Google has announced that its Google Play Music All Access service is now available in the UK.
The service (which launched at Google I/O back in May) offers unlimited access to a cavernous 20 millions song library of music for streaming or downloading for offline play, as well as letting you store up to 20,000 of your own songs online for easy streaming to your devices.
You can also make use of Google Play Music's personalised radio stations, which automatically create playlists based around songs you like before sharing them with friends.
Play Music vs Spotify
If you haven't yet bitten the Spotify bullet, you'll be pleased to hear that you can grab a Google Play All Access pass for £7.99 a month if you sign up before 15 August. Your first month will be free too, so you can always cancel if it's not to your liking.
Spotify has a strong headstart, though: its built into numerous gadgets, from obsolete Squeezeboxes to newfangled Sonos', and there's an app available on every major smartphone and tablet platform. All Access still has no official iOS app, nor other non-Google hardware support – although it'll stream like a winner to Google's new Chromecast dongle. As TV shows have also arrived on the UK Google Play store recently, we can expect Chromecast to make the trip across the pond in the very near future.
There's no word on how much the monthly pass will rise to after 15 August, but we predict a Spotify Premium-matching £9.99 a month – so get in early if you fancy taking it for a spin. No cheaper or free options for All Access have been detailed yet; on Spotify, you can use the service on your computer with adverts every few songs for free, or pay £5 a month to lose the adverts. It's the full tenner if you want to access tunes via your smartphone or tablet.
As an Android devotee I'm glad Google Play has become (pretty much) the equal of the App Store in recent years, but one thing that still jars is that it's not very well curated. What makes the Play front page amounts to a popularity contest, and that approach doesn't work well with music; everyone knows that if too many people like a song, that makes it rubbish.
Thanks to the little plug-in mini-apps within Spotify I get most of my album recommendations from Rolling Stone, the Guardian and Pitchfork, which serve up a selection of albums from people I've never heard of and which I can listen to safe in the knowledge that very few people like them.
There's also the fact that a lot of people I know are on Spotify, so I can quietly copy what they like - or, in the case of reviews editor Tom Parsons, just have a good chortle at their 'taste'. Like a lot of people I'll give All Access a go for the free trial, but I doubt I'll cancel my Spotify subscription for it.