Ituning Out: A Google Play Music Review

I have a confession to make: I’ve been having an affair. For the past month, I’ve been flirting and fooling around with a music store other than Itunes, even though we’ve been together since I got my first Ipod at 15. Itunes has helped me organize some of my favourite playlists, it’s introduced me to new music, and it’s seen my taste change dramatically over the years. It’s been with me through a lot of sad times, and has endured Neon Hitch’s painfully auto-tuned first single last summer on repeat for days. It holds some of my best kept secrets, and it’s always been easy to use and reliable. My loyalty to listening mostly through Itunes (75% Itunes music library, 25% Last.fm radio) has been like being married to a high school sweetheart. It’s good, it’s nice, it buys you flowers every now and then… but then you see someone else across the bar and you realize exactly what you’ve been missing. That was my experience when I met Google Play Music.

I decided to give the app a go when I saw it advertised for my phone and needed it to become my main portable music player since my ipod gave up the ghost. The set-up is a lot like Netflix, where you pay per month and can listen to an unlimited amount of music in their library. You can download music to your device, and they also offer recommended radio based on your library and genre preferences. I expected their stash of goods to be Netflixian as well, with a selection of several things you like and/or love, but with limitations that leave much to be desired in the end.

Instead, what I got was surprisingly good. My taste in music doesn’t run to the especially hipster/indie side of the spectrum, but I do have a few favourite artists that are hard to find, either on pirating sites or on Itunes, yet I’ve only managed to come up empty on a couple foreign artists. I was able to find new releases, and building my library from scratch was actually kind of fun- though Google Play does automatically import the music you already have on your device, so you don’t necessarily have to start from zero with it. When getting music the legit way is easier than torrenting it, you know life is good.

The interface is easy to use too. Everything downloads quickly, and sorting through a large library of music isn’t like rifling through a too-full closet. I like the ability to have the album art full screen, but then swipe it down to scroll through the songs. It doesn’t provide any extras that Itunes doesn’t, but for some reason I just find the placement of buttons and swiping to be more intuitive than what I’m used to. The only drawback I’ve found is that scrolling through song/album lists can sometimes be slow, but otherwise it’s been easy to make the switch and I didn’t get lost trying to figure it out.

There’s only really one thing that I found genuinely off-putting about the app: its tendency to crash. It has crashed at least once a week in the time I’ve had it- it freezes without warning for about 30 seconds, yet the music still plays. Then, it will usually reset itself. It’s not a huge problem, but that one time it crashed when I was waiting at the bus stop with a bunch of old ladies and my earphones weren’t plugged in all the way has convinced me the problem is small, yet serious. That extra minute of unexpected loud dance-track-blaring at the bus stop, when I couldn’t turn the volume down or even switch to a more placid song, has left me positively vigilant about double-checking whether or not my earphones are properly plugged in before I hit play. It is annoying, and someone at Google needs to get on it, but it doesn’t happen often enough to make me want to quit it.

So, now that my trial is over, am I going to pay $8 a month for Google Play? Yes. Will I use itunes anymore? Probably not. I have been officially converted, and I am not looking back unless Apple implements their subscription service like they’re rumoured to, then I will think about it.

DISCLAIMER: This isn’t a paid review, nor was I compensated in any way for this post. It’s just my honest opinion. Your mileage may vary.

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