With Google announcing their Scan and match service for Play Music and the recent addition of the Warner catalog a couple months back, Google’s Play Music can actually flex some muscle. For us Android user music management is always that thing which could easily drive you bonkers. This is just my perspective on the 3 major services from an Android user.
iTunes has the most content then any of the other 2 services, with most artist making it a priority to add their music to iTunes before any other digital store. In addition there are a lot more “iTunes Exclusive” content here than anywhere else. iTunes offers a match service to ease the hassle of uploading music, however there is a cost of 24.99 a year, which in the grand scheme of things is not bad. With iTunes 11 everything is completely integrated into the cloud (iCloud) and brings the ability to stream music to iOS devices without downloading it. iTunes additionally gives users AirPlay capabilities to stream music Wireless in your home.
My big issues with iTunes are that all these great features are utterly useless for someone who uses another platform outside of iOS. Yes, there are some apps which try their best to replicate those features, but it is never the same. With using iTunes with Windows or Android you will still be required to sync your music, either by syncing it to another service or syncing it directly to your phone. In addition with no native app, you have to use 3rd party apps like DoubleTwist and the like, if you want to setup some sort of wireless syncing to your phone. Even with that it still requires you to be at home or by the computer/laptop in which you are downloading the music to. These apps are great, but the one thing they do not offer is the ability to purchase music right from my phone. Actually you have to be on a computer that you installed iTunes on to purchase music, you can’t even purchase music from a web interface, so it is really limiting. Yes, there is iCloud, but unless you have an Apple device you basically cannot use the service. In addition, for those of us with huge libraries, there is no way to stream your iTunes library to an Android phone which also makes it annoying if your out of town and in the mood to play something that is not currently synced to your phone.
Amazon MP3 is actually a really nice service. For starters it’s catalog is not as big as iTunes, but they carry all of the major labels, so there is a 90% chance most people will always find what they are looking for. In addition there is a native app for Android users, which allows you to purchase and play music directly from your phone. Music could be downloaded or streamed from the Amazon cloud player, and you could always just go to Amazon.com and purchase music there which can be dropped into the cloud player and then accessed from your phone. Like iTunes there is also a match service for up to 250k songs compared to iTunes 25k for 24.99 a year.
My only real big issues with the Cloud Player are that the Android App leaves a lot to be desired..namely being the way it handles offline music…it just downloads everything to the device. Now some people might think that is great, but there is no way of managing what you want on the device and what you don’t unless you start browsing directories and deleting stuff. Also because it does it this way it makes there is no way to just download a playlist for offline play. In addition the you have to use their weird software for downloading music on your desktop which is the buggiest thing I have ever used.
Finally we come to Google Play which is technically supposed to be the standard music app for Android users. The main issue with Google Play their library and who actually has access to it. Even with the expansion of Google Play in Europe and other countries and the addition of the Warner music library, Google Play still does not have as much content as it’s rivals. For the average type of listener this may not be an issue, but for folks constantly looking for new artist and new music, there may be some artist that are not there. I have a friend you has 2 albums on iTunes and not one on the Play Store. However many of these issues are solved with Google Play’s ability to sync outside libraries (Window Media Player, iTunes, etc..) to Google Play. For me the majority of my stuff I find and if not I buy from Amazon and upload it to Google Play. Google play now additionally offers a match service for up to 20k (This kinda sucks) songs for free, so that is a big plus for many folks.
Google Play pretty much does the same things as Amazon MP3, but I feel it does it a tad bit better. For the most part syncing of your music between devices is effortless. The minute you purchase music on the web or device, it will be synced and show up on your tablet or phone. There is no telling the player to sync music as everything happens in the background. In addition Google Play handles offline playback by caching music to your device, by simply “Pinning” a song, album, playlist or even an artist. If you are running out of space you can simply unpin something to add something else. I usually keep just playlist cached to my device, so whenever I add a new song to the playlist, the app knows to also save the song to my device since it is in a playlist that is set for offline playback (Amazon MP3s does not do this). In addition downloading music to your computer is just downloading a compressed file, unlike Amazon or iTunes which is not as straight forward.
In the end everyone has their preference and what they are used to, but I think for those of us on Android, we are finally seeing some good things happening with Google Play.