Google Music hands-on

Should you abandon iTunes and Spotify for Google Music? We find out whether the new streaming service will be worth the wait

Google Music may not be available in the UK at the moment – but should you sign up when it arrives on this side of the pond? We've taken a sneak peek at the key features and how it measures up against rivals Spotify and iTunes.

It may not have iTunes’ party tricks, but Google Music is near enough to perfect for most people – a free-of-charge home for up to 25,000 DRM-free songs, accessed through either a clean web interface, or through an equally fuss-less Android app.

You’ll need to install the Google Music Manager on your local machine first, then wait four months while it uploads your 80GB of music to the cloud. But that’s the only real pain; once done, you have desktop and mobile access to your entire library, and the Music Manager quietly works in the background to upload new songs as they arrive.

But there are things that Google should get on and fix – quickly.

For example, there’s no way of checking if a song’s already in a playlist, which makes management a messy and time-consuming. Also, it could badly do with emulating iTunes’ Smart Playlists; in Google Music today, you either create a list manually, or use the Instant Mix feature (which, all credit to the Google team, is uncannily clever).

The Android app is beautifully useable, with the one caveat that it badly needs a more obvious way of showing which tracks are stored locally and which are still in the cloud (yes, you can fiddle in the settings to show only locally stored tunes, but where’s the harm in making it instantly obvious – especially when mobile data tariffs in the UK can make your eyes water?).

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