Google recently rolled out YouTube Music, their latest attempt at a cohesive streaming service. It brought some changes from the original YouTube Music app and YouTube Red but also deviates from Google’s previous music streaming app, Google Play Music.
So what exactly is the difference between these two? Let’s find out.
If you’ve seen Google’s newest designs for YouTube proper, you’ve likely noticed the shift to a dark mode. That’s still here with YouTube Music and better matches what Google’s going for, but it’s a stark contrast from Google Play Music.
Play Music is still rocking the older Material Design style of interface with lots of white and card-like buttons. There’s still some pointed edges so it isn’t exactly like some newer Google apps, but it still fits in pretty well with the overall theme of Android.
YouTube Music blurs the lines between music and video content, which is something that Google Play Music does a better job of separating. In YouTube Music you’re going to see music videos and custom videos front and center, while Play Music opts out of that for a music-focused experience. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on how much you want to mix your video watching with your music listening.
Going a step further, Google Play Music also displays your music library in a slightly more traditional layout. YouTube Music, on the other hand, puts a ton of emphasis on playlists and curation. Again, this is going to come down to preference, but each service really scratches a different itch.
Winner? It’s a tie.
It’s hard to say which app is better, because they’re so drastically different and will appeal to different users.
YouTube Music is brand new, which means it’s going to suffer from less development time. Google Play Music has existed for a few years now in several different forms, so it’s had plenty of time in the oven. Development has slowed down recently, but there are still years of cool features to talk about.
YouTube Music’s feature set really is centered around YouTube. There are a ton of custom playlists, remixes, and covers that you can stream from YouTube’s existing (and massive) library that you won’t find anywhere else, and that’s not even mentioning official music videos. You’ll also find some YouTube curated playlists for specific moods or genre, a la Spotify or Apple Music, adding some human touch to the whole thing.
Google Play Music boasts features that are really designed for building your library of music, not so much on popular playlists or specific curation. You can find user-created playlists, but nothing from Google directly.
However, GPM does try to use algorithms to guess what you’d like to listen to based on your location or what time of day it is, and it bases that on your listening history during different times of the week or at different places. If you like chill music on Tuesday nights you can find a randomly generated playlist of music for that, which is sometimes a little more accurate than a human trying to guess what everyone would like.
Play Music also offers cloud storage for your own MP3 files, and anything you purchase from the Play Store will be available to listen to here. The audio quality has a higher ceiling than YouTube Music, there’s a sleep timer, an option to block explicit songs in the radio, and some fine-tuned controls over what music gets downloaded for offline use.
Winner? Google Play Music.
YouTube Music has some edge when it comes to video, but we’re talking music streaming, and Google Play Music has way, way more features. Your music experience is better, the audio streaming quality is better, and it still feels like a music library instead of a tool for YouTube.
But what about the parts of each app that don’t really fall under the interface of feature set? Let’s talk about those.
YouTube Music, for example, has some serious integration with regular YouTube and the rest of Google’s ecosystem. You can yell at your Google Home to play specific music from YouTube, and any music that you like while browsing YouTube will be available in your YouTube Music library. That includes regular music, but also video game music remixes, covers of other music, or anything else weird you might stumble on. You can also see how popular your favorite artists are on YouTube, and adding that artist to your library will keep you updated whenever they release anything new, laying the foundation for a more social aspect to music streaming.
On the other side of the coin, Google Play Music doesn’t really offer much to match that. And according to Google, at some point everything in GPM will be rolled into YouTube Music, including the cloud storage and purchased music, so long term there’s less of a reason to begin investing into this side of Google’s music streaming catalog.
Winner? YouTube Music.
Google Play Music offers a better experience right now, but YouTube Music seems to be where Google’s focus currently is. In a few years it’s reasonable to expect YouTube to pick up enough extra features to be your main streaming source, and it will continue to be a better fit in Google’s ecosystem as time goes on.
So, YouTube Music vs. Google Play Music: what’s your favorite so far? Let us know in the comments.