whats this song.  whatsthissong.

With the big update to Google Search today, there were a few really cool features dropped into Google Now. They're all pretty useful, but the "what's this song" feature is one we can have some fun with. Since Phil and I like really cool hipster stuff you've probably never heard of pretty crappy music, we decided to give it a test.

You might not know it to look at us, but Phil is a headbanger at heart, and I'm that guy from high school with the blue mohawk and leather boots. We like music that most well-adjusted people don't and decided to see what Google could do with it. The results were a mixed bag.

To get started on an experiment of your own, just fire up Google Now (yes, you need Jelly Bean) and tap the voice search button. Lean into the mic and ask "What's this song?" It will register for a sec, then tell you it's listening. Let it hear the music for a few, and it will come back with either an answer or tell you it has no clue what you're listening to.

On the surface, it looks like indy metal music and 1970s hardcore punk really trips up the service. We went about 50-50 with the less-that-socially acceptable stuff. After further investigation, it seems like it only finds music that Google sells in the Play Store. Makes sense, as they have all those tracks digitized for the "coming" music match style service.

We had a little fun with it, but really for the most part it's gonna find what you're listening to. Hit the break and see just how deep it can go if it needs to. Find a failure? Sing out in the comments.


Reader comments

Testing the Google Now 'what's this song' feature


It uses the same service as Google Play Sound Search Widget I think. It even looks similar (white and gray instead of blue and gray).
Now, instead of tapping it, we can swipe home button, say "Google", then say "what's this song".

I'm not trying to dis the work Google is putting into Google Now, but I think they should focus on making it faster.

Seriously, loading it up on GNex (toro) takes a good two seconds. Tapping search and writing stuff is nightmarishly slow. The results: oh God it seems like it thinks forever about how to display them. I think Google Now should be ready to give me answers now, not lag behind my keyboard inputs, making me type things wrong.

What's the deal with iOS Google apps being better than Android apps? The ones that exist obviously. Seriously, I feel cheated every day.

except that it takes a few moments for the phone to recognize that you've said "Google", then it will let you finish your sentence. It doesn't flow like it should. It's more like "Google.......... What song is this?"

Same for me on Gnexus Yakju. Google Search is now slower than ever. First, getting to search takes 1-2 seconds and then when you've searched it can take 10 seconds before anything is displayed. It's weird because if I go into Chrome and start typing I get a faster "search experience" there than with the Google Search app itself... :/

I have to (respectfully) ask what you guys are comparing the search to. I have tested the iPhone 5, a G.Nex 4.1.2 yakju, and a Nexus 7 4.1.something at the time, and in every case, the iPhone 5 was beaten to search results by even the G.Nex that was never the greatest hardware. This was tested repeatedly and there are many video reviews on Youtube to back this. So you are definitely right to say it takes a couple of seconds to fire up, and let's always ask for a little more, but the whole experience from startup to results to flexibility is still market leading.

It starts quick and runs even quicker on my Galaxy Note II. I also have the GS3 and it runs super quick there too. Maybe the slowness is with your device.

I was about to create a post about about this. I tried at least 10 songs and all worked. Love the feature

it took me a good few very frustrating minutes before I realized that was the problem. Are we ever going to get Google Music in Canada? Microsoft and Apple have had music here for a while. Annoying.

Not saying that this isn't a good feature because I think that adding this into google now is pretty cool, but I just think the feature as a whole is too slow. The thing that shazam has over this the speed at which it launches so you are able to catch songs even on commercials. But to get your phone, unlock it, launch google now, enter in voice prompt for song search is close to 10 seconds before you even get into listening mode. The whole process needs to be streamlined.

That length is a little exaggerated. Shazam has the same steps except for the voice prompt. Google Now is maybe 2 seconds slower compared to getting to the Shazam listening mode with a widget.

Google now works pretty fast on my note 2. But on the gnexus it shouldn't be too slow. But 1-2 seconds sounds like it's ok to me.

IV HAVE THAT WHOLE ALBULM AS THE KITE STRING POPS :) oh I have a lot of metal (what else is there I can call music) yay metal heads :)

Here's where I'd like to see 3rd party app integration. With sound cloud, I can find out what's playing and then hit a button to send it to the Spotify android app. That's pretty Damn sweet, if this could do that I'd be all set. Until then it's sound cloud for me.

It Caught Public Enemy's "Welcome to the Terrordome" quite easily on my Note 2. That's not mainstream at all. Needs an option to find lyrics also.

It send like it doesn't do as well with background noise rejection compared with shazam. And yeah the while Google now experience is a little slow on my gnex. For now.

Love the feature, and I would use it all the time, but not until it can open (or at least search for) the identified song in Spotify. A HUGE advantage that Shazam still has over this feature. Hell, Shazam will even search for it in Youtube, something you think Google would definitely add.

I'm not super hipster in the stuff I listen to so I guess it's not too much of a challenge for Google. I ran it through a lot of stuff and all I was able to stump it on was a live track from a small live album and a track from an independent punk band. It even got a lot of Beatles stuff that's not in the Play Store so bravo! Oh, and it's nice and zippy on my toroplus GNex too, so that's a plus

Hahaha. I made it listen to Fireflies by Owl City, and it popped this up instead: http://www.amazon.com/Fireflies-Originally-Recorded-Owl-City/dp/B003QNW1...

I guess it only listened to the instrumental part and assumed it was the other version. I wonder why it would assume the non-Owl City version first?

In any case, yeah, it's got a pretty limited database to draw from for recognition. Most foreign songs and less-mainstream songs won't be recognized. That said, this is still useful for getting the name of radio songs and whatnot.

I can't get it to work on either my N4 or N7 and wonder whether this feature is somehow US only (as is Ingress I've just realised). Any other UK based Now users got " what's this song" to work?

After nearly an hour of trying to figure out why I can't get this to work... I see its just another Google feature not available in Canada....

Not sure, what phone the people who report it as slow are using but on the Nexus 4 it responds very quickly. I didn't try with any of my music but did test on a childrens program my youngest daughter was watching that had a lot of classical music playing. It was 8 for 8, surprised that every song came back with a link to the song in the playstore as well.

i'm still genuinely impressed with Soundhound (and it takes a lot for an app to impress me.) when i was trying to decide between Shazam and Soundhound, i scanned songs from Lycia, Death In June, Eisbrecher, Killing Joke, the Damned and Daisy Chainsaw into both of them. i figured most of those bands are pretty obscure, and i scanned the same three songs from each band into both apps. in the case of Killing Joke and The Damned, i scanned really old tunes instead of newer major-label ones. i also tried to use songs off of different albums when i could.

out of those 18 or so songs, Shazam only recognized two (one from Eisbrecher and one from Killing Joke). Soundhound, on the other hand, recognized 15 out of 18, including all of the songs from Lycia and Death In June, who are just about as obscure as you can get. to be fair, Soundhound did peg two Lycia songs as coming from the "wrong" album: it pulled up a live album instead of the studio recordings that i was listening to. but since the songs themselves were recognized properly, i gave it a pass.

i guess my point is that i don't see much reason to use Google's service, when Soundhound does such a phenomenal job at recognizing the type of music i listen to. voice activation is a nice touch, but it only takes me two taps to open Soundhound anyway, so i don't really think i'm missing anything worthwhile.

How exactly does Canada get screwed again and again with these supposed "new" features?! C'mon Google...

I can't get it to work from the Google Now screen on my N4. (The widget works fine, but I don't want to devote space on a homescreen to a 4x1 widget.) I bring up the Google Now screen, say Google What's This Song, and it either tells me that This Song is the 4th track from some George Harrison album or takes me to the AC posting on this feature. What am I doing wrong? Many thanks.

Shazam is much more accurate and seems to recognize a much larger variety of music. Plus with support for sporting events and tv shows, I don't know that Shazam will be replaced by anything else on my phone anytime soon...
AND SoundHound is better too. No need for Google to steal this one away from the 2 kings of Song ID Apps.

Way to go dude..
Everyone, if you have good taste in music, check this stuff out.

Jerry, does this work on 4.1.1? I have tried it loads of times on my Samsung GS3 and everytime I say "whats this song" or something similar it just does a web search. Any ideas?

Every time it starts to identify the song it force closes and take me to my home screen. I can't even report a problem.

I have searched a couple songs using the voice command feature "whats this song?" And it worked great! The only problem im having is finding the history of songs ive searched for. Anybody know whwre I can find the history?