Spotify bests Google in music service smackdown: For now

Google Play Music All Access can't beat Spotify in a head-to-head comparison.

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Google's long-rumored music service is finally here. But does it have what it takes to compete with a long list of competitors - namely Spotify?

If it wants to be more than a "me too" music service it's going have to try harder. Right now Google Play Music All Access, announced at Google I/O, doesn't have the same toe-tapping appeal as Spotify.

I've been testing Google's All Access service and have found lots to like, but when it comes down to the job of letting me enjoy music for a subscription rate of $10 a month, Spotify Premium (also $10 monthly) has the edge. If you subscribe to Google's All Access before June 30 you can locked-in an $8 a month subscription.

 

Am I being unfairly critical? After all, this is poor old Google's debut of a brand new service. No, I'm not. Subscription music services such as Pandora, Rdio, and Spotify have been around for a while now. It's not enough for Google to just match the competition. The bar to entry is higher and if Google wants to succeed it has to equal and best Spotify - the dominant on-demand and subscription music service with 24 million active users. Pandora has the most users with about 70 million active users, but unlike Spotify and Google's All Access, Pandora doesn't let you play tracks on-demand or download music for playback offline.

Here is my scorecard of Google Play Music All Access and how it rates against Spotify Premium in key areas.

Offline Playback: Spotify Win

One essential feature for me is being able to download tracks to my laptop or phone so I can listen to my music when there is no Internet connection. This comes in handy when traveling or if I want to avoid burning up my monthly wireless data allotment. Offline syncing is available with both Spotify and Google's All Access service, but with Google there are few hitches.

First off, with Google All Access you can't download tracks to a laptop or desktop for offline listening. By comparison, Spotify makes it easy to do. To sync music to your laptop or desktop simply right-click a playlist name and hit "available offline."

(Left: Google Play Music All Access mobile app. Right: Spotify mobile app.)

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