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Google Music review: hands-on with Music Beta by Google

The streaming gods are looking down on us and smiling this afternoon as we just received our early invite to Music Beta by Google, better known as Google Music. Armed with a passion to take our music library on the go, we set out to install the app, upload our music and put the service through its paces. Does Music Beta by Google live up to the hype?

The idea of installing software to use one of Google’s services might sound a bit foreign, but in the case of Music Beta by Google it’s a necessity. Upon receiving invitation to the service, you’ll need to click the welcome link in the email to accept the offer. Hidden on the bottom of the page is a curious bit of information:

“Music Beta is free for a limited time. Music Beta is only for legally acquired music.”

Does Google plan to offer a monthly service fee to use the service in the future? Will the fee be based on the size of your music library? Only time will tell, but just remember you’ve been warned. Getting back to the installation, by now you should have accepted the terms and conditions and been given the option to add free songs to your Music library. There’s 16 genres to choose from covering everything from Jazz to Country and even Reggae.

Google Music review: hands-on with Music Beta by Google

At this point it’s time to install a small piece of software, Google ‘Music Manager’. This software is your one-stop-shop for keeping your music library synchronized whether that be inside iTunes, Windows Media Player or simply a folder on your computer. ‘Music Manager’ has no preference so long as you direct the application to the appropriate location of your music files.

Now that you have selected the location or program you use to manage your music on your computer, ‘Music Manager’ will begin uploading your library. Depending on the size of your collection this can take hours or possibly even days. To avoid clogging your bandwidth, inside the Advanced settings tab there’s four upload speeds to choose from: Slowest (128kbps), Slow (256kbps), Medium (512kbps), and Fast (1024kbps). ‘Music Manager’ will run in the background and gradually upload your library. Additionally, you have the choice of letting ‘Music Manager’ automatically or manually upload new music added to your computer, delivering complete music synchronization.

Google Music review: hands-on with Music Beta by Google

Installation complete, but how do we use it?
Using Music Beta by Google requires one of two things: an Android 2.2+ or higher device (smartphone/tablet) or a web browser. If you’re an Android user simply open the Google Music app or downloaded the latest version from the Android Market. Once open, go into the setting and make sure the Google account you used to activate Music Beta by Google is selected. Once you complete this step your library will begin to appear on your device.

If you aren’t part of the Android community you’ll need to head to music.google.com and log in. After logging in you’ll be presented with a slick web interface that allows you to listen to your music at ease. All of the usual suspects are presented: playlists, sorts by songs/artists/albums/genres, and instant mixes. Since the entire service is synchronized, whether you’re using a smartphone/tablet/web browser, playlists created on your Android device will be accessible from the web browser and vice versa.

Google Music review: hands-on with Music Beta by Google

Sounds good, but how well does it work?
In real-world usage, Music Beta by Google performs like a champ. We tested the service over both a 3G and WiFi connection — both delivered excellent results. The only notable difference is that over WiFi you can begin scrubbing through your current track in a matter of seconds verse minutes on 3G. Of course, this is all dependent on your data connection. Since a picture is worth a thousand words let’s just take a look at a video preview of Music Beta by Google:

Wrapping it all up
Music Beta by Google could be the game changer Android needs to capture the iTunes crowd tied to iPhone. If there was one feature we’d love to see incorporated it would be Podcast support. Being able to subscribe to Podcasts would complete the service and we’d no longer need a data cable to synchronize with iTunes. Yes, we know podcasts can be downloaded with third-party applications, but a single Music application is the dream here.

Google Music review: hands-on with Music Beta by Google

If Google can maintain the service in its current state (free), Music Beta is a sure-fire winner. Now it’s time for Apple to respond. Will Apple’s iCloud service be able to compete with Music Beta by Google? We’re not sure, but we can’t wait to find out.

Coming Soon | Google | Free

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