Posts Tagged ‘music’
How do you bury the competition? By taking one of their strongest services and improving on it. For the past year or so Google has been seeking its answer to the iTunes Store. We’ve heard various rumors, but we’ve also heard that Google has faced significant obstacles from the record companies. Frustrated that the record companies didn’t see things their way, Google went ahead and launched a comprehensive music locker service, Google Music. But now they’re back at the table with record companies, and it appears that they’re on the brink of something even bigger.
The rumors have started to resurface, and now we’re starting to see evidence of their reality. Phandroid links information that contains a screenshot of the Google Music landing page. Option No. 1 comes as no surprise, since it’s the service we’ve all grown to know and love. Option No. 2 confirms at least part of the rumored addition to Google Music: a music store. We don’t yet know which labels Google has on board, so we don’t know the depth of the catalog. But chances are they wouldn’t launch one without the majors on board. And so they’ll have a music selection comparable to the iTunes Store. Only, the rumors don’t stop there.
On October 16th you’ll see the above-pictured device on store shelves. It looks like a normal Android smartphone, but it lacks one key element: a cellular radio. Instead, it’s a WiFi-based Android that essentially mimics Apple’s iPod Touch. It’ll come in two sizes: the four-inch screen will cost $ 229, while the five-inch screen will cost $ 269. Those are reasonable prices for devices that will carry no monthly service commitments. But I have to wonder if the Android platform is ready for this type of device.
One reason the iPod continues to sell, even with the iPhone in play, is music management. Apple makes it easy to move items from your iTunes library to the iPod. True, Windows users have a tougher time with it; iTunes works considerably better on a Mac. The management system isn’t quite as clean with Google Music. It could be what holds back the device. On the other hand, if Google created its own simple music player — perhaps one that lays over iTunes, such as doubleTwist — they could create the necessary interface for a device like this.
If that looks like a recycled image, it’s for good reason. About a month ago we learned that MetroPCS would launch the Samsung Admire, a mid-range Android handset. It checks in at $ 150, which is decent for an Android for prepaid. For someone looking at it in terms of bang for the buck, it could work out. As happens in many cases, Cricket will also offer the Vitality. Only it adds another level to the offering: Muve Music. Read on if you’re not yet familiar with Cricket’s music plan.
Muve Music is available only on select handsets. The Vitality is the first one that also runs Android. Each Muve-compatible handset comes with a special microSD card. Subscribers can download all the music they want right to that card, so they can listen to tunes at any times. This covers unlimited music from a library containing millions of songs.
The only downside is that it costs $ 10 more per month. That’s what Rhapsody, Napster, and Spotify premium charge, so it’s not as though the Muve plan adds a ton of value for Android users. Plus, those services offer streaming, which make free memory easier to handle.
How is a regional carrier to compete with the big boys these days? If we’re to learn from MetroPCS and others, it’s by creating partnerships with services that they can bundle with their plans. Cricket did this last year, when they created an unlimited music download plan. But that works with only one handset, and a non-smartphone at that. MetroPCS has upped the ante with their new service, which ties in with Rhapsody’s unlimited music. It’s for Android users, too, and it might just be up your alley.
Here’s the skinny. Any MetroPCS customer with an Android handset, whether the 4G Indulge or one of the normal 3G models, can upgrade to the $ 60 plan to get unlimited music from Rhapsody. That allows users to download unlimited music to their Android devices. It also syncs with the web service, so you can stream while you’re at home and sync up your playlists with your Android. It’s just another way of enjoying all the music you can handle.
There is no such thing as too many music apps. Maybe your device doesn’t have enough room for them all, in which case there is such thing for too many music apps for you. But in general, different apps bring different features to the table, and different interfaces work for different people. Different is the word I’m really looking for, I think. It appears that Google has a firm grasp of music ownership, with its Google Music service. They’re rolling out invites pretty quickly at this point, and after using it for almost a month I have to say that I’ve been using my other music apps less and less. But I still do use them, because Google Music doesn’t quite have everything. Yahoo!’s new music app does add a few features to the table, and so it will find a home, if only temporary, on my device.
Google has been a little busy sending out invitations for its cloud storage service, but that hasn’t stopped others from rolling out the same. If you’re still waiting for that invite, you might want to check out a new service from mSpot. Actually, there are two new services that work hand in hand. The first is that cloud storage service. The second is streaming radio. You might like your Pandora or Slacker — even the new Slacker Premium — but mSpot’s streaming service adds a personal twist that the others don’t quite have.
The cloud storage works as you might expect. You can head over to mspot.com and sign up for a free account. From there you can upload your music, up to 5GB for free. After you download the Android app, you can access those songs from the cloud. This is clearly a feature that we’ll see more of in the coming months and years. Everyone seems to be releasing a cloud storage service, since it means streaming without using on-device memory. mSpot is also offering a premium plan, which allows you to upload 40GB and access those songs from up to five mobile devices (from the free plan you get just one device). That costs $ 3.99 per month, which is pretty reasonable given the cost of other music services.
As expected, Google announced their streaming music service at I/O this morning. As further expected, it won’t involve a music store. Instead it will be an upload service similar to Amazon’s cloud streaming. It actually looks quite a bit better, with a Grooveshark-like web interface to go along with the app (at least the about page makes it look like a web interface). Best of all, you can upload 20,000 songs, so there is plenty of space. This will be free during the beta period, which will be awesome if the beta lasts as long as, say, Gmail. You’ll need an invite, which you can request at music.google.com/about. I wouldn’t hold my breath on getting one, though.
Via Droid Life, where you can find plenty of other Android information from this morning’s keynote.
Why start your own music service when you can partner with an existing one? It appears that Google might have asked itself this question. Last week we heard that Google’s talks with music labels were slowing, perhaps to a halt. Apparently they keep wanting more, and the idea of adding a subscription service to its already planned storefront and music locker is causing some issues. While I still think a deal will get done, Google has to explore other options in case one does not. One possibility, as Greg Sandoval of CNET reports, is a partnership with Spotify. That could certainly make things intersting.
For those unfamiliar, Spotify is a service that provides unlimited streaming music. It is similar in many ways to Grooveshark, except that the music is licensed. Well, that, and it is only available in some European countries. The company has stated its desire to enter the US market, though. What better vehicle to bring them there than Google and Android? Spotify, of course, denies this, but that’s to be expected. When you talk to official spokespeople you rarely get answers. Considering both Google’s and Spotify’s current positions, it’s not difficult to imagine that they’ve spoken, at least casually, about a partnership.
As I’ve repeated ad infinitum, the one area where I think Android most sorely lags behind Apple is in music management. It’s not that Android lacks options. There are plenty of media players that have desktop sync apps as well, and most of these also sync with iTunes. That makes things a bit more convenient, but it’s not quite like Apple, which has made ubiquitous its iTunes media player (at least on Apple computers) and its iTunes store. Android doesn’t have that native function. There was hope, and for about a year we’ve been anticipating Google’s next move in that regard. It was a disappointment late last week when we learned that Google’s talks with record labels stalled. Yesterday we got further disappointing news.
This was more of an emotional disappointment than an actual setback for Google. Though their talks with record labels might have hit a temporary impasse, I expect something will still get done in the near future. It’s really in everyone’s best interests. Google needs to deliver its Android users a better music experience, and record labels, perpetual whiners about declining income, stand to make significant bank on the deal. But to have Apple beat them to the punch? That just hurts. According to a Reuters report, that just might be the case. Commence sobbing.
For nearly a year now Android-toting music lovers have waited for Google to launch a music service. It seems to be one of the few missing pieces of the platform. While there are alternatives — the Amazon MP3 store being one of them — I can only imagine that Google itself could provide the most robust music interface for its own platform. There have been encouraging signs of late, as we know Google is in talks with representatives from many music labels. But our hopes were met with disappointment late last week, as All Things D’s Peter Kafka reported that, “There’s definitely a problem with the Google music conversations.” Crap.
We’re lacking specifics on the situation right now, but early speculation points to Amazon’s cloud storage and streaming service as a potential roadblock. Record labels weren’t exactly thrilled that Amazon launched the service without their approval. Then again, I’m not sure the record labels really enjoy it when anyone plays one of their tracks. At least, that’s how they’ve come across in the past decade-plus. There was also mention of Google changing its terms in the past few weeks, perhaps to differentiate itself from Amazon’s service. Again, this is all speculation, and it gets us no closer to the root of the matter.