Last week, Google announced that it would be YouTube Music, not Google Play Music, pre-installed as the default music app on all Android phones. Many people commented that this was terrible news for Play Music users and yet another nail in a coffin that must look like an iron maiden by now.
Actually, as a longtime GPM user, this news made me cheer. Now I can stop worrying as much about that nonsense device limit whenever I get a new phone!
For years, one of the first things I'd do on a freshly set-up phone I'd received to review was to disable Google Play Music so that it wouldn't authorize itself accidentally. GPM has a ten-device authorization limit, which is fairly normal, and a four device de-authorization limit, which is anything but normal. What made this worse was that while YouTube Music only counted devices you download offline music on, Google Play Music authorized any device you installed the app on, whether you were just streaming or downloading.
If you hit the de-auth limit, sometimes Google Support would reset your device limit, but many times it wouldn't. And if it wouldn't, then you better hope your current phones don't die, because you couldn't add any more for months. Being locked out of your own music at $10 a month for the privilege was just ten kinds of insane, and that's far less of a worry now.
This next section might be wishful thinking on my part — I am a hopeless dreamer, after all — but YouTube Music being the default should also mean that we see more and more efforts put towards getting it ready for global use, something YTM can't really say it is right now.
YouTube Music is available in just over 70 countries right now, which seems like a lot until you remember that Apple Music is available in 115 and Deezer is available in 182. Setting aside the global availability, YouTube Music is still a hot mess and 18 months into this refresh you still can't even shuffle it while casting, to say nothing of how far we are from the feature parity we need before Google Play Music libraries and users can be migrated to the service.
YouTube Music is the service I use more these days because I've been swapping phones too often to risk burning an authorization on anything lately, but also because it really does music discovery and algorithms better than anyone else in the industry (at least for me) and its library is impossible to match. The core service is good if you're willing to live with its bugs, but it could be drop-dead awesome once the service is actually stable and full-featured.
My colleagues think that feature parity isn't going to happen, that GPM's music locker users will get their music in a Drive folder and get kicked to YTM or the curb. I truly hope they're wrong — because Google Play Music was the last of its kind and I don't want to go back to having two separate libraries for purchased and streamed music — but YouTube Music being the app more people use and report issues with is the next step to YouTube Music getting where it needs to be.
Or it's the next nail in Google's coffin as being utterly and eternally incapable of delivering a quality music experience.