Microsoft’s Xbox Music finally comes to Android, but is it worth leaving Google Play Music?

One of web and technology’s biggest players — Microsoft — has officially announced the availability of Xbox Music for Android (as well as iPhone, and web users). The service has been up and running on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Windows 8 platforms for quite some time, but those of us who enjoy devices not within Microsoft’s repertoire were sadly left out. We’re glad to learn that is no longer the case.


The goods

The Android app looks to have been competently designed, with Microsoft striking a decent balance between Android and “Metro”-esque design. That said, the app doesn’t quite seem up to par just yet.

For starters, offline caching is not yet functional, though Microsoft does promise to bring the feature to folks in the months to come. It’s an odd feature to launch without. Where it might not be an issue on an Xbox 360 (where you’re typically always connected to the internet without any interruptions), mobile connections aren’t always the most predictable or reliable. It will be a tough sale for anyone who lives in an area that doesn’t exactly enjoy consistent 4G or even 3G speeds.

Xbox Music all 3 screens

The app is also missing out on Smart DJ support, which is basically Xbox’s version of internet radio. We could also do with an easier way to purchase songs (you’ll have to head to your Xbox 360 or a desktop PC to do that).

If you’re fine with that all that, though, you can enjoy over 30 million tracks from thousands of artists for free for the first 30 days. Beyond that, you’ll be asked to pay $9.99 per month (or $99 for a year, which comes out to be a cheaper option if you don’t mind a lump sum). Oh, and if you prefer to play music from your computer you’ll also be glad to know that Microsoft is releasing an update to their full web interface that can be accessed here from any browser.


A worthy competitor?

Is this enough to take on the big dogs like Google Play Music All Access and Spotify? Well, for yours truly, it isn’t. I was extremely excited to hear about Xbox Music coming to Android, because I have wanted to subscribe to the service since it launched. The only thing that was holding me back was the fact that I could only access the music on my Xbox 360 console.

I thought with a new app I would consider giving Microsoft my business over Google, especially when considering the fact that the shoe is now on the other foot — Google is the one without a viable option on all the platforms important to me. Still, I am hesitant to defect.

google-play-music-albums-2

For starters, the app is too limited at the time. If I could get full music purchasing and Smart DJ features right on my mobile device I’d be ecstatic, but those are two big features (alongside the aforementioned offline caching) that I just can’t find myself living without.

I’m also considerate of the price tag — I was lucky enough to get in on Google’s introductory price of $7.99 for Google Play Music All Access, and I am not willing to forego the long-term savings for what appears to be an inept experience. Alas, I still have no reason to ditch Google’s platform for Microsoft’s, and it will remain that way until Microsoft addresses all of the things I’ve mentioned above. Give it a shot in the Google Play Store if you’re interested.

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  • Guido Hulscher

    Leave Google Music? I’d be happy to join it! Alas, I’m only Dutch, so no music for me, only Apps and Books in the Playstore :-(

    • ari_free

      yeah I think the same is true for Canada

  • http://thebeeobee.com/ thebeeobee

    Google Play music is mediocre. Rdio murders it.

    • Del373

      I haven’t tried Rdio yet, but I have their commercial to thank for discovering Dear Mr. President, My Body, and Houdini.

  • Del373

    I canceled my All Access subscription and I even had the $7.99 special pricing. Google’s library of music is surprisingly lacking and right now I can’t justify subscribing to a streaming music service. If and when I do resubscribe it will likely be to Spotify, given they’ve been established the longest and likely have the most experience and largest library. Though if not Spotify, then I’d be willing to give this a shot, given that $99 a year makes out to be about $8.25 a month…which isn’t to bad.

    • http://thebeeobee.com/ thebeeobee

      Yeah, I cancelled, as well.

    • Crickerman

      Had to cancel mine as well due to a bug (could not play audio stream at this time) that made it unusable. I gave them 2 months and it’s still not fixed..

  • chumawumba

    Microsoft die already

    • Lou_Sasshole

      Sorry man as much as you wish it, it won’t be happening anytime soon ;)

  • David Narada Brown

    I like google play music! havent used it a ton, but i check all the new albums out whenever i like.

  • antifud

    hasn’t anyone cited betteridge’s law of headlines? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_law_of_headlines

  • Rage4Order

    I’m quite happy with Google Play Music. At the $7.99/month price, it’s a very worth-while service. While there are some quite significant artists that are missing from the catalog (Metallica, Beatles, Led Zeppelin) , it’s not a problem for me because I already have all of the albums by these artists on a CD and ripped on my server. Consequently, I still have them available to me on my phone via Subsonic streaming (which is what I do), or if I wanted to, I could upload them to Google Play in mp3 format to seamlessly integrate them into the Google Play experience. I figure that this is all due to licensing issues, because most of these missing artists have been historically skittish about digital distribution in general. I figure it’s only a matter of time before even they agree to be included in the Play store, since digital streaming is clearly the future of media distribution. (For example, the Beatles are already available on iTunes).

    On the other hand, the selection of music that is available through Play Music is truly almost overwhelming. One of the things I love about it is being able to do is take music requests from my wife or my friends, and instantly playing pretty much anything that they can think of, no matter what the genre it is. I also like the availability of foreign artists, and having access to albums by them which is something that was simply was not possible form me previously.

  • phinn

    Lol Xbox Music? Please.

    Really wish they wouldn’t mention Microsoft on this blog, it irritates me far more than Apple.

    • Del373

      This news is technically relevant given that it’s mostly about the release of a new Android app. Personally I don’t mind it at all, as competition is one of the driving forces of innovation.

    • Lou_Sasshole

      Yeah screw choice, right?

      • Canon User

        Seriously? You mention Microsoft and choice in the same thought?

        • ari_free

          If it wasn’t for Microsoft, we’d be either using IBM PC’s or Macs.

          • Canon User

            Either your knowledge of computing history runs a little thin, or you purposefully over simplified the historical possibilities here

        • Lou_Sasshole

          Seriously? Yeah I did, they offer another music streaming service for people that want it, i’m not gonna use it but more power for those that want it and i’m glad people have that choice.

    • ari_free

      I have a problem with Windows Phones (just another closed platform that is against the pocket PC concept that they came up with!) but let them bring all the apps!

  • Itchy_Robot

    This is great news how ever you look at it. It is nice as a consumer to see all these services coming to multiple phone OS’s, not just the ones that their parent company is associated with. Hopefully this trend keeps moving forward … ie. Google Music and Google Movies/TV eventually hitting iOS. I like the idea of being able to reach my data and services from any computer/mobile device, no matter what OS is installed on it.

    • PhoenixPath

      Google has announced support for All Access on iOS, but not yet delivered.

      No support for WP mentioned yet, though…can you really blame them? ;-)

  • Del373

    I just tried out the XBox Music experience and it’s quite nice. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to use the web version for free (there doesn’t seem to be any indication of a trial or count-down to payment) but for now it’s quite nice.
    If I can continue to use the web service without a subscription this will probably supplant Grooveshark as I’ve been trying to distance myself from the aforementioned service.

  • Joseph Henson

    I too was excited about XBox Music for most of the same reasons, but ended up signing up for All Access since I was already using Google’s free cloud storage and because of the $2/month discount for early adopters, and mostly because there was no Android app until now. However, if you’re looking for an XBox and Google Play alternative, try Sony’s Music Unlimited. It has all the features you mentioned that are currently missing.

  • steveb944

    I guess I’ll be signing up for that free trial. But if I were to subscribe, I’d stick with Google Play Music All Access since it works seamlessly along with my cloud stored music.

  • blest

    I got rid of zune music when they dropped all support for zunes and you can no longer download music over the air. I’m good with Google play.

    • Aaron Armstrong

      When did they do that? I still do both of those things with my Zune.

      • blest

        Google the exact time. You can no longer download music over the air.

  • Aaron Armstrong

    I’ve used MS music service for years. My wife and I both still have the original Zune’s that we use in our cars. The playlists that I’ve build over the years in the Zune software. I will be cancelling my Spotify subscription as soon as MS has offline caching working.

    • Rob Schoenfeld

      I loved my Zune HD.

  • RahjerDat

    Well since I own a GS4, I can’t even download it.

  • jurrabi

    As many times, It’s too late too little.

    As the reporter I can’t live without cache (my data play pays by the KB). I tested XBM on Xbox more that a year ago, what means that I cannot test again to see how the android app performs.
    Anyway without cache and mixing of my own library with online content It’s no use…

    Better luck next time MS.

    Anyway I appreciate that MS is finally realizing that their services have value beyond their own devices and there is a bit market out there…

  • Rob Schoenfeld

    I’d kill for a music service that supports SD cards. Google Music is a fine service but caching on the 16 gig galaxy s 4 is challenging to say the least. I understand why Android doesn’t want to support sd cards. But why can’t the Google Music app..

    • Andrew Chandler

      I don’t understand the complaint.. Play Music can play audio files off an SD card. Spotify can cache data to an SD card. What specifically does one or the other do or not do?

      • Rob Schoenfeld

        Caching music to an sd card. Google doesn’t support that. Spotify only support one active streaming device at a time while google will support 10 devices at one time.

    • No_Nickname90

      I don’t know how it is now, I can’t find it, but I remember I went into the folder where the music was being cached. Well the files were named something like m01, m02, etc. They were also music files. I think mp3, I don’t remember. I just remember clicking on one and the song started playing.

      This tells me that if you were able to cache music to your SD card, you could potentially cache the music, then give it away. So imagine Google All Access. Cache the music then put it on other unauthorized devices.

      This is my guess as to why you can’t cache to the SD card. Rooting allows you, but yea.

      • Rob Schoenfeld

        Yea I can root but I don’t want to chase updates. I also don’t want to root my kid’s and wife’s device.

        • No_Nickname90

          Yea, I know what you mean about the updates. My Nexus 7 1st Gen is still on a 4.2.2 ROM. I’m too lazy to update it. And I don’t feel like keeping up with ROMs with it right now. LoL!!

  • androidscales

    windows and xbox sucks donkeys ass