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Hands-on: Google's All Access music service is still a rough cut

Jonathan Seff | May 20, 2013
On Wednesday, Google joined the likes of Spotify, Mog, Rdio, Rhapsody, and Slacker with the U.S. launch of its Google Play Music All Access subscription music service. For $10 a month (or $8 a month if you sign up before the end of June) you get access to untold millions of tracks on Android phones and tablets, as well as via your Web browser.

Playing Music
Once you start listening to musicwhether you've chosen a song or started a radio stationthere's a strip at the bottom of the screen that shows what's playing, complete with song title, artist name, and album art on the left. On the right is a play/pause button for quick control. To move to the previous or next track in the queue, just swipe your to the right or left, respectively.

When you tap on a album to open it up, you can tap to play a song. In order to play the whole album, you tap the album cover, but I only discovered that by guessing because, again, the app doesn't tell you.

If you tap the song in the bottom bar, the interface moves into a full-screen song experience. The album art scrolls gently back and forth across the screen, while playback controls grace the bottom of the screen. It's not too distracting, but if you suffer from motion sickness, you might not enjoy the effect very much. You'll also find 'Thumb up' and 'thumb down' buttons. Tapping them apparently helps All Access figure out what music you do and don't like to aid with future suggestions, although the app doesn't tell you either way.

The bar that was at the bottom of the previous window moves to the top in this view, with the same swiping controls and ability to display and manipulate the queue (tap the icon with a musical note and a bunch of lines) and initiate other commands (like start a radio station based on that song, go to the artist's page or the album the song is from, and clear or save the queue) as when it lived elsewhere.

Within a play queue, you can swipe to remove a song, or tap and hold on the far left of a track to then drag it and change its place in the queue.

Saving music
Because you're not always connected to a robust Wi-Fi network everywhere you go, the ability to download music for offline listening is crucial. All Access offers this feature, but the process isn't smooth or intuitive.

On an album page, for example, tap the orange My Library button to add it to your library of songs. Once you've added the album to your libraryyou can only save content after doing sothe My Library button disappears and you then see a pin button instead.

 

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