Google Music Beta was announced to the world on at Google I/O 2011 in May. The service would allow the user to upload their entire music library to the cloud and listen to them from any computer running flash, or an Android tablet or phone. Music Beta was released to slowly to the masses of Gmail users and is still going through a staggered roll-out. Has Music Beta lived up to its expectations, will it be able to unseat iTunes as king.
When I first received my invitation I was away from the computer, I decided to download the Android app instead. The biggest difference on the surface is the interface. The clean and minimalist screens are easy to use and switch between with a simple swipe. There’s the usual categories: Artists, Albums, Songs, Playlists, and Genres. The text is big and easy on the eyes and the background shifts between different shades of browns, and blues. An unfortunate feature missing from the mobile app is an inability to upload your music library. Once uploading your library to the Music Beta cloud your songs appear just as normal among your on device songs.
Although they are so inconspicuous that you can’t tell the difference unless you are offline when the uploaded songs turn grey. A nice option is the ability to pin to your phone for offline playing. The app cannot differentiate between on-device and uploaded so my library is filled with duplicates. The now playing screen is simple with a large thumbnail of the album cover. Underneath is a progress bar, info about the song, and the familiar play, fast-forward, and rewind buttons. If you tap once on the thumbnail then the it shrinks showing controls for shuffle, loop, and giving the ability to move the progress bar.
Google Music also has a feature that I really enjoyed and use quite a bit. Instant Mixes allow the user to choose one song which the app than uses to create a playlist out of similar songs. Every time I have used that feature it is spot on and easy to use.
Yet there is one major feature missing from Google Music. There is no integrated music store to speak of. This ensures that the user must take a tedious amount of time to upload their entire music libraries. Although there is some hope in the form of rumors about such a store, it leads to a rocky start to an otherwise great product
The verdict is that Google Music is a great product lacking in only one area, unfortunately that area is necessity among major music players.