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First look: Google Music

Preston Gralla | May 15, 2011
Google's new cloud-based music service looks like a real winner.

This is significantly better than Amazon's recently released Amazon Cloud Player -- Amazon's player doesn't handle WMA and limits your total storage space to 5GB, regardless of the number of files. However, Amazon stores any kind of file, not just music -- and if you buy an MP3 album from Amazon, that limit goes up to 20GB. In addition, MP3 purchases from Amazon don't count against that limit. Apple users are out of luck here as well, because Google Music doesn't support M4P (Apple DRM) or M4A (Apple Lossless) files.

Music on your Android device

To listen to your music on your Android device, you'll need to head to the Android Market and download an update to the built-in music player. When you first run the updated player, you'll have to link it to your Google account.

Google Music
On the Xoom.

The player looks and works like the normal Android music app -- that is to say, functional with little sense of style. (While, as might be expected, the Music app looks different on a phone compared to a tablet, they are basically the same.)

Cloud-based music shows up alongside music you've stored on the device, with no clear visual indication whether the music is on the device itself or available via the cloud. This is slightly disconcerting; it would be nice to be able to see at a glance what's local and what's not, because if you're in a location with a flaky connection, you may have some issues with streaming music. In addition, wireless providers may charge for bandwidth in the future, so you'd like to know whether you'll be streaming music or not.

At first, I ran into an odd anomaly. I had previously copied part of my music collection from my PC to my Motorola Xoom, and I noticed that those files I had copied were showing up twice -- once because they were on the device, and once because they were now also available via the cloud. But that turned out to be true only during the upload process -- after all files were uploaded, duplicate entries were automatically (and thankfully) eliminated.

That wasn't the only foible I found. I installed Google Music on both my Droid X and my Motorola Xoom, and noticed that with the Droid X, if I tapped options for an album or song that was stored in the cloud, I could choose to make it available offline -- in other words, the song would download to the device itself and I could then play it even when I wasn't connected to the Internet. But when I tapped the same album or song on the Xoom, most of the time I didn't have the same option to make it available offline.

Google Music
Saving music for later offline playing.


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