Users of Google Music, announced Wednesday, can now purchase albums and songs online, and have them sent directly to their Android phones or Google Music locker. But should you use it? We took it for a quick spin and, so far, we're impressed.
The first thing you'll want to do before buying any music is to set up a free Google Music account. US users can do this at music.google.com by signing in with a valid Gmail address. UK and other international users can get around the American IP address requirement by accessing the service with a proxy server located in North America.
Once you've set up your Google Music account, you'll have the option to download Google's music manager software for your computer, which lets you upload the contents of your music library to your Google Music locker.
You are limited to storing 20,000 songs in your Google Music locker, though any music you purchase through Google's music store won't count against that number. Songs kept in your locker will be available to stream or download to all your devices and computers that use the same Gmail account.
Music web client
Once you have your Google Music account set up, make your way over to market.android.com/music to begin browsing through Google's music offerings.
Right now, you can only purchase music through the Android Market website via a PC. An update to the Market will roll out soon that will allow you to browse the store from your mobile devices as well. Google has made deals with three out of the four major music labels, so while not every artist will be represented, you are sure to find something you like.
When you find the artist you've been searching for, you will be presented with a bio page, as well as all of their available albums and their five most popular songs. Much like iTunes, all songs have 90 second previews you can listen to before you buy, and song prices range from $0.99 to $1.29.
Downloading a song or album is painless. In fact, the process is the same as it is when you buy an app through the Android Market. You simply click on the price of the song or album that you want, select a payment method and the purchase is automatically saved to your Google Music locker. From your locker, you can listen to the song you just downloaded, share the song with friends or continue shopping.
If you choose to share your purchase with friends, you'll get a popup box that will ask you to share the full track on Google+. Songs purchased from Google Music are stored and downloaded as 320kbps MP3 files.
The biggest benefit of Google Music is that all of your purchases show up almost instantaneously across your devices. If you have the Google Music app installed on your Android phone, your entire Google Music locker is available for you to stream over the air.
If you are worried about a weak Internet connection interrupting your jams, you can save your songs directly to your phone's SD card, so you can rock out even in areas with low signal strength. You can install the Google Music app on Honeycomb-based tablets as well, but when I tried it, some of the text in the app was jumbled together into an unreadable mess.
If you have an Android phone and have been looking for a good way of carrying around your music, Google Music and the Music Locker will make your life quite a bit easier. Compared to iTunes, Google's music offerings don't feel like they're as comprehensive, but that may change over the coming months as more and more artists sign up for the service.