After months of anticipation and weeks of dedicated waiting, I've received an invite to the Google Music (Beta). Here are a few concrete details I've picked up in my early-phase exploration.
The "How" of Google Music
As expected, Google Music takes your entire music library and puts it up on the cloud. From there, so long as you're logged into your account, you can play, organize, and upload music from any computer where you have internet access – not to mention Android smartphone and tablet devices. To get it all working, you'll need a few things:
- A beta invite. Want one? Go here, apply, and wait a few weeks like I did.
- The "Music Manager." This software lets you upload any non–copy protected music file from your system – or even a friend's system, if they let you download and run Music Manager.
- A modern Internet browser (i.e., any browser released in the last year-and-a-half or so).
- An Android device running OS 2.2+ and the applicable Google Music app
You use the Music Manager to upload your songs to the cloud, and Google's servers then take care of playback.
Google Music High- and Lowlights
As always with an innovative but young product, the bag of awesome has rat traps and whatever you happen to be allergic to mixed in. Here are some of the best and worst elements of Google Music (Beta).
On the "awesome" side:
- It's completely free.
- Your limit is "20,000 songs."
- You can get some free music as soon as you log in.
- The only audio files you can't upload are ones with copy-protection.
- Your playlist and other data is stored from system to system.
- You can upload music files from multiple computers.
- The Android app stores recently played or specifically selected songs offline, giving you both an online/offline synchronization capable and offline access to your favorites tunes.
- It all looks, feels, and acts about the way a music lover like myself wants it to. The app is intuitive, the online interface has all the options I need (including shuffling, album art, etc.), and the Music Manager is so easy my grandma could use it.
On the "miscellaneous crappy stuff" side:
- The restrictions are noteworthy (you must have Android 2.2+, a good Internet connection, non–copy protected music, and your beta invite).
- There's a definite lag before a song starts playing. On my high-speed net connection at home (roughly 6.5mbps down) that's only about two seconds, but the 3G connection from my Android device is as fast as a slug on tryptophan, and often it won't play the song at all.
- When you edit your music offline, Google doesn't sync your edits. Rather, they view the online/offline versions as different – resulting in a duplicate upload.
- The songs have diminished quality. It's not extreme, but it is noticeable.
We previously discussed that Google Music is a direct competitor with iCloud. It's also fighting against the Amazon Cloud Player.
The question isn't if this service is good (it is, especially considering the massive storage allotted, the great design, and the lack of a cost), but whether it's better than the competition. We'll know a lot more on that front when iCloud is actually at our fingertips. In the meantime, feel free to test the waters yourself by applying for your own Google Music (Beta) invitation.