Google Music

Following my look at Amazon Cloud Player the other day I have now had a chance to look at Google Music. It’s better, quite a bit better really.

For a start Google has a free limit of 20,000 tracks compared to Amazon’s measly 250. That said you can buy unlimited storage from Amazon for a paltry £20 per annum whereas its not clear what you do with Google if you have over 20,000 tracks. I have also read that if you encode your music at 320 Kbps you are not going to get your full quota of 20,000 tracks either. I currently have just under 10,000 most of them encoded at 320 Kbps but they all uploaded overnight with no problem whatsoever.

Google’s PC upload tool is a much better piece of software than its Amazon counterpart. After downloading and installing you just point it at your music folder and it will upload your tracks as a service and monitor the folder for changes in the background. You can also download the entire contents of your library via the same tool. This clearly vital feature for a robust backup solution seems to be completely absent in the Amazon offering.

The Amazon PC Software is frankly rubbish in comparison. It requires Adobe Air and has to be initiated manually and left open in order to work. I didn’t even attempt a major upload with it.

I haven’t tried Apple upload software from either. I imagine they are very similar to the PC versions.

In both cases you can download individual tracks from the web interface although in Google’s case only twice for some unfathomable reason.

On the player front the iThingy offering by Amazon is excellent with a neat option which allows you to download tracks direct to your device. It also “reads” your devices existing iTunes music library but only once when you initially install it. However if you download from the Amazon Cloud to your device it does not appear in your iThingy’s native music player. Streaming from the cloud works fine as long as you have at least a 3G connection although it takes a while to buffer except when using a decent wifi connection.

Google doesn’t score quite as highly when it comes to its iThingy compatability. There is no iThingy player instead you have to use mobile safari which works well but as soon as you switch to another app the music ceases. Fortunately some bright people have written an app that wraps the standard Google web interface so that it won’t close down if you switch apps. The basic version with ads is free. to get rid of the ads costs £1.49. The app allows you to set up 3 different Google accounts and switch between them – 60,000 tracks?

The Google web app doesn’t appear to pre-buffer the next track leading to a bit of a pause before the next track in your album or playlist kicks in. This it has to be said is disappointing especially as my tests were carried out using wireless N speeds connected to the Internet via a full 79 Mbps fibre connection. Hopefully this will get sorted and if it does as its a web app it won’t involve the user having to perform any kind of upgrade.

I haven’t tried the either Google or Amazon’s Android players (no Androids in the household) but am told that they are pretty good. Neither have I tried either of the full desktop web players as I will simply never use them.

In my opinion neither Google’s or Amazon’s claims about “matching” stand up to any degree of scrutiny. In Google’s case there has been some matching but there is no easy way of identifying just exactly what has been matched. The only way I have found so far is via the desktop version of the web interface. If you right click on a track that HAS been matched then there is an option to correct a mis-match. There is no such option at album level and no easy list of what has been matched. I was hoping, perhaps in vain, that Google would correct some of my scratchy mp3s created from vinyl.

In Amazon’s case the matching was awful. I deliberately chose to upload some recent very popular music which I figured had to be in their library – Adele’s 19 & 21 albums. Amazon “matched” a grand total of one, yes one, track from these two hugely successful albums. Pants.

Overall verdict.
Google 4 out of 5.
Amazon 3 out of 5.

Neither is a patch on my Squeezebox based cloud system which I would have to give 5 out of 5 !!!