For playing music on Android, Google Play Music is really unmatched. Its web version basically replaces iTunes, and its Android app acts like the iPhone’s Music app. You can play all your local music, stream music from Google, stream podcasts, and a lot more.
If you have an Android phone, you should at least give Play Music a chance. Let’s take a look at exactly what makes this app so great.
Download: Google Play Music (Free)
Google Play Music is all about streaming music, and Google even has its own artificial intelligence that pays attention to what you like and dislike and tries to suggest similar things. It even takes into account things like the time and your location to suggest certain stations.
For instance, if you’re at home around 6pm, it will suggest music for making dinner, ranging from Kitchen Dance Party to Country Comfort. The main screen is filled with these suggestions. Some are based on artists, playlists, or stations you’ve listened to recently, and I’ve generally found them to be useful in helping me find music I like.
When you get started, Play Music should prompt you to choose some genres and artists so that it can better recommend music to you. Of course, this is just a starting point — it will continue to learn as you give thumbs up or thumbs down to different songs.
If it doesn’t prompt you, though, or you skip it, you can always swipe in from the left, select Settings, and select Improve your recommendations. With your recommendations set, you should see relevant music displayed on your homepage. You can select any station to see what artists are on that station or to see similar stations.
Actually playing a song will pull it up from the bottom of the screen. The currently playing song is always accessible along the bottom of the app, and you can swipe up to see it or swipe down to put it away at any time.
From the Now Playing screen, you can play the YouTube music video associated with the song (if it exists), view your current Now Playing playlist by tapping the music icon in the upper right, pause or play the song, skip to the next or the previous song, and give the song a thumbs up or thumbs down. The thumb system allows Play Music to better learn what kind of music you like.
The Now Playing playlist is easy to modify. Just tap and hold to the left of any song (on the horizontal two-line icon) to change its location in the playlist. At any time, you can tap the three-dot icon to the right of any song, playlist, album, or artist to start a radio station based on it, add it to your queue or a playlist, and see other details about it.
The interface is always heavy on the graphics, emphasizing album art and providing a nice visual experience. The motion to pull up the music player from the bottom is intuitive and convenient. Plus, you can access tons of free music tuned to your preferences. What more could you ask for?
Of course, Play Music isn’t just for streaming Google’s music — it can also be used for your own music! You can upload your music either through your desktop Chrome browser using the Play Music extension or you can use Google’s Music Manager on your desktop. You can upload up to 50,000 of your own songs, and then you’ll be able to stream them or download them to any of your devices.
Unfortunately, there’s no official way to download all your music at once for offline playback. You have to do it by album or playlist. Thankfully, we’ve found a bit of a workaround that involves creating giant playlists of all your music.
Once you’ve got your own music downloaded, you can swipe in from the left of the app and select Downloaded only to use the app completely offline.
There are a few other menus in Play Music, including one for New Releases, one for your local music called Music library, and one for Podcasts. Most popular podcasts are available on Play Music as well as iTunes, and the music player adjusts to allow you to skip forward or backward 30 seconds at a time in podcasts.
It’s not as versatile as other podcast apps, but it gets the job done, and it’s nice having all your media consolidated in one place.
You’ll also find a few other little features buried in the settings, like a basic equalizer, a sleep timer, and the ability to save all your downloaded music to an SD card rather than internal storage.
Have you been waiting for the catch this whole time? Well, here it is: There are ads.
Google is trying to sell you a service, which is why the music streaming options are so front and center — that’s the real money maker. If you want to stop being interrupted by audio ads every few minutes, you’ll have to shell out $9.99 for a Play Music subscription. That’s the same price as Spotify and Apple Music, but Google throws in an extra bonus: YouTube Red.
Every Play Music subscription includes a YouTube Red subscription and vice-versa, meaning that you also get ad-free YouTube videos, the ability to play YouTube videos in the background, and the ability to download YouTube videos offline.
There’s really a lot of value packed in that monthly $9.99 fee, but even if you don’t want it, the ads aren’t any more annoying than they are on the free version of Spotify.
What Do You Think of Play Music?
That’s about all there is to Google Play Music. It’s largely a music streaming app with a local music player and podcast player buried within it. If you’re simply looking for an offline music player, there might be better options, but Play Music does its job well.
What do you think? Is Play Music the best music player on Android, or do you prefer another app? Let us know in the comments!
Originally written by Riley J. Dennis on November 20th, 2013.