I signed up for the Google Music beta a while ago and promptly forgot about it. I was either too busy to check it out or unimpressed with the feature set. I recently took another look at it after it was renamed to “Google Play.” It’s suddenly making a bit more sense now that I’m trying it out again.
Google Play (I’m really just talking about the music part) lets you upload all of your music to Google’s servers. This step seems kind of dumb but I guess for legal reasons they can’t just recognize your music and use their own copies of songs. I’m sure they’ve got the technology to do it. Anyway, once your music is uploaded you can play it from “the cloud.” While this seems like something so simple that Dropbox could do it, it’s the details that matter. In this case, Google offers a pretty neat interface to listen to your music (and buy more, if desired).
I haven’t used iTunes Match personally, but from what I’ve read, it seems to do something similar. iTunes Match will scan your music library and “match” them up with songs in their database. If a song isn’t on your iPhone but is in your library, you can download and listen to it from your device. So far, it doesn’t seem like there’s a desktop component of iTunes Match besides iTunes (meaning you can’t listen from a website). Also, iTunes Match costs money.
What I like about Google Play is that there is a web interface, so I can listen to all of my music at work without having to download iTunes. I complained earlier on Twitter about how there isn’t a native app for iOS that lets you listen to your Google Play stuff, but there does happen to be a web based player that seems okay. iTunes integrates more easily with your library (no need to actually upload stuff) but seems more rigid about re-downloading music.
Overall, it seems like Google Play is the better service. If it had a native app for iOS it would be the clear winner. Eventually I would like to lower the amount of space on my phone that I’m using for music, which would allow me to have more apps, photos and videos. Hopefully the two services continue to develop and compete with each other to the point where they’re both improving.