Google finally released their Google Music app. I’ve already discussed the service, but I did want to focus in just a second on the iOS app and why I’m switching from Spotify.
Spotify’s App Problem
Both apps let you stream their catalog of music for a monthly fee, and have a similar set of features, like playlists and radio. However, my only complaint about the Spotify app is that on iOS it creates long term caches of the songs you stream. See, for Spotify (and google really), they have to pay for the bandwidth to push music to each device streaming music. This gets expensive. On the desktop app, they actually use some clever p2p technology so that if you are nearby someone who also shares your affinity for Taylor Swift, they could in theory be streaming songs from your computer. You likely don’t notice this because you don’t get charged for amounts of downloads at home. (This is why there is a setting for how much you want to store on your own computer in Spotify)
On a mobile device, you would be pissed if you burned through your cap of 2GB a month because the guy next to you is streaming music from your iPhone. So, everytime you stream a song, a copy is left on your device. This way Spotify doesnt pay to send it to you the 120th time you stream Eminem this month. It has the added benefit of lowering your downloading as well, so you don’t burn through your data downloading the data each listen.
This would be fine if the user had some level of control or ability to get rid of the cache. However, Spotify doesn’t let you do this. There is no “clear cache” button. The only way I’ve found to get rid of the cache is to uninstall the Spotify app completely and re-download it. I’ve had the Spotify app grow to over 1.5 GB at some points. That is ridiculous.
You would hope that the programmers have put in some code that purges the music if the device needs space for other things, but considering I only discovered Spotify’s memory binging because I was getting told I didn’t have space to install an app on my iPhone, I suspect this not to be true.
Granted, Spotify is not alone in this sin – I’m looking at you, Facebook and Twitter apps. It is still unexcusable. I’m hoping Google is different.
Streaming Owned Music
Further, on a less technical note, Google’s music service let’s you upload music to the cloud for storage. So, if I bought an album that is not available on the various streaming services (The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Black Keys, Adele and others have held their music back from steaming services to encourage sales, at least initially if not forever) I can upload it to Google Music, and still stream it to my device. It works more like a hard drive that is always available. That is pretty great. This is actually similar to Apple’s iTunes Music Match, except Google does this for free for up to 20,000 songs.
iOS Apps Are Better Quality
On one last note. I found a certain quote in The Verge’s article about the new app particularly humorous.
Given its similarities to the Android version, why did the music app take so long to come to iOS? Speculation around the Android launch centered around Apple’s App Store policies, which take a 30 percent cut of in-app sales. But Google says that the company didn’t even try to negotiate with Apple over its commission — and as a result, you can’t buy music through the app as you can on Android, nor can you subscribe to All Access through your smartphone. The actual reason for the delay: “It just took us a little longer than we thought to bring it up to the level of polish expected from Play Music and iOS apps,” Bilinski [Brandon Bilinski, product manager for Google Play Music] says. That meant fixing problems with streaming and integrating the app with Chromecast, among other things. The result is an app that can stream music at up to 320 kbps, and can connect to speakers and other devices over AirPlay and Bluetooth. It’s also available in 20 countries at launch.
Among the various arguments Apple fans point to as a differentiator and why their experience is better is that iOS apps are better to use. They crash less, are visually more appealing, work better, etc. But it hard to quantify that. It’s hard to measure it. But I loved that a Google engineer said they had to take more time with the iOS app because it needed more polish since it is an iOS app. Because most Android apps are crappy and roughshod, they could put out the Android version over 18 months ago.