Google Play Music All Access

Improvements in design highlight the latest music subscription service

At today's massive Google I/O keynote, one of the bigger announcements was centered around music. Not only did we get the rumored Google Music subscription service -- now called "All Access" -- but we also got a completely refreshed Play Music app and web interface to go along with it. Google is making a pretty compelling push with its new music service, which goes beyond just radio and just streaming to offer customizable playlists with unlimited skips as well as unfettered online and offline access to any music in the Play Store catalog. You can also now access that music through  a beautifully redesigned Android app and web player that just tie the entire experience together.

Hang with us after the break for a closer look at Google's refresh of Play Music, one that is likely to be a hit well after the Moscone Center empties this week.

More: Android Central @ Google I/O 2013

All Access

Google Play Music All Access Google Play Music All Access

All Access is the name of Google's new subscription music service, positioned as a paid tier above the free offerings from Google Play Music. For the subscription price of $9.99 per month, users have access to the entire Google Play Music catalog to stream and play at any time on any device. You also get radio functionality, similar to what other services like Pandora offer, that generates limitless playlists based on artists or songs. These radio stations can be skipped, reordered and tweaked as you listen to them, or simply played on without your intervention. The last portion of All Access is "smart recommendations", which analyzes your music listening to give you more suggestions on what to listen to next.

As we noted above the subscription goes for $9.99 (plus sales tax) per month, but Google is of course offering a 30 day free trial so you can see if it's right for you. Users participating in the free trial before June 30th also receive special pricing if they decide to buy -- $7.99 per month. The free tier of Google Play Music remains the same, with the ability to upload 20,000 of your own songs for both streaming and local playback on devices.

The updated Play Music app

While the Google Play Music app has received some subtle tweaks in the last few months, there hasn't been a drastic overhaul of the interface in some time. Well now is a perfect time for a music facelift, and Google has gone with an all-out redesign to follow its new design language. Following a basic color scheme of orange and off-white, the design follows many of the same principles we've seen in the most recent update to the Play Store. You of course have sliding panels to switch between categories, but Google has also introduced a new slide-in panel from the left side that is completely new to Android and lets you switch between different categories of the app

The app is now dominated by a main page labeled "Listen Now", which gives you a look at recent played, recently added, and suggested music albums and artists. Each thumbnail of album art can be tapped to play, or a more precise tap on the "settings" button for each gives options to start a new radio station with that artist (if you've paid for All Access), add it to your music queue, pin it to your device, add it to a playlist or just go to the artists listing. Listen Now works best when you've paid for All Access, as it doesn't care what's on your device and what's available for streaming through All Access. Once you've signed up, there's very little distinction between the two.

You can add music that you haven't purchased or uploaded to "My Library", pin it to your device for offline listening and do anything else with that music as if you had uploaded the files yourself. Google wants you to think of your entire music library together, not as separate things that you own and are subscribed to.

Google Play Music All Access Google Play Music All Access

Using the new Google Play Music app will be quite familiar to anyone who has spent time in the old version, but with some usability tweaks that are both overwhelming and empowering. Google has crammed a whole bunch of new features all into one app that can be a bit much until you get ahold of them. Luckily the universal search is fantastic, and makes finding music, artists and albums extremely easy. The visual flourishes like high-resolution artist images that take the place of album art in the artist view and full album view make the app feel higher quality than your average music player. It's more than a couple of steps ahead of the old app in terms of design, features and usability.

The refreshed web experience

Google Play Music web interface

While we're talking about Play Music, it's hard to ignore the web component. The entire web experience has received a facelift as well to fall in line with the app's new design, and offers all of the same features that you expect. The landing page has now been changed into a "Listen Now" page, with suggestions of radio stations, artists and albums to listen to just like the app. The music player gives a nice readout of upcoming songs and current information, and all of the small visual flair like artist pictures carry over to the web as well.

Overall, Google has really gone above and beyond to try and make a music service that feels complete. The app and web redesigns have made serious improvements to the look and feel of using the service, and bring it right up to the modern standards of Google's design. Whether or not you can justify the $9.99 (or $7.99 if you're quick) price for All Access is another question best answered on a person-by-person basis, but if you do decide to spring for the paid service you'll get a seriously good set of perks that casual users and music buffs alike can appreciate.


Reader comments

Hands-on with the new Google Play Music app and All Access subscription service


Ok, but with a service like Pandora, my wife and I can share one account between us. Is the same possible with this? I'm skeptical because I am assuming that it is tied to my google plus account.

I would imagine it's just like the other Play services--tied to a specific Google account. Also, there is a notable limitation on the service.

You can only stream music to ONE DEVICE AT THE SAME TIME.

I was listening to one album on the desktop browser and then listened to another track on my Bionic. Once the already-loaded song on my desktop concluded (I'd fired up the Bionic mid-song), it paused and gave me a notification that I could only use one device at a time.

Mind you, this is undoubtedly part of the licensing agreement between Google and the music labels, and it's a very fair trade-off in my opinion.

Yeah, it's the same method as spotify. If you start playing music on your mobile device it'll stop whatever else was playing it (laptop, desktop, other device, etc).

If you just want shared radio services, then pandora is the way to go. This service is great for one user, not multiple.

With Jellybean you can add your google account to her device and vise versa, Jellybean allows multiple users per device, I share my paid aPPs with my family members android devices.

keep your pandora service, so far after fiddling with all access their "radio stations" suck for putting a playlist together... example i put a smooth jazz station on or so i thought, 3 songs in its playing breaking benjamin.... i would have never of heard breaking benjamin on a smooth jazz station on pandora... 20 minutes later i put a station based on the pixies, the very next song after wave of mutilation is jason mraz wtf. granted its playing songs based on songs i have in my collection but going way outside the genre scape to be considered a radio station... i will most likely cancel my sub and stick to pandora

Don't underestimate the ability to skip, remove and reorder the radio station playlist before you give up and go with Pandora. It's a REALLY nice feature.

has anyone noticed how much data streaming actually uses? It seems its about 40mb per song which is crazy! Anyone have any other experiences?

Actually, I frequently stream music from Songza over my LTE connection, and I only go through 25-35 MB per hour. The key is to make sure you go into the Settings menu and tell the app(s) NOT to stream at the highest quality possible. To me, a casual and average listener, the difference in quality is not very noticeable when I'm listening to music over my Bluetooth headphones or my car radio's Bluetooth connection.

Try opting for lower quality streaming and see if it makes a noticeable difference for you.

When using spotify on my GNex I go through about the same data, 25-35mb/hour. I have noticed when using google music there's alot of background downloading going on. I'm not streaming at the highest quality either. I check the box to prevent background data and see how that goes. Other than that the app itself works great

I just used 330MB in under an hour (I was skipping songs and whatnot)... yikes! Of course it downloads the entire song when it starts playing, even if I only listen to a couple of seconds (stupid fast LTE!)

When checking the box in the settings to "Stream at highest quality", Google Music has always used an obscenely high amount of data. Nothing new here. You're just getting higher quality and that takes more data. I've found the exact same to be true of TuneIn Radio as well.

I dont see how that possible..Every CD I have ripped is on average 5mb in size per song...granted they are not tip top quality..but I ripped them in "cd" quality.

A CD holds about 700MB which is a little over 70 minutes of music. Granted most commercial music CDs are not maxed out on the time limit. Any way, at CD quality you would be roughly 600MB in 60 minutes. In other words 1 minute = 10 MB.

Either you listen to very very short songs or you compressed them (so they are not "cd" quality). 5MB per song in .wav file format (acutal "CD quality") does not make any sense. You must have encoded them into some very lossy format.

You could encode them to .flac format (with no loss of quality from .wav) but that only cuts the size roughly in half. Still that is much bigger than you are talking about at 5MB per song.

An MP3 encoded at 192 Kbps is roughly 1.44 MB per second, which I believe is normal quality for Google Play. High quality is 320 Kbps and it's about 2.4 MB per minute. Most people wouldn't consider 320Kbps CD quality now, but it used to be considered that 192Kbps was "CD quality". At 3-4 minutes in 192Kpbs, you're looking at a 4.5 to 6MB song.

Same for me on T-Mobile. I used a lot on Spotify and Netflix last month I'm scrapping Spotify for this. I found more music on here than on Spotify.

I would guess you should be going through about 145 MB per hour based on the 320kbps encoding of the mp3s. This would be using the high quality setting. I know that I usually use a couple of GBs per month just through Google music. Doesn't matter to me because of unlimited data so I don't pay too much attention to it. You could download the music to device (I think you have to put it towards your 20000 songs to do that) when you are on wife if you know what you are going to listen to.

On the computer I looked at the Task Manager and it was showing around 60-65 kbps.

That is around 30 MB per hour if you were stream non stop.

That's really not that bad.

I'm not sure about on the phone but people need to remember that bytes and bits are quite different when being measured.

My understanding always was that if you have "stream at highest quality" checked for songs that exists in the Google Play Music store, then it will stream them at 320kbps quality regardless of the quality of your stored files. That makes a huge difference in both quality and size. It has never bothered me though: unlimited data on T-Mobile rocks!

I noticed this as well. Over a 30-minute streaming session, Google Play Music used 101mb of data, and my Note 2 battery drained 4%...absolutely insane. The same session with Rhapsody uses about 17mb of data and results in half the battery loss. The high quality streaming option was unchecked in both apps.

They seem to have gotten a lot of things right, though it's not quite perfect. I very much like the new web version, it all flows very well and is easy & fun to use.

The android app is good, but seems to lack some basic playlist management functions like being able to create new playlists, or add songs in your queue to an existing playlist.

The one other thing I'm noticing is that it has trouble generating a radio station for very obscure artists, and instead defaults to just doing a mishmash of stuff in your collection. But, when it DOES know the artist it seems to to a very good job of creating a fun sequence of songs to listen to that do fit well with the starting point.

I'm also pleased that the library size seems pretty decent. I was worried that since they weren't throwing around figures it might be very small like rdio's was in the beginning, but so far even some of my more challenging searches have returned decent results. It's still not quite as big as Spotify or rdio's libraries, but not as bad as I feared it might be.

It definitely could be a contender against similar services if they just flesh out the library a bit more, tighten up the mobile app UI a bit and make a few other tweaks. The $8/month price is a smart incentive to get current users of other services to switch: they don't have to be better than the other services, just close to the same, and people will make the hop to save some money.

In a quick comparison of some artists I've encountered who aren't found completely or at all on Spotify, Play has much more of them. I'm going to explore further, but I'm very inclined to switch to All Access and pocket the $24 per year savings.

There isn't an option to add a playlist from scratch, but it does allow you to create a playlist with a starting song. In other words, to create a playlist, you go to song x and say add to playlist - > new playlist.

And I don't know what you mean about things in the queue. It allows me to add individuals songs in the queue to a playlist, or save the entire queue as a new playlist. If you mean adding the entire queue to an existing playlist, this was never a feature, even on the old apps. I just checked (I like to keep an old phone with old app versions for comparisons).

There *is* an option to add a new scratch playlist online, but not on the phone. I noticed a similar discrepancy when I wanted to remove a song from an album I had added to my library - couldn't on the phone but could online.

Finally this has been what I have been waiting for. As soon as I heard about this, i signed up and started the free trial. I already use google music for buying my music so this was an easy decision for me.

I've been using this all day and have to say that I really love it. I've been a paid Spotify subscriber since it was available in the U.S. and I may dump it depending on my experience during the free trial period.

One thing that I noticed, and am wondering if anyone out there has noticed the same, that may keep me from switching is the audio quality in my car seems terrible when compared to Spotify. I stream over wireless and then send the audio to my stereo via Bluetooth. Google Music seems muffled. Has anyone else done an audio quality comparison through the mobile app?

Also, anyone figure out a slick way to import playlists from Spotify?

Update: I poked around in the settings and noticed there is an equalizer to change audio output. I'll play around with this and see if that helps.

I noticed the same and turning down the bass boost and 3d effects all the way down fixed the muffled sound. Did you notice that as well. Maybe turning off the equalizer might help as well, but haven't tried that.

I really like the new interface. The service is nice but I'd never sign up for that, it's just too expensive compared to what else is out there.
My only complaint is there is still no Sonos support.

Um, what's cheaper than $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming to a mobile device with a solid library (that's legal)?

No SD card support is an instant deal-breaker for me. I have to listen to music on my phone from work, and I certainly don't have the data plan to stream 40 hours a week. That's what I was expecting, but still disappointed in Google's lack of flexibility. Too bad, because the interface seemed pretty smooth and I would have liked to give it a shot. I'll be sticking with Rhapsody. They don't have the best app in the world, but I get access to pretty much the same music and I can cache it on my SD card.

With Rhapsody I can "pin" my entire library to my sd card to listen offline. Switching to google, where I would be limited to the small amount of internal storage on my phone, would result in a LOT of pinning and unpinning. Maybe someday I'll have a phone with enough internal memory, but for now it simply isn't worth the inconvenience.

Good point! I have Rhapsody and love Rhapsody on my laptop but the Android app is soooo buggy. But I too have a rather large storage of music on my sd card and I love having that so I don't have to stream or for times I am not in Cell/Wifi range. Like when I camp and want to hear some music.

I will give this a month try but no music to SD card is big point.

Another reason expensive 16 Gb (8 Gb available) internal storage GS4's are for Samsung fan boy suckers. Even the 11 Gb available Google version is as inadequate as their bone head arguments enough to engender laughs at the Google I/O announcement of the SG4 Google version.

Developers know what is so absurd it is actually funny.

Have you noticed that even pinned songs still use data? Is anyone else experiencing this? I use onavo and it alerted me of gmusic hogging my data. I have all the setting to only stream and download over wifi?!?!!? What gives!?!?!?

Giving this a shot as well. Went thru my Rhapsody playlist and found close to 97% of the stuff I had on there over on Google "All Access"..So far im diggin it!

Pandora is just "radio". This is radio (with reorganizing), plus playlists and random access listening to any artist/album/song in the catalog. Not to say that that's definitively worth $6 more per month than Pandora, but All Access is much more a competitor to Rdio and Spotify than Pandora.

PANDORA is NOT the same thing. Google all access isn't about creating radio stations, it's about adding whatever artist/album you want to your music library.

If you click on the artist name to go to their profile page, under the "Albums" section the date is under each album title.

Why is it that so many reviewers automatically equate "white backgrounds" with "better UI?? I, for one, HATE all this white background that Google insists on using w/NO option for dark theme. Why can't Google seem to offer theme choices in settings? Can that possibly be so hard for this tech giant and its countless worker bees? I will now def. not be updating the Google Music app on this basis alone. I like the dark theme. It's the only app that Google seems to have EVER made dark and now it's just like all the others. So, to sum up, THANKS FOR NOTHING, Google! As for the subscription service, I'll pass on spending $10/mo., thank you.

If the worst thing you can say, the part that gets you riled up, is that it's white instead of black, then I would say Google did alright and you need to lighten up (pun intended). It's a music player, how much time are you going to spend staring at the UI for it?

WHO thought this orange color scheme was a good idea? It's even uglier than the old Android green. I hope some of the developers theme this app soon.

I think orange is the specific color of Play Music, like green is for apps, purple for magazines, blue for books, and red is for video (movies/tv).

The artwork jumps around which is stupid and I can't find out how to stop it. Plus it asked me if I wanted to pause and waited until I replied to continue. I can't recreate it

Have no problems with the service guidelines, cost, or selection at all. I listen to a lot stand up and the station it generated off one Patton Oswalt track was awesome. The app is pretty awesome with the ability to do a lot by swiping although one minor glitch is the album art display in portrait is a little twisted when a track first starts. Don't know why so many people were expecting a free component.

Honestly, I'm enjoying the app's refreshed UI, but the scrolling album image zoomed in on Now Playing bothers me a bit and I can't see any option to disable it within settings.

Other than that, Google Play Music is an excellent music player. :)

As a "day one" Google Music user, I have to say that today's update fills in all of the gripes and holes that the service had. The only service I see with any advantage is Spotify with it's free on-demand listening on desktop and free radio on mobile. Google Play Music now has virtually every feature every other service has, plus everything it originally brought to the table. This will wipe out some competitors as time goes on, just wait and see.

I'm not 100% sure, but I think you have to upload everything to Google Music ( Although they have a matching service now. But I don't know that you can just add the music folder on your phone. It has to be synced with Google Music first.

Using the trial now, which is good timing as I was shopping for a music service (was on the trial of Rdio).

So far so good. I am very impressed with the suggestions/stations it makes. Put in a few of my favorite artists and checked the upcoming queue and it blew away anything Pandora or Slacker had ever given me. Awesome mixes so I think it's going to be great for music discovery.

My only real complaints have to do with the UI, but they are somewhat minor:
1) I hate the scrolling artwork. I keep my phone in a windshield mount in the car, and it's distracting as it's in my peripheral vision.
2) I'd prefer an option for a dark scheme (again, in the car, the white background is bright at night). I got around this by turning down the brightness on the phone, but much prefer Slacker's option of a dark scheme.
3) Doesn't seem to be a way to add the currently playing track to your library or a playlist without first going to the queue. Would be nice to be able to it right from the now playing screen.

Like I said, minor. I think I'll keep the subscription, since I already have all my music uploaded to Google Music so an all-in-one app will be nice.

I've used 438mb of data in just a couple of hours. That's a higher rate than Netflix. And the app size has swelled to 550mb. This not gonna last.

But with Pandora can you download a song or even an entire album to your device to be played locally when not in a coverage area? I personally love this service. If I know I will be out of coverage, I just pin the stuff I want to listen to and listen to it whenever. Airplane ride, trail ride, hiking, fishing, etc. I can justify the 8$ a month, by downloading one album each month. Sure the songs or albums may not be mine to keep personally, but when everything is done in the cloud, what's the difference? My entire personal library has been on Google Music since it was launched and its been wonderful. As far as the radio is concerned you have to give it time to learn your listening preference. Thumb the stuff you dislike down and thump up the good tunes. Give it some time and it will come around to your liking.

Why does Spotify and Pandora get so much press and Rhapsody is rarely mentioned?
Hey Jon Irwin, how about publicizing a little bit?

Rhapsody lets me store subscription music on my SD card.
Rhapsody has an iPhone app (for my family members from the dark side).

The big issue for me is multiple users. I have two other household family members who use Rhapsody (on their $15 per month plan), and this is what Rhapsody says:
"Streaming music is limited to only one mobile device, home audio system or computer at a time. Downloaded subscription music can be listened to on one device with Rhapsody Premier and up to three devices with Rhapsody Premier Plus."

While Google only says:
"A subscription to Google Play Music All Access account allows you to listen to unlimited music on up to four devices, but music cannot be played simultaneously on more than one device at a time."

Rhapsody lets me listen to music (if I download it) on 3 devices at once. Google only says one at a time, with no mention of downloads, making me assume it will pause even downloaded music?
I guess I will have to try it . . .

I agree 100%!!!

These other services advertise features that Rhapsody has done for YEARS as if they invented them. I used to download playlists onto an MP3 player, a computer, an IPod and blackberry years ago.

now I have DAYS of music saved on my SD card on my GS3. I love Rhapsody I just hate that my Android app gets so buggy at times. But it has always baffled me how Rhapsody constantly gets overlooked.

I will try this out but I can't say this is going to pull me away.

Just tried it and compared to MOG (my currently favorite streaming service), PlayMusic basically sucks.

The catalog is poorer, the UI is so so and the Google offering is more expensive than MOG for mobile only.

What's the point?

Well, I think PlayMusic offers some more functionality. I just tried MOG last week, as I was shopping around for a music service.

First of all, MOG's not cheaper if you want it on mobile (it's $9.99/mo). You also need that for offline play. They have a free version (with ads) and a 4.99 version that gets rid of ads, but neither of those are available on mobile.

Secondly, you can't put your own music into it. Sure, it's fine and good if you can find everything on it you want. I much prefer being able to load 20,000 of my own songs (which includes a lot of local and obscure bands that aren't going to be available) and have access to it anywhere.

Can't comment on the catalog. I went through my entire favorited list in Slacker and Pandora and only found two tracks not available at Google Music, so it's a wash for me.

Can't comment much on the mobile app since the free trial of MOG didn't include mobile. Can you rearrange your queue by simply dragging and dropping and remove items that are coming up by swiping them away? That's one of my favorite things.

I'll be sticking with PlayMusic I think. Glad they announced it because I was about ready to drop the money on Rdio or Spotify.

Did they remove the Play Next button when you hold down on a song? I used that a lot. And I don't see it

Looks cool. The digital music market is pretty crowded, but I think it gives Android users something they have been waiting for. At least those who don't pirate music (or apps).

Crashes on Razr M. I get a force close error multiple times a day as well. I had to back out the most recent update.

Looks and works great so far on my Nexus 7. It's definitely going to be tempting to cancel my more expensive Spotify sub! I only wish Google would work with Sonos to integrate their service, and they do need an iOS app if they want wider usage. But huge huge improvement on what existed before.

Now please come to Canada already! Rdio managed, it can't be impossible. I was only lucky because I've lived in the US so already had a Google Music account and valid credit card (and even so I needed a VPN).

this has nothing to do with streaming music but has anyone noticed when the music app is opened it flickers between black and white each time you touch it?

My wife and I share our Google play services account. And you can also share music accounts. You just can't stream music at the same time. Here's our work around. Create your playlist and pin it to your device. You can both play your pinned playlist at the same time because its not streaming.

With the old version, there was a dropdown option at the top where you could select the output of the app to either bluetooth streaming to a sound device, or use the headphone jack. This is sort of crucial for me since Android 4.2 and subsequent versions screwed up the quality of all bluetooth audio streaming to external speakers...I have to plug it in to my car stereo now via the headphone jack. Before this new app I could do that and tell google play music to output via the jack, while keeping bluetooth enabled in my car so I could receive and make phone calls hands free. HOW DO I DO THAT with the new version of the app? I see no way to change the output of this new app other than turning bluetooth on or off completely. So either I listen to crappy quality audio over bluetooth, or I can't use my phone in the car...

I just signed up for All Access, and looking for advice.

I was thinking of buying a used smartphone with a large internal hard drive, pin my google music to it, and use it as my google music device. I would not hook it up to be used as a phone. Does this seem like a good idea?
Another idea is to buy a new prepaid phone, also, not hook it up to be used as a phone, and just use it to play my google music. Would that work, or do I have to actually hook it up to be used as a phone?

I originally was looking for a Samsung Galaxy Player, but they are discontinued.

Hi, Play Music All Access is, I think, pretty good and the UI is more user-friendly than Spotify, in my view.
However, there is a major, major flaw in the service - on Android devices you can't view artists'Biography information. I spoke to Google Customer Services and they say it's because they didn't want to take up too much real estate on devices. This seems pretty bizarre to me, given that Spotify does provide artist Biography info on their app and that Google Play Music provides artsits' Biography info on the web browser version of the system.
Given that their pricing will, after the intro price offer has ended, be the same as Spotify my guess is that a lot of users will move over to Spotify. Finding out artists' backgrounds is a large part of the fun on these apps, and brings an added dimension to the music. Come on Google - please sort this!

I know this is an old thread but I just started a trial of Google Play All Access, and from the Android app, it's certainly not all access. Search for an artist or song and it will return a max of 10 albums and 10 songs even though if you enter the same search on the web UI, it returns dramatically more than that - usually dozens of albums and even hundreds of tracks. Notice in the screen shot above where a search returns a few items and has a button for 6 more. In the web UI it shows a few items and the button is for "see all". I called Google and their response was 1) we didn't know it did that, and 2) (after a long wait) it's because record companies only allow us to show so many. Apparently Google got a worse deal than Beast or Spotify, if you even believe that answer. It's a deal breaker. But for this, Google would be the clear choice. Please give me back MOG.