it in Google Music.
It was nice, however, to pick up where I left off with the same song from the car on my laptop. In Google Music, each instance of the service that you have loaded up (laptop browser, phone app, etc.) is separate. If I just finished listening to a song in my car, my laptop doesn’t have that particular song, playlist, album, whatever queued up. So if I want to continue listening on my laptop, I have to repeat whatever search led me to it on my phone. This isn’t always a hassle because I do tend to listen to different things based on where I’m listening and what I’m doing at the time. In the car, I usually want up-beat stuff for driving, while on my laptop, I usually want something I can kind of tune out while I work.
One small feature I appreciate in Google Music is how starting a radio station from a particular song works. In Rdio, I would often find myself listening to a song and wanting to hear more like it, so I’d start a station based on that song. The song would stop playing and some other, similar song would begin to play. This was annoying because I usually wanted to finish listening to the song from which I started the station. With Rdio, I would have to pay attention and when the song ended, I would switch apps back to my browser, find the tab, and tell it to start a station. In Google Music, I can create a station right when the idea strikes me and it’ll finish playing the song I’m listening to before it jumps into similar music.
It’s also nice that Google Music lists out upcoming tracks in a radio station, displaying it like any other playlist. This is nice for going through and choosing a particular song to play, as well as for voting on tracks if I’ve already heard them before. With Rdio and Spotify both, you see album art laid out like iTunes Cover Flow and you can only really work with the currently playing song or songs that just played on the station.
I love the “I’m feeling lucky” radio station that Google Music provides. It says it’s based off my musical tastes, and I have to assume it’s taking into account how many times I listen to which songs, and which songs and artists I’ve given the thumbs up versus thumbs down. Regardless, it does a pretty good job of playing songs I like. I was worried it would play really discordant stuff, mixing in peaceful songs that I listen to while playing Minecraft with upbeat electro-pop that I listen to get jazzed up on my morning commute. That hasn’t happened yet, though, and it instead arranges songs so there’s a good flow.
So far I’m pleased with Google Music. I do wish it had an official API like Rdio and Spotify, because I love developing music web apps and browser extensions. I’ll make do with unofficial support for now and hope for Google to put something out later.