Google Play Music's latest update is two steps forward, one step back

The recent Google Play Music update changes only one element of the UI: the home page. Before the update, it was a mix of Recents and Recommendations. Now, Listen Now is entirely recommendations, with only a Recents button in the top right corner to remind you that Play Music is anything but AI-made radio stations… until you switch to Downloaded. Then, Home changes into something far more useful.

In Downloaded Only mode, the home page changes to Downloaded music, showcasing the playlists that you have stored locally, starting with the most recently-used four playlists. There's also a Shuffle button that pops up right above your playlists, allowing you to quickly shuffle all your offline tunes, but the real gem is hiding at the bottom of the page: Cached music.

Cached music is made up of songs that you listened to once or twice and Play Music downloaded them in case you want to hear them again. Previously, it was impossible to tell what was Cached music as opposed to downloaded as a part of a playlist/album. Listing it is a great first step, but I'm eagerly awaiting the ability to tap a song in here and tap Remove from cached music to clear out songs I don't want wasting space without emptying the whole cache.

There are honestly some great features in here, but they're only accessible on Downloaded, which many users never turn on.

You may also notice there is a page indicator just above Downloaded music; if you swipe right, you'll be treated to another menu we haven't seen on Play Music before: Other music on this device. Before now, if you had music downloaded on your phone, Google Play Music would show it and play it as if it was part of your cloud library, but you couldn't tell what was local-only. This menu will be useful, especially when you're about to migrate to a new device and need to know what needs syncing off the old phone.

There are honestly some great features in here, but they're only accessible on Downloaded, which many users never turn on, and the regular menus they replace are far less useful (at least to my Station-avoiding tastes). At least these menus encourage me to stay offline and save my data, but should the main page of an app change so completely based on your data status? Is there a happy balance to be re-struck between our personal libraries and cloud recommendations? I think so, but for now, here's what we've got.

We can only hope as more changes come, they're more consistently useful than Home.

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

51 Comments
  • Oh it's awful, Google...I'm never going to use your ****** recommendations..just show me my music and playlists and get the hell out if my way
  • Tap top left -> Go to "My Playlists". You should be good then :).
  • No, no, it's tap top left, tap My Libary, then tap My Playlists.
  • Read:. Too many steps...especially when I'm greeted with a bunch of mellinial garbage "music" I have to sift through just to see something that I care about. Google...I never want to see your suggestions for "beast mode"...your music people are musical morons....
  • have u done the "improve my recommendation" ? The music google picks out for me is usually pretty good and they even introduced me to some new artist/music that I probably would've never found
  • yo dude, hit the recents on the top right (one damn button) and it shows everything you listened to or playlists you created. your welcome.
  • Their recommendations are all over the place, too. My favorite band is Garbage, and since I listen to them a lot, Google seems to assume that I will like literally any band with a female lead singer.
  • Amen
  • i just want them to fix how album art is displayed in a horizontal view
  • GM UI is horrible. Plus the ability to control devices from another device keeps me on Spotify.
  • Neither the new UI nor All Access is available in my country. I like the pictures of the update that I'm seeing, but Holy Moly Google needs to work on wider availability first!
  • I'm not seeing it either, and I'm in the US.
  • I can't delete accounts from my pixel and it's making me mental.
  • Take it to the Pixel forums, they'll probably be willing to help you out.
  • Never use this ****** app anyway.
  • Fabulous contribution to the thread.
  • I have moved on to spotify...just a lot easier
  • Yep. Been using Spotify since the beginning of summer and I finally cancelled my grandfathered GM sub over the weekend. There are absolutely things I dislike about the Spotify app but there's a whole lot more that I like over GM. Giving up YouTube Red was tough but oh well.
  • i went to Spotify for several months and came back to GPM. Spotify looks WAY better. I just find for me, GPM works better
  • I have really tried many times, but I can't do it. not as many features, playlist style radio, download radio for offline use, works better with android auto and in the car, better offline mode, and has my personal library uploaded included.
  • I'm convinced that the designers of this app have never actually used it, or even talked to anyone who has used it. They've made so many bafflingly awful decisions over the years that even the standard google "we know what you want better than you" arrogance can't fully explain it. It takes ignorance + arrogance to screw up a potentially great service this badly.
  • I'm convinced that they are using the stations more than any normal person is and that they are prioritizing music discovery over the traditional library.
  • Ara, I noticed in another post you mentioned the first thing you do with a new phone is disable GPM. I'm curious what your primary music playback app is,
  • It is Google Play Music, which is why it's the first thing I disable on any phone that isn't my primary. I only get five phones on my device list, I am not running out of spots if I'm lucky enough to get a new phone from work or unfortunate enough to break my current primary (HTC 10).
  • Ahh got it!
  • What mess, I just want to see my music and be able to shuffle quickly.
  • Then congratulations! So long as your music is downloaded, that's easy to do again.
  • My music is all in the cloud, this is the reason I use Google Music. This new app makes car control so hard.
  • I really like the new UI. And the recommendations, which were a bit of hit or miss for me, have gotten very good recently.
  • What a hot mess. Just try finding your uploaded music.
  • Everytime I open Google Play Music, it makes me miss the HTC Music app even more. My music collection is a real mess since upgrading phones. I'll have to look into to more, but lots of my songs didn't transfer.
  • Can anyone tell me whether the new layout is for subscribers only??? I used a VPN and after a refresh had the new layout. Then without VPN it reverted to the old look even though the Google blog post claimed that 61 countries would get the new look...
  • I have a grandfathered GPM sub, and I despise the latest update to the app. The home page is now 100% useless, but here's MY problem: I don't care for Google's recommendations (it's almost never right about anything I'd like anyways), but I don't keep my music downloaded locally, either. So I NEED cloud access AND want to be rid of those annoying stations. If I want radio, I'll use iHeart or Pandora or any of the myriad of apps that probably do a better job than Google's half-arsed everything. Seriously. GTFO, Google. I just want to listen to my own cloud playlists without needing to navigate through tons of obnoxious menus to get there! Amazon Music is looking more and more tempting with Google throwing this one down the drain ... (I refuse to use Spotify after the facebook login debacle of prior years -- I had wanted to sign up just after they did it and not being able to without a facebook account left a very stupidly bitter taste with me).
  • I am fortunate because I've used Amazon as my primary digital music vendor for nearly 10 years now. Add Prime to that and it's a no brainer. AM has gotten better, not worse with every iteration. My only beef now is that Google Assistant won't play music in AM, which I lay at Google's feet. I uploaded my whole digital library to GPM years ago, but I don't bother to maintain it anymore. I used to use it for playlists when I run, but without a subscription it likes to play unblockable VIDEO ads (in an audio music service), which was killing my mobile data. So, I'm done; it sounds like it hasn't gotten better.
  • This is is so incredibly, unbelievably, infuriatingly slow I can't even use it. It takes (and I'm not exaggerating) TWENTY-TWO SECONDS just to get the app functional and fully responsive. Google, pls optimize this app.
  • Holy crap. Is that a recent development since updating to the current version, or is it a long-standing issue?
  • I have been using GPM since the beginning. It's open and in use for 2 to 3 hours every day. I came to it after 6 months of using Spotify. I love the new changes and have enjoyed the old. This service is perfect for my needs. To each their own.
  • I tried GPM for free three months. Liked it, hell YouTube red was awesome. But I'm using groove(xbox) magic. Been using since 5-6 years so I can't move anywhere. And the app support. Any device i use can play groove, but not from other sources.
  • Still can't use the Play Music family plan with Google Apps accounts, continued fail.
  • from what I read in the comments...a lot of ppl are complaining about their experience with the app lots of updates ago... why do ppl continue to talk bad about something they haven't used in months? it only takes a day for a new update to come out and fix everything that u think is wrong with the app so more than likely some or possibly all of your qualms with the app has been fixed. I said that to say this... if u haven't used something in a while please stop bad mouthing it
  • Still waiting for dynamic playlists. I don't think anyone does them. For example: Playlist1 = Anything thumbs up in genre alternative with release date after 2004. Playlist2 = Any song played more than four times beginning with the letter W. Any song added to your library matching the criteria gets automatically added to the appropriate playlists. Given Google's powerful search and indexing capability this should be a thing. C'mon big data - give me something useful!!!
  • ITunes has had Smart Playlists for years and I've dreamed of Google Play adopting them... But they have enough broke things they need to fix first.
  • Didn't know that - just watched a video walkthrough. Neat! I'm not switching to iTunes but now I'm facepalming even harder at Google for not having this feature. Cheers :)
  • Didn't see it mentioned but a subscription to Google play music also includes you tube red. Being able to listen to you tube and turn off the screen is a nice feature.
  • The new UI is so inefficient and clunky that I had to go back to the previous version. If I have to do 4 clicks to get where I want, it's 2 too many. Love the service - hate the app
  • Funny that the landing page changes based on if you are on downloaded only. However the 3-dot menu next to your downloaded songs still offers the option to start an instant mix or radio, only to give you a badge saying "Not available in downloaded only mode".
  • Man, this app was great when it first came out, pre Songza. Now it's just utter crap. I pay a monthly fee, I want to see what albums are out, what genres, etc. This is like a Hipster decided to make an offline only app.
  • I wish they would allow users to opt out of stations, like a toggle in the settings. I don't want to discover new music, just listen to the albums I've added to my library
  • I appreciate personalized recommendations but Google weren't easy to far, they need to revise it very very soon.
  • My God it's terrible..... I want my music... Not Googles ideas on what it thinks I want.
  • My personal music always mysteriously disappears from my phones and I could never figure out why. It's the one thing I hate about Android and it's that sh¡t just gets lost and I'm not deleting anything.