What is Google Music?
Google Music is the latest online music service to launch in the UK. As well as allowing you to buy music through the service, you can store your music online and access it through a browser wherever you are. The service provides free storage for up to 20,000 tracks of music you already own, as well as free storage for any music you buy through the Google Play store.
After being available in the US for a while, Google Music has now launched in the UK and you can set it up using a Google account.
How does Google Music compare with its rivals?
Google Music is launching into a heated market, with Apple iTunes, Amazon Cloudplayer, Microsoft and Spotify all offering rival music services. Google hopes to stand up to its competitors by offering more storage, cheaper songs and claims of better quality streaming.
Each services has its advantages and disadvantages, so we’ve pitted them against each other to see which is worth lending your ears.
Storage space – how much space do I have for music?
The big advantage of Google Music is the amount of free storage you get, offering space for 20,000 songs completely free. The only other store to offer free storage is Amazon Cloudplayer, although the free version only gives you enough room for 250 songs. However, if you’re willing to spend £21.99 a year you get enough room to store a rather massive 250,000 tracks.
Winner – Google Music for free storage and Amazon for paid storage.
Sound quality – how good is the file quality?
The other selling point of Google Music is the sound quality of the music you can download. Music uploaded to Google Music and bought through the Play Store is encoded at 320kbps which is higher than any other of the services. While the difference between this and even 192kbps may not be immediately obvious to most listeners (especially if you’re listening to it through in-ear headphones or cheaper speakers), but it is nice to know you are getting the best quality you can.
Winner – Google Music offers the highest quality (although Spotify Premium users can also get 320kbps on Apple iOS).
Range of music – how much choice is there?
Where Google Music falls down is the range of music available, with a catalogue of only around 15 million songs. While this may seem like a lot, it’s half the size of Xbox Music’s range, and 10 million less than Apple’s iTunes. Unfortunately sheer numbers won’t guarantee you’ll find what you’re after, with some artists only available on certain services. For example you can only find material from The Beatles on iTunes.
Winner – Xbox Music offers the widest range of music with 30 million tracks.
Compatibility – what can I use the service on?
As Google Music is a fairly new service it doesn’t have the same range of apps as some other services. It works on Android and the browser version is optimised for mobiles, so you should be able to use it even on a non-Android smartphone, but it might work as well as a dedicated app. Spotify has the widest range of apps available, with versions for PC, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry, as well as others. You can use iTunes on PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones and iPods, but not on non-Apple tablets and smartphones.
Winner – Spotify offers a dedicated app for pretty much any tech product you can buy.
Pricing – how much does it cost?
Google Music aims to be the cheapest of the services, offering single downloads for 79p and albums for a couple of pounds less than rivals such as iTunes. This pricing puts it in line with Amazon for downloads, but it also offers more storage free than Cloudplayer.
If you aren’t bothered about owning the music you listen to, then a streaming service like Spotify or Xbox Music might be a better choice. At first Xbox Music seems like the cheaper option at £8.99 a month, but it’s worth bearing in mind that if you do want to run the service through an Xbox console you will also need Xbox Live Gold membership which costs £40 a year.
Winner – It will depend on how you consume your music but Google Music offers the cheapest storage and single download costs.
Which is the best online music service?
If you have a large library of songs you just want to keep on the cloud, Google Music will give you free storage for 20,000 songs (as long as they aren’t DRM protected). If you have a much larger collection, then Amazon’s 250,000 storage may be better – although you will have to pay for this extra storage.
It’s also worth thinking about what products you will be using with the service and whether there is a dedicated app available. This can make a service much easier to use and provide extra features. We’ve rounded-up the main aspects of each service in the table below.