Google announced a major upgrade to its streaming music service to take advantage of the company’s strengths in machine learning.
The most noticeable change at first glance to Google Play Music is a visual refresh, but the bigger deal is improved recommendations, and a helping hand when it comes to saving music offline. The interface is much less orange, instead launching with a soft white background that changes based on the different sections available to browse.
In the web app, where the new features are already live, you’ll see more sections that have suggested playlists based on additional factors. Google says it’ll tap into your location, so you might see something like “relaxing at home” or “powering through work” if you’ve told Google where you live and where you earn your paycheck. There are also more playlists built from the Google Play Music team and suggestions based on albums or artists you’ve spent a lot of time listening to.
On mobile, one of the most cumbersome aspects of Play Music has been managing music you want cached for offline use. I’m usually frantically downloading songs while the flight attendants are giving the safety instructions before being told to shut off the phones for takeoff.
Google says not with Play Music, “you’ll always be prepped with an offline playlist based on what you’ve listened to recently.”
We’ll have to play around with this to see how it turns out in practice. But the promise is that you can fire up your Play Music app and get music you prefer without the need to do any of the work on your own.
The story behind the story: Google has never released subscriber numbers for Play Music, and a recent report indicated YouTube Red (which includes a Play Music subscription) only had 1.5 million paying members. That’s considerably low compared to Spotify and Apple Music, which are estimated at about 15 and 30 million respectively. By tapping into Google’s strengths with machine learning and the deep link into other Google services, the company is taking another shot at making up ground.