Google Music Beta Review… The Promise & the Peril

google music 2

I love to listen to music on my various gadgets, and I have a bunch, including some Android gadgets.  So once I got my invitation I was excited to try the new Google Music Beta.  It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I am fed up with iTunes.  I am a Windows pc user and iTunes on Windows pcs just isn’t that great, in my humble, two-cents worth, opinion, which is another long story for another day.  I have used iPods and iTunes since 2003 and owned a half dozen iPods, so I have plenty of experience to speak from.  iTunes sucks.  So did I like Google Music?  Would I recommend it to others? Will it replace my iPod/iTunes solution that I have lived with for 8 years?  Let’s find out.

After using my Google account to log into Google Music I installed the Google Music Manager utility on my computer.  The music manager gives you the options of specifying which folders of music on your computer you want to upload, or you can let it grab all your music in iTunes to upload.  I keep all my music in iTunes, so that is the option I choose.  Also, you can’t upload music through the browser, you have to use the Music Manager to do that.  Some good news is that you can set the Music Manager to automatically upload any music that is added to those folders that you specify, or schedule it to upload every hour, etc.  So in my case, if I ever add any music to iTunes, it will automatically upload to Google Music, which is a nice touch.  Also, you can pick and choose which songs to upload, so I picked only the songs and playlists that I wanted to upload.  The Music Manager runs in the background and uploads while you do other things.  I did notice my computer slow down somewhat during that process, so it isn’t as ‘behind the scenes’ as some people will like.

Here is a screenshot of the Music Manager main screen:

google music 1

To listen to your music, delete your music, manage your playlists (which it thankfully grabbed from my iTunes playlists), edit song information, etc, you use the Music Player which is entirely browser based.  So that means you must have an internet connection to do so.  Which I guess is the whole point.  There is a downside of course to that, because if you don’t have an internet connection, you are sunk.   You have a search feature in the Player to quickly search for any song you have, which of course I would expect being a Google product.  You can also sort the view of your music by playlists, artists, albums, songs, etc.

Before I tell you any more good stuff, let me get the bad stuff out of the way.

After I uploaded all my music I then downloaded the Android app from the Market and fired it up.  And I guess this is where my frustration began with Google Music.  The Android app is truly Beta. It needs updating, like now.  Compared to the Amazon Cloud Music player app, this app is just pitiful in my opinion.  First of all, the app combed my Android phone for music files to see if it could add any files.  It found all sorts of sound files on my phone that are associated with apps installed on my phone.  So there are tons of 1 and 2 second sound files from game apps on my phone that are now sitting inside my Google Music app.  That is just not cool.

In addition, the app wouldn’t show me the songs from my Google Music collection that is now sitting inside Google Music. After poking around the sparse help files (which I guess is to be expected at this point) I found out that you have to set up your phone to ‘auto-sync’ to be able to see your music.   After the app ‘syncs’ and you can see your music, you can turn off auto-sync.  But if I add more music to Google Music I assume that I’ll have to turn auto-sync back on before the app can see the new music.  Again, not cool.  I shouldn’t have to turn on ‘auto-sync’ (which is a better drain) to see my music, the app should be able to communicate with Google Music and see my music. The Amazon Cloud Player doesn’t make me do that so why does Google Music?  Google, you should have told me somewhere (preferably in the app on my phone) that I needed to do this instead of making me search around the help files to find the answer.  It would have saved me alot of frustration. Or maybe I just don’t get it, which is possible.

Another huge item that is missing with Google Music is that there is no iTunes equivalent software for Google Music on your pc.  It is all based in the cloud and you use your browser to listen to your music, edit song information, add them to playlists, purchase more songs online, etc.  So when it comes to managing the music on my pc, I still have to use a piece of software like iTunes, or something else, and that is a bummer.   The Music Manager that I mentioned before simply uploads music to the service, and that’s it. Have I mentioned how much I hate iTunes? Looks like I am stuck using it a bit longer till Google comes out with some software, which I hope they will.

It takes a long time to upload music.  I have over 2,600 songs in my library and it took me over 6 hours to upload the songs using my enterprise-level, high speed network here at work.  It just crawled.  When I was at home on my DSL connection to see how long it would take to upload the entire collection, my home connection was going to take over 30 hours to upload.  Maybe I am spoiled with the speed of internet services that we now enjoy in the mainstream, but that just seems too slow to me.

Having said all that, I guess you are expecting me to now tell you that I simply don’t like Google Music, and you would be wrong.

I love it.  Even with the issues that it has, I love it.

I have loved Pandora for a long time, because it gives me access to music anywhere I go on my phone that I have with me 24/7.  But I can’t pick the songs I want to hear on Pandora.  Sometimes I just want to listen to a song that I know I have in my collection.  Google Music allows me to do just that.  This is a fulfillment of the promises of cloud computing I think.  As long as Verizon doesn’t lock me down in the future with metered data plans, I can happily live with this.  Google Music, and Amazon Cloud Music as well, are only going to get better and I greatly prefer them over any of the music management apps that are currently available to get music from your pc onto your phone.  I gave up on those type of apps because it just turned out to be a hassle, especially when switching phones.  Cloud music is where it’s at.  Do I recommend it to others?  Oh yes.  Will it replace my iPod/iTunes setup? Oh yes, at some point.

Now, Google needs to get busy updating that app, like now, and making software for my pc to manage my music.  Are you listening Google? Don’t keep this in Beta for 3 years like you do everything else.  You have a legion of people like me who are ready and willing to break up with Apple.

UPDATE:  I was made aware of the fact that even though you can have Google music on multiple devices, you can’t listen to your music at the same time on multiple devices.  That takes some of the shine off the product for me, but hey, I guess you can’t have it all.


Product Information

Price:FREE, up to 20,000 songs
  • An invitation from Google and an internet connection. Oh, and some music files.
  • Cloud-based music is the future.
  • It's FREE
  • It works
  • Android app is lacking
  • Upload is very slow
  • No software on the pc to manage your music locally

52 thoughts on “Google Music Beta Review… The Promise & the Peril”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Good deal! I’m glad to hear SOMETHING about it… all I have heard was a mention of the service… the clamorous chaos for invites and NOTHING…’s hoping the android version gets better…

  3. What a lousy article.

    You clearly define your loyalties by saying you use Windows (really? Windows? There goes your cred), and then proceed to list the litany of badness in Google Music. Then you say that you love it.


    You say that you hate iTunes, but you never say why. I have zero problems with iTunes, but then again, I don’t suffer in a substandard OS.

  4. Thanks for writing Bob. Wow, you have alot going on there in your comments. Let me respond:

    1. The article isn’t about iTunes, it’s about Google Music. I could write another entire article bashing iTunes, but that’s not what The Gadgeteer website is about. In retrospect, perhaps I should have omitted my strong feelings about iTunes altogether, and I’ll certainly think about that before my next review. I simply wanted to let people know where I was coming from, that’s all. On some level I had to mention iTunes in my review because Google Music doesn’t have a way to manage your music on your pc, so I still have to do that. And by the way, in case you didn’t know, Google Music is not for Windows pc users only. Mac users can use it too. So there are no ‘loyalty’ issues here that I can see.

    2. You have your biases, and I have mine. We won’t be changing each others minds and it won’t do any good arguing about it, so let’s just leave it at that. Mac vs PC arguments are so old and tired anyway, it is just silly to argue about it. iTunes on a Windows computer vs iTunes on a Mac are distinctly different experiences. They just are, and I am certainly not the first person to talk about that. But don’t take my word for it. Go to Apple’s discussion forums at and search for this issue.

    3. On the Gadgeteer we don’t sugar coat product reviews, nor do we heap scorn or praise onto products to fit any sort of agenda. We evaluate the good and the bad of each product we review, which I think is only fair if you are going to have the word ‘review’ in your article. So even though I love Google Music, and other cloud music products, I won’t leave out the negatives that are obvious in the product. There are things I hate about the car that I drive, but I still love the car and wouldn’t want to give it up. I think just about everyone can relate to that.

  5. Don’t forget the “make available offline” option for your favorite albums so they are stored locally on your Android device.

  6. Thanks for the review Steve. I have to say I’m not that impressed with iTunes mainly for the fact that if I buy a song, it’s not really my song but a DRM’d song that I can’t play on other devices. This in many ways makes me miss purchasing CDs (the good old days) when I actually physically owned what I purchased and could use pretty much on any computer with a CD or combo CD/DVD drive. As consumers Apple tends to impress and stupidify us about the reality of what is happening to our data and how we access it. I’m against Apple’s censorship, but at the same time I’m for its quality control of apps in its app store. How do we go about getting something of a sort of quality check for Android for those like myself who are quite sick of the crappy apps in the Android market and even some of Google’s half-baked crapware. There needs to be unifying rallying call for Google to get off its ass and make Android Market a place significantly better, as well Google Music, Google Movies, Google Books, etc. work like a professional application instead of some POS. The hippie mindset and culture needs to take a backseat for a little bit and lay off the peace pipe to make Android apps work, otherwise this whole thing is going to fall flat on its face when that evil Empire of Microsoft gets its act together again. Google Music should have existed long ago and its sad to see a beta version running like crap. What the hell was Google doing over the last 5 years when Apple had the iPhone and iTunes even longer? I could go on, but dammit, I like Google, a lot, but I get so pissed off about their approach on Android. There’s almost no sense of professionalism and deadlines, just a bunch of mished mashed crud pushed out to the end-user who wonders why in the hell their application won’t work on their phone. This is where Apple rules, and albeit through iTunes and if Google keeps it up with screwing its Android fanbase I might turn to Microsoft and just buy a Windows Phone instead. God, did I just write what I just thought I did? I don’t want to go back to Microsoft hell and I’m definitely not liking the prospects of Apple, but there could be a slight chance of me looking into being an Apple fanboi.

  7. I love it. Honestly, its everything I was waiting for. When I received my CR48, I was pretty bummed to not be able to have my own music on the cloud book. I had everything else, but not my music. And now I do. I no longer have to bring my iPod into work with me, I just open the page on my browser.

    Yea there are a few things that iCloud has that I like. Especially not having to upload all your music. I spent three days uploading almost 10,000 songs. Bit with the auto upload, its cake now.

    I agree that both the app and browser need work. And it would be nice to have an application to manage my music on my PC. But I’m stoked to have it and I love it.

    @ Bob : why does using a Windows machine remove credibility? Just because he hasn’t fallen to Apple’s hypnotizing marketing like have? To me, the only good thing that Apple does is help push the industry in directions it has been unwilling to go. Other than that, their products are just overpriced status symbols.

  8. Chris Lundberg

    Recived invite today, took less than 5 mins to install uploader program. The base is web software runs fast no lag does what I expect . They incude a bunch of free music . Its beta and iam sure it would be improved on, didnt see much that needed to be worked on other than skip song button.

  9. Steve Holt!

    Thanks for your review/preview of Google Music. I’m hoping to get my invite sometime soon. I don’t mean to be critical but I wanted to point out some things. First I don’t think we can blame the time it takes for your songs to upload on your DSL speed internet service on Google. That is obviously a limitation of DSL upload speeds and probably has no relation to your upload manager. You mention your frustration with Auto Sync needing to be enabled. I don’t know why you would be surprised or confused by this. If you want your phone to retrieve your gmail, work email, and I’m sure a variety of other things, you need your Auto Sync enabled. Maybe that isn’t the most ideal but it seems logical that they would do it that way.

    Also, this is beta. You seemed bothered with the lack of help files and application deficiencies. Isn’t that the point of beta? To work out the bugs, make improvements. I wouldn’t blame you for being frustrated, but that seems like something to be expected.

    And one last thing. You gave us a lot of reasons why not to like it. But not much on why we should like it. We don’t get a good idea of why you decided it was a good product.

    Sorry if I come off dickish or anal. I do appreciate you taking your time to share your thoughts.

  10. Hey Jason, thanks for commenting. Let me make a few comments myself. In regard to the sparse help files, I did say “(which I guess is to be expected at this point)” so I do understand about the product being in BETA. I am sure the help files will get better.

    My upload times to Amazon Cloud player were much better at both home and work, so I was making the comment that Google’s upload times to me were slow by comparison.

    Google didn’t have to use Auto-Sync with this product (or maybe they are limited by the way they designed it, I don’t know). As I mentioned, the Amazon Cloud Player, which is the closest comparison product that I can use, doesn’t require that auto-sync be turned on. And a whole lot of apps on my phone don’t require that either and the app data syncs. So they could have opted not do that. Auto-sync kills the battery on smartphones, so keeping it turned off is always preferable in my opinion. My Yahoo mail, for example, doesn’t need auto-sync turned on to pull my Yahoo mail all day.

    I just re-read the whole thing and I do indeed come off as a bit negative on the product. In my attempt to give lots of detail about the issues that need fixing, I used quite a bit of words to so it does come off overly negative. My overall opinion that I expressed at the end of the review is that I believe this is one of the best things about cloud computing. For example…

    My wife has a new Android smartphone. She wanted me to put some music on her phone just yesterday and didn’t much care what I chose. She just wanted some music. Until now, I would have been required to connect the phone to my computer, drag and drop music files onto her phone, then make sure that her music listening app on the phone could see it and play it. Or maybe install something like Double-Twist and then go through the process of getting that to work with the phone. Forget it. I installed the Google Music app on her phone, entered my account information, and I was done in less than 10 min. She now has my entire music collection awaiting her.

    That is how it is supposed to be.

  11. OK, what is up with the invitations? I have had the HTC EVO since it came out and I have been eagerly waiting for this service to be launched from Google; but I have been waiting for my invitation for well over 45 days. Anyone know about how long the wait is?

  12. I didn’t think much of the Google Music myself. I just got mine set up today, and it’s so basic and so limited that I doubt I’ll use it much.

    I’ve been trying out Subsonic for the last couple weeks instead while waiting for my Google Music invite, and I’ve been pretty impressed by that. You run it on your own computer instead of the cloud, and it’s got Google Music totally beat in my opinion. You can stream your tunes (and video!) to any computer browser or media player you like, and there is a media player app for Android, iPhone and Blackberry. Plus, you can have as many of your friends as you like share your tunes via streaming.

    I wrote up a pretty thorough comparison of the two if you’re interested:

  13. PS: if you and your wife are using the same Google Music account, are you aware that you can only stream it to one device at a time? I thought that that was a pretty narrow restriction myself.

  14. @David Like other Google betas it seems the process by which they choose who to invite is somewhat inscrutable and probably depends on what they know about your devices, apps you have installed, services you use, etc. I only applied about a week or two ago but got an invite yesterday — to be honest I wasn’t really expecting one at all until whatever the next phase of rollout is — and I’m guessing that having multiple Android devices including a Honeycomb tablet probably has something to do with it. But who knows.

    At any rate, at my wonderful fast DSL upload speed, it looks like it will take about a week to upload my whole library. Oh well, at least I only have to do it once…

  15. Hey Steve — there’s really no reason to use iTunes on Windows. Mediamonkey is by FAR the most robust, flexible, powerful and elegant solution to Windows music management (and you can use it with your iPod, too).

  16. Steve,

    Does Google specify a maximum amount of songs or GB that can be uploaded? In addition, is the music downloadable from the service to one’s computer? Thank you!

  17. Just got my invite today! Yeah!

    I am loving what I have at the moment–free songs from Google and a few albums that have managed to upload. I can certainly say that upload speeds are a fault of Google’s right now–I have TESTED speeds of 1-2 MB/s (yes megabytes not bits) upload today and am only seeking ~300 KB/s upload for Google music. Not atrocious for uploading, but for 15,000 songs I’m gonna be waiting a bit.

    I hope that all of you are starting to get your invites! Rumors are that many people got invites today. Have hope, yours will be here soon 😎

  18. Darshan, Google Music is limited to 20,000 songs, and there is no storage limit specified. So as long as you don’t go over 20,000 individual songs you are ok.

    Google Music doesn’t provide you the ability to download individual songs from the player that I can see.

  19. Google’s reputation for improving on their beta stuff is well earned, so I expect Music to get better. I have found the upload speeds to be better than Amazon’s. I expect that these speeds can be adjusted at Google’s and Amazon’s will.

    Tell me you were joking when you said you had never heard of Media Monkey. That’s the most unbelievable thing I have heard all week. All serious music collectors have at least tried Media Monkey.

  20. Just looked at Media Monkey and it isn’t the same category as Google Music Beta – it’s not a music streaming app, it’s just a collection organizer, unless you use a plugin. Even then you have to stream your tunes over a browser, there’s no dedicated phone app for it. If your phone’s browser doesn’t support flash, you’d be screwed (ie, anyone who doesn’t have an Android phone)

    I’ve never heard of Media Monkey either, and I’d consider myself serious about my music collection. Looking at the screenshots of the cluttered user interface gave me a headache 😛 ANd it’s Windows only, to boot.

  21. @Tyler — Nobody was saying that Mediamonkey was in the same category as Google Music. Where did you get that? It’s a totally different program with a totally different functionality. Yes, it’s a Windows app, which is why I suggested it as an alternative to iTunes for Windows. And the user interface is only as cluttered as you want to make it. The beauty of MM is it’s flexibility and customization options. Pretty much every serious music-collecting Windows-user I know loves it (including me).

  22. @Jack: I made the comparison to Google Music because the blog post is *about* Google Music. So not so hard to see where I got that, eh? And while Steve mentions trying out Google Music because he was sick of iTunes, the main thrust of the article is that despites many drawbacks he is in love with Google Music for the ability to stream music to his mobile device. Which isn’t Media Monkey’s focus. Which is what I was pointing out 😉

  23. I guess so Ricky. I only have about 2,300 music files, so I am sure that isn’t much compared to most.

  24. I’ve been having a difficult time uploading with Music Manager. I’ll add a folder, click ‘start upload now’ and either ittakes an hour to start uploading, or it doesn’t upload at all. My Radiohead folder was added about 20 hrs ago and still nothing.

    I never saw Music as a home music player. I also use Media Monkey and can’t imagine something better coming along unless Adobe made a Lightroom for music. Google Music is really just for my mobile purposes. No more carrying a portable hdd everywhere. 🙂

  25. Why is no mentioning the fine print at the bottom of the invite?! “Music Beta is available free for a limited time.” Does that not cause anyone else to pause?

  26. JL, honestly, no it doesn’t bother me. I’ll just quit using Google Music and go with Amazon Cloud Player if that happens. I don’t think Google will end up charging though. That’s just my uneducated opinion, but I think they will find a way to put ads in the product and make money that way, like they do with everything else.

  27. After itunes crashed and i havent been able to fix itunes(even re downloading gives error) i thought ii would never be able to listen to my music… i couldnt even find the files my songs were in. luckilly the uploader found all my songs. thang god for google.

  28. I don’t understeand, why all my song uploaded as M4A is in .MP3 formater after I download thet to my Nexus S (set as offline).
    It means, that files are reencoded. That sux.

  29. Been using it for three days on my HTC Incredible. I didn’t find the Android App to be that bad, but it may have been updated in the meantime. So far I love it as well, with a few caveats.
    One thing iTunes and the iPod do very well is handle podcasts and audiobooks in a sensible, seamless fashion. I don’t necessarily expect Google to handle Podcasts, there are other apps for that. But since my audiobooks were imported anyway, how about a way to handle these with bookmarks and so forth? It seems this would be an easy addition when Music comes out of beta, if not sooner.

  30. Hmm… good question J-dubya. I don’t have any audiobooks so you know more about that than I. I would assume that new features will roll out over time… at least, I hope!

  31. My only complaint so far, (besides the upload speeds) is that I can’t use the app on my HTC Hero. That’s really the only purpose for me to use Google Music but until the app works for me I’ll be using Audiogalaxy still. Even though that’s pretty limiting in itself.

  32. Nice review, but you don’t have a lot of songs. As a live music fan, I have more than 2000 songs from multiple bands. Uploading now… at my DSL speed, i’m looking at abuot 30 weeks to download 11,000 songs. I’ve been at it for 4 hours. 108 songs added, 224 skipped (due to itunes protection)

  33. Brennan Hildebrand

    One word: Flash

    Google Music sucks because it requires Flash. I use plug-ins like ClickToFlash for Safari, and there is another for Firefox, I can’t remember the name.

    Usually, when I get a flash video/audio thing, I get a little icon on the page that I can click if I want to watch/listen to the thing.

    Google Music says I have to refresh my browser every time I try to play something.

    Plus, no flash, no iPad or iPhone. I expect that Google will fix this, though. Maybe once they lose flash, they will gain the iOS market. I expect, though, that there are licensing issues and problems with Apple that are hurdles. Same with using other music formats than mp3 (I think AAC is supported too).

  34. STINKS FOR SLOWER DSL users. When one clicks a song, it pauses every 2 seconds. If you leave it along for several minutes and come back, the song will play because it has uploaded. But, when you click the next song, that one pauses every 2 seconds. Those of us in rural areas where slow DSL is our highest option have no recourse. It STINKS FOR SLOWER DSL.

  35. THANK YOU for helping me figure out how to hear music from my online collection! Turn on autosync on my phone! I was going crazy trying to figure that out — that has increased the usefulness of the android music app almost 100%.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *