It’s been a little over a month since Google announced its All Access streaming music service at I/O. The moment that it was announced I cancelled my Slacker account. While some may see that as a hasty move I jumped at the chance to try something new. While streaming music isn’t anything new with Pandora, Slacker and Spotify (to name a few) being around for awhile, I was interested in seeing just how Google’s streaming service compares. Did my faith in Google pan out or did it fall short? Find out after the break.
The streaming service was available within hours of the announcement and I spent my time up to that point spamming f5 in anticipation. After signing up and updating Play Music through the Play Store I was ready to rock. The first hours were troubling as every station I tried to play failed to started. I chalked it up to an influx of people trying to use the service and gave it some time before I tried again. When I tried again the next day, every radio station worked without a hitch.
Music streaming worked like you would expect; songs that were similar to the one selected would play in sequential order. While each service allows you to see what song is next, All Access allows you to see all the songs in the playlist. You can move back and forth among the songs much like you would your own music. Speaking of which, I noticed that music that I owned and uploaded to Google Music would also appear in the radio station from time to time. This was a nice touch as I rediscovered music I had long forgotten about. Google even took it another step further.
Now this may be a coincidence and I could very well be making it up, but I noticed that the radio stations were broken down in very specific ways. When I played stations in Slacker, like power ballads for example, I wasn’t just given songs that were power ballads but all sorts of hair metal songs. However, when I chose a power ballad station in All Access, that’s all that played. I tested it out with other genres as well. The tempo of each station rarely deviated from the tempo of the song I selected and this cinched All Access’ music service as my service of choice.
Another feature that’s great is that you can add any album that the Play Store has available to your library. What makes it better is that much like buying an album in the Play Store it won’t count towards the 20,000 song limit Google has in place. For instance I tapped “add to library” on Jimmy Eat World’s new album and there it was, waiting for me instantly in my library. Thanks to this feature, I have been adding album after album to my library. Even with all these amazing features, All Access isn’t without its shortcomings.
The biggest issue with All Access is just how much data it uses. While I never broke it down into specifics I did notice that my data usage jumped from five to seven gigabytes per month to 12-15. It took a few weeks after its initial release, but an app update allowed people to change between low, normal and high streaming qualities. While the low quality level helps with data usage, the music quality is almost unbearable. It almost sounded like the equivalent of going from a 164 bit mp3 down to a 96 bit mp3. That’s one thing I’ll give to other streaming services; they have their streaming streamlined to sound decent without blowing through loads of data. As I have unlimited data I’m not too worried about streaming at a higher quality setting, but those of you on tiered plans will want to avoid normal or high quality streaming until you’re on WiFi.
This is just one writer’s opinion but Google set out to make an amazing music streaming experience and they delivered. By bringing the Music app out of the dark ages, making it gorgeous, and adding streaming capabilities, they beefed up a part of Android that I felt was strongly lacking. By incorporating my music into stations and by being very specific about what songs are played in each station I select, Google allows me to make my music experience more personal. As I am lucky enough to keep my unlimited data I am not so worried about the data usage, but those of you on tiered data need to make sure you’re on WiFi before you use All Access. Seriously, you could chew through 50% of your data without even thinking about it.
If you’re in the market for a paid music streaming service you’d be hard pressed to find a better experience. If you sign up for the 30 day trial or purchase the service by June 30th, you’ll be locked into the introductory price of $7.99 a month which is another benefit of All Access over other streaming services. After that date you’ll pay $9.99 per month like the other services, so if you’re on the fence, now is a good time to give it a whirl. Google has a hit with its new music app and streaming service. If you don’t want to take my word for it, head on over to the Play Store to download Play Music and try it for yourself. I promise you, you won’t be sorry.