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After 90 days with Google's Play Music Family Plan, I'm not turning back

My home is something of a digital mess. Between the two girls who love their iPods, the boy who only really cares about Minecraft and Terraria, the guy who moved everything from Android to iOS last year, the spouse who hates change unless I can justify it, and the tech blogger who touches everything, there's a massive selection of services flying through our house. Spotify, iTunes, Google Play Music, YouTube, and Amazon's Prime Music make up a short list of music apps that get used just about every day, and all by different people.

I didn't hold out a lot of hope for unifying all of these people under Google Play Music All Access with the new family plans that were rolled out recently, but when I saw that the plan also included shared purchasing through the Play Store I decided to give it a shot anyway.

We're now 90 days into this particular experiment, and I don't think I'll be canceling this family plan anytime soon.

Play Music Subscription

Making the switch was just about as easy as you'd expect. Migrating the girls from iTunes was a little challenging since each account didn't have a dedicated desktop experience, but asking Apple to make it easy to leave their services has always been a bit of a joke. My son doesn't really listen to music, and the iPhone user prefers local audio so doesn't have a compelling reason to switch. My spouse took some convincing, but that became a lot easier after two days in a row of Spotify's streaming stations being less than acceptable.

Over time, I found the feature my girls were using the most was audio pinning. Since they have Wi-Fi-only hardware, this made a lot of sense. No need to purchase new albums if you can pin what you like and listen to it wherever you are. I'm not sure exactly how much this has saved me so far, but I've more than broken even against the monthly cost of the family plan just with the girls.

Ultimately I think Google is headed in the right direction with this family plan.

My son is the only Android user of the kids, and that meant I needed to decide how to handle his ability to make purchases. Ultimately, I decided not to block his access to my card, and so far that has worked out well. While I don't take the idea of giving a six-year-old access to my credit card lightly, he's been thoroughly educated on how to use the apps and games he enjoys playing. He asks before making a purchase, and never really bothers with in-app purchases.

The most difficult convert was my partner, and it still hasn't fully happened yet. The biggest issue with switching from one streaming service to another is the inability to take your curated lists with you. After months of tapping the thumbs down icon in Spotify, repeating this process in Play Music isn't exactly appealing. On the other hand, Play Music seems to offer greater variety in its radio stations and makes accessing new stations based on themes instead of artists a little easier to enjoy. In this instance, the switch from one service to another is slow but steady.

There are several small changes I'd like to see in the way Google has set up these family plans. For starters, I'd like a parent view of what my kids are listening to. Something I can access without physically picking up their hardware, just so I can occasionally check in and make sure everything is cool. Also, I'm still a big fan of remote parent authentication for purchases. I've not had any problems so far, but it's still something I have to think about and it shouldn't have to be. A family recommendation tool wouldn't be terrible either, something I can use to jump in and suggest apps or movies or books. More like a group wish list, where anyone in the family can contribute.

Ultimately I think Google is headed in the right direction with this family plan. It's only going to get better from here, and with any luck we'll see deeper integration and more controls as we move into this year.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

72 Comments
  • Agreed I love it Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes, this was a fantastic move on Google's part. Now... if they'd just hurry up with family share on their Video content.
  • Is there a way to set up a family and use the shared purchasing without subscribing to All Access?
  • Yeah but why does my ui crash every time google play music opens ????? Posted via the Android Central App
  • What phone? Posted on my Galaxy s5
  • Yep, GPM is on my phone to stay Posted via the Android Central App
  • I even have to call in to get my device limit wiped clean twice a year and they do it!! Posted via the Android Central App
  • The device limitation really sucks. I have so many devices and I wind up reaching my limit every now and then. Some of us just go through a lot of phones, tablets, and computers.
  • Changing payment methods is a pain. My family account was stuck on paying with a balance in Google Play...I had to cancel my subscription to be able to make the change in payment methods.
  • This is why I'm now unsubscribed from the family plan. Google declined renewal due to there not being enough on my Play balance. I changed the payment method to my credit card and it's still declining renewal b/c it's apparently still trying to use my Play balance instead. That, and most of my listening is Podcasts, so I don't reap as many benefits as if I mainly listened to music. But the all inclusive Play Music and Youtube Red is still tempting...if Google would let me pay for it!
  • Glad I'm not the only one that had this issue. I tried everything I could to change the payment plan. Their options to redo the payment said I could choose a new option but then when I went through it it would only give me Google Play Balance and none of my many other cards. In the email google sent me about the payment not going through they had an email address to contact if there were problems. I emailed it and immediately got a reply saying this was a non-monitored email address. WTF Google, you told me to contact you there? In the end I had to also just let them cancel my service and then start again with one of the cards I already had in the system. Love the Google family plans, but much like a lot of new things that Google has rolled out their support services are an epic fail.
  • Had the same problem.... I am baffled as to how Google thinks that is a solution. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I've changed payment methods a few times without issues or having to cancel my account. Not sure where you're having a problem
  • Actually I like it.. I'm not a huge Google fan. But they did a good job with this. Posted via the Android Central App
  • i have the family plan, and converted a teenager daughter from Spotify on her iOS to GPM, but she keeps the iPhone. Having the selling point of YouTube with no ads helped. I also set my son up on it, but he only has an Android. What about this line, "A family recommendation tool wouldn't be terrible either, something I can use to jump in and suggest apps or movies or books." why can't you just use the "share" feature? I have a LG V10, and I can hear a song I like, and use the Share option and text the link to my daughters iPhone and if she clicks on the link on her iPhone it will open the song in her Google Music app
  • I have the regular subscription and i thought about getting the family, but there is something about sharing my card with my wife. Is not that i don"t trust her, after all she carry my card all the time, but all about security. Last week some @$$4013 clone my debit and emptied my checking account.
  • Oh that sucks, that's why I have a bluebird card from Walmart. Load some money on that card I use it for almost all my purchase in town and whatnot. That way if something does happen like what happened to you. I'm only screwed on the amount on the card at that time. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yet another reason to only use the debit card at trusted ATMs.
  • You let your children use iDevices? Dude, you seriously have failed as a parent & should feel bad. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Dude, you failed in life.
  • What kind of comment is this? It's ridiculous to try to make someone use something just because of your personal preference.
  • I love it too, but Google has to fix turning explicit songs into edited songs, very frustrating! And I've definitely sent feedback on it Posted via the Android Central App
  • This is so aggravating! I know it's ineptitude and not malice that is causing the bowdlerization of some of my favorite sweary songs, but I don't like being censored by Google in any circumstances. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have NEVER EVER EVER PAID for music.....EVER...NEVER..NEVER..NEVER Ever, but I did sign up for Google play music because the $7.99 deal was going away and I will now NEVER EVER give this subscription up. Its been over a year and I am not even a music freak but the convenience, ease of access and the growing services with YouTube RED, YouTube music just nailed it. I have used Google music/sync to switch iTunes users and they love it. I am just waiting for Google to pull in local radio stations.
  • I currently use the Family Plan and like most things about it. One thing I have not been able to figure out (if it is not possible then add this to a "wish list") is the ability to switch users on a device and not lose the downloaded music to that device. In my case, I drive my son to school and he has his account and his songs local to my phone, but I cannot switch back to my account without losing the downloaded content. I may have to see if I can try something with separate SD cards as a workaround.
  • If you remove the SD card that has the pinned music, it will be removed instantly. I found this out after having 30Gb of music removed from my card. Opinion expressed from a Moto X Pure
  • Yikes! Thanks for saving me from learning that the hard way. :)
  • Hi guys I have been also using google play for 3 months. But I still have issues to create a play list and share that with my family plan. I mean I create a list and I want to share it with my wife and then she to add songs to. Thank you
  • 100% agree with this. Playlists need to have the option to be shareable, collaborative, and more dynamic. The current list and song sharing options are very limited.
  • Exactly this. This is the main feature I want on this service that is not there. Collaborative playlists.
  • So, can you use the family plan and just block purchases for others? :-) I never found answer for that, everyone was like "if you add somebody, they have the access to your card"
  • The Family sharing plan on Google is still inferior to Apple's Family sharing for this reason. Families don't start with older children who are responsible enough that I feel comfortable letting use my credit card unrestricted. I have 3 younger children who all use tech and like to listen to music but I'm not going to let them have unfettered access to my CC. Why can't Google replicate Apple's model by first, allowing me to set up restricted accounts for kids under the age of 13, and second, require parental approval for purchases? I much prefer GPM over Apple Music but until they make these changes, the Apple ecosystem is the better choice for families similar to mine.
  • The only issue I had with the family plan... was that when I signed up, I expected it to "upgrade" my existing google play music subscription. I was quite surprised when after a month, I was billed for both. Also, when my wife (who also had her own google play music subscription) joined the family plan, she was also still billed for her individual subscription. Yes I should've cancelled the existing, but this also sounds like something Google should've automatically handled. Side note - when I contact support they were able to refund the charges without any hassle.
  • Tried it too. I still hate the play music app, I can't sort playlists like I can on Spotify and the IOS user in my house prefers the Spotify app as the play music app on IOS is worse than the android one. Not to mention the play music app doesn't have a dark theme. I also have an amazon tablet in the house now and there's no way to put Google music on it so Spotify continues to win for us with great cross platform usability. I'm glad people are happy with it, but it's not for me & my family. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Wish they'd launch it in Spain. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I can't believe Echo still doesn't have support for Play Music. Killing me. I switched from Play Music to Spotify for this reason and Spotify just isn't as good. I want my Play Music back but also want it on my Echo. Let me eat that cake you are giving me!
  • Family plans of any music service is a good idea. Even though I'm not with GPM (Tidal sub'er) it just makes sense to do so.
  • If they had some grandfather discount for the $7.99 users (~$10.99?) for a family plan, I'd switch. Until then, guess I'll keep sharing the sub with my wife.
  • 6 for 14.99 or 1 for 7.99... Hmmm But that grandfather status tho...
  • Yeah it's no doubt still a value if you have a bunch of people. For two people however continuing to share the grandfathered plan remains an unbeatable value. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Indeed, wish they did the discount for us old timers. Posted via the Android Central App
  • To handle the payment situation, I just made my Google Wallet card the default payment method on the account. I don't transfer funds to the card unless I'm going to use it, so my kids can't make unauthorized purchases by accident because there's no money there. Also, when they do invariably screw up and do it, I'll get a nice notice of the decline and forward it along with a subject line of "NO ELECTRONICS 1MO".
  • Nice ... Wallet card is best way IMHO Posted via the Android Central App
  • Oh wow Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yeah... Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Wth Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • It's not too much to ask that comments be kept on topic. You can let it go, or I can keep deleting things. Your call.
  • I didn't say anything Russell and I really don't care about what you said Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Yo Russell have you been on the Android Central Google+ lately? I'm Ace Lucero and I'm the one standing up for you and defending your buddy from the one's who are disrespecting and bullying you guys. I personally like the picture and I don't judge people based on how they look. It's not the first time that I've stuck up for you but I guess you don't care about that. The only thing that must matter to you is your one sided political views. It's a shame because I'm the guy who would proudly put my life in danger to protect yours. Citizens 4 Constitutional Freedom
  • Only reason I'm hesitant is because I don't like the Googe music app. That, and after losing a collection when Yahoo Music shut down, I'm kinda gun shy about investing in services I don't control. Oh, and I dislike subscriptions. Besides, if I buy the original CD, I can rip it using whatever codec I want, and put it on any device I want. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Any music that I buy i buy, i get from either Amazon or iTunes. If I buy it from iTunes I immediately and make a copy of it in mp3 format and back it up to someplace other than my iTunes folder so that this type of thing won't happen to me. For Amazon purchases and these copies of Apple purchases are regularly backed up to an external hard drive. As an early adopter I got ripped off when Walmart's old streaming music service only let you download the files once and in WMA format, which could not be easily transferred to another computer. So I completely get what you're saying. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Still impatiently waiting for the day that I can switch from my individual subscription to the family plan. No support yet for Google Apps.
  • The reason I haven't subscribed is that my family lives in Europe. Google insists that all family members live in the same country. That might work for a monolith like the USA but it is an imposition for those of us living in Europe, with tiny countries and frequent cross-border traffic. I cross the border twice a day. My kids live and study in three countries. That's not unusual, but until Google and it's cronies can account for the everyday realities of our lives, it won't get our business.
  • I'm liking google play music but am I the only one who thinks it's annoyingly difficult to find music already on my phone? I'm not a fan of the universal search would prefer the way apple music differentiates the search bar. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I too have made the switch from Spotify and there's definitely things I miss as well. Probably the biggest sticking point for me was Spotify sending me a push notification every time an artist I followed released a new album. I like way too many bands to keep track of all the new releases out there so the notifications were fantastic. On a rare occasion there will be a Google Now card showing me that a new release by an artist I've listened to, but those are very few and far between and in no way a replacement for push notifications. As others have said, a dark ui would be highly appreciated. At least the option to switch to one. My only other wish would be better (any?) social integration. I actually regularly used and enjoyed the social aspects of Spotify like seeing what my friends were listening to and being able to quickly and easily send a suggestion their way and vice versa. On the whole, the two services still "feel" very different to me. Spotify feels like it was deliberately built and focused on being all about the music with the social sharing, the following artists, the artist stats and so on. Whereas Google Music kind of just feels like a shell of a service that's there simply because they can do it. On the plus side for Google Music though, it does sound better (in general), and having access to my own music that's not available to the streaming services within the same app is really nice. In the end, I might feel a bit more cozy with Google Music if they copied off of Spotify some more over time.
  • Also agree with the social aspect I miss being able to follow friends and listen to their playlists Posted via the Android Central App
  • I wanted to sign up for the family plan but I don't like Google's implementation. I don't want others to have access to my credit card.
  • It sure would be nice if Google would open up the family plan to Google Apps customers. My Google Apps accounts are not business-related. They're personal. There was a time when Google pushed really hard to get people to move their domain hosting and email to their servers, and I gladly did so. Now, I have to wait for everything new that gets rolled out because Google Apps customers get treated like second class citizens. FAIL.
  • Google play music + YouTube Red =Me happy Posted via the Android Central App
  • Family plan is the best. I was on a plan by myself for $7.99 (signed up first month) and now I did the family plan and added my wife and daughter and 3 of my siblings and I now pay less for the three of us and with YouTube Red included it's a no brainer.
  • I so wish I could get family plan. I have Google Apps domain as my account and it isn't available for us yet... Hopefully soon Posted via the Android Central App
  • I Love GPM, and I have tried most of the services for over 3 months, such as Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon, etc. I keep coming back to GPM. And even though I lost my $7.99 plan in doing this bounce around, I will still give my allegiance to GPM. I have just one wish: PLEASE bring it to Amazon Echo! Alexa is dying to play my playlists for me. I know this because she told me.
  • Still does not work with Google Apps accounts. I've had the free, personal account for years, but we're left out of this plan. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have this but only use it with the wife. I can't justify adding my kids on it till they have more parenting controls as I don't want them buying stuff with my card. I have been down that road before when I had my account on my sons phone and he did all kinds of in app purchases. So far it is working as normal for us. Hopefully they will role out more control soon.
  • Google Play Music has been my one stop for music for a LONG time. Love it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Why on earth do you want to know what music your kids are listening to? I can't imagine why a parent eould be interested. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Most likely just to make sure that they weren't listening to music that he deemed inappropriate for example explicit music. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I was going to use the family plan but it won't let me pay for it through my phone bill. Like I pay for play now and my play store purchases. God knows why it wants a card just for this. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Who is your carrier? I'm not using the family plan but I am definitely able to pay the $7.99 for the regular on my verizon bill and have been basically since it launched. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My only beef is the mystifying lack of support for legacy "Google apps" users to switch to the family plan. I've had a solo account since the service came out and Google can't move my library to a different Gmail account, so unless I want to endure the considerable pain of rebuilding my library from scratch in my vanilla Gmail account, I am unfortunately sticking with the solo plan. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Spouse, partner? Is it taboo to say wife these days? Good article by the way. Posted via the ACA on NEXUS 6
  • The author's spouse/partner may not be a "wife" either because of gender or legal marital status. Not all of us fit into neat little boxes.