Aditya MadanapalleNov 15, 2016 13:52:48 IST
Consumers in India have been able to use Google Play music for a while now, but it is not officially listed as being available in India, yet. It was possible to change your IP address and sign up for the service right when the beta launched way back in 2011. Since last month, users have been able to purchase songs and subscribe to the streaming service. An India oriented library has been added to Google Music.
This seems to be a soft launch of some kind, as some features are rolling out only for some users. A talked about feature is one that uses machine learning to generate playlists that are in tune with your tastes. However, the listening habits of people vary quite a bit, and this might not be necessarily the best solution for everyone. 8tracks for example, allows you to listen to playlists curated by others. Last.fm uses a vast library of user playback data called scrobbles, to compare which tracks were listened to before and after which other tracks to come up with suggestions, related tracks, as well as custom tag based radio stations, and Beats 1 is a 24x7 radio broadcast worldwide.
One of the problems with Google Play Music is that it automatically picks music tracks from your phone and includes them in the library. There does not seem to be a setting to change this, but added tracks can be easily removed. If you have a vast library of songs, and not all of them are downloaded on the device, then it can be problematic in some situations, such as while playing back in a fast moving car. In the settings bar, there is a "Downloaded Only" toggle that allows users to view and interact with only the songs already downloaded on the device.
Google Play music has a library size of 30 million tracks, which is comparable to the amount of content available on Apple Music. However, this large number does not make much of a difference, as Wynk is also a pretty good service, although it has a catalogue of only 2.2 million tracks. One of the biggest problems with Wynk is complicated pricing tiers, with the best pricing plans available only to Airtel users.
Purchasing songs redirects you to the music section of the Play Store. The web version of the service requires details of a card to be fed into the system. This is a requirement of the music deals companies have made with Google, and is a standard practice for most streaming music services. Apple Music for example, requires credit card details to be fed to avail of three months trial, and unless discontinued, the card will start getting charged. It is possible to use parts of the service on the mobile phone, without having to enter in credit card details.
The best feature in Google Play Music is that it is a music locker as well, with scan and match service for free. A scan and match service allows users to upload their own tracks to the streaming service. Think of it as a personal version of Grooveshark, a service that shut down last year before coming back in a different form. Only, uploads by other users are not available for streaming and download. You can upload can be legal rips from CDs that you own, tracks purchased from iTunes or Windows Media, DRM free music purchased any other, music ripped from audio cassettes and yes, even pirated music. These tracks are delivered to you anywhere, across operating systems, through a web browser, on mobile phones, and across mobile operating systems.
Scan and match works on play music in a slightly different way from other services. If you upload a track, it is that particular track that is saved on Google servers and delivered to you on demand. Google does attach meta-data and album art if the track is identified, but otherwise does not fiddle around with the track data. Apple on the other hand, matches the song title to the song in its own database, and delivers the version of the song it has in its database. This means alternative, live, remastered or variations of songs will not be delivered to you in the same way by the scan and match service, only the version available on Apple. There have been reports of songs disappearing from personal collections after subscribing to Apple Music.
Apple and Amazon both offer a service to stream your existing collection, but they charge an annual fee for doing so. Google Play Music allows users to store and stream up to 50,000 tracks, without having to pay anything. There is no option to pay for more tracks, if that is needed. Paid tracks downloaded from the Play store are not counted towards this 50,000 track limit. A free scan and match service is the most useful feature in Google Play Music, which makes it stand out from the crowd of music streaming services. Even if you already use another service, such as iTunes, Windows Media or Wynk, Google Play music can be used along with these services as well.
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