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Getting Google Music on your iPhone - a Google Music iOS app roundup


Review by Dan Seifert on Monday March 19, 2012.

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Google Music apps for iOS
Google Music apps for iOS

Google Music is a great (and free!) way to store up to 20,000 songs in the cloud and access them from a variety of devices. Android users can benefit from a native app provided by Google to access their music from their handsets or tablets, but iPhone and iPad users don't have such a luxury (and we don't expect Google to provide it anytime soon). Fortunately, a number of independent app developers have stepped up to the plate to provide iOS users with a way to access their Google Music account and listen to all of their tunes while on the go. We have rounded up three of the best options available in the iTunes App Store and take a look at Google's own web app so that you can figure out which one suits your needs the best.

gMusic

gMusic was one of the first Google Music apps for the iPhone, having been available in the iTunes App Store since late last year. Since then, it has seen numerous updates, including gaining a native iPad version. gMusic offers a paned interface that is not unlike what we see in the official Facebook app for the iPhone, which makes it easy to jump to the various sections of your Google Music library. You can access your list of artists, songs, albums, genres, and playlists (including Instant Mixes). gMusic also supports Google's Auto Playlists feature that aggregates the most recently added songs, songs purchased from Google itself, or songs that have been given a thumbs up. All of the various sections are searchable, and you can pull-to-refresh each list in the library.

The now playing screen features large album art, repeat and shuffle functions, and an option to thumbs up the song. There is also a pop-up menu to add the current song to a playlist, make an Instant Mix from the current song, or make it available for offline playback. gMusic also supports iOS's backgrounding function, so you can play your music in the background while you do other tasks, and you can control playback from the lockscreen or the remote on the iPhone's headphones.

The iPad version of gMusic offers all of the same features as the iPhone version, just optimized to take advantage of the iPad's larger display. gMusic is, so far, the only Google Music iOS app in this round-up that has been updated for the new iPad's Retina Display.

gMusic also has integration with Last.fm, so you can scrobble your tracks to your Last.fm account if you choose.

Despite all of its features, gMusic isn't without its faults. The app can be quite buggy at times, with entire features going missing with new updates. It can also take a long time to load a large library of songs (my test library had over 16,000). The developer has been proactive in releasing frequent updates to fix bugs that crop up, and sometimes the issues are because of changes Google has made - and out of the developer's control. Still, gMusic is very comprehensive, and offers a lot to the Google Music user with an iOS device. You can download it from the iTunes App Store now for $1.99.

GoMusic

GoMusic is another universal Google Music app that features native interfaces for both the iPhone and iPad. Sporting a different look than gMusic, GoMusic is heavy on the chrome and textures, which may appeal to some and be a turn-off to others (I'm in the latter camp). As a result GoMusic can be rather slow to load, especially on older hardware like the original iPad. It does refresh large libraries faster than gMusic, though.

GoMusic also offers offline capabilities, and you can download an entire artist's catalog, albums, playlists, genres, or individual songs if you like. A pop-up menu button next to each song offers a quick glance at how much storage is left on the device for offline songs, and also provides options to add the track to a playlist or create an Instant Mix from the track.

The iPhone version of GoMusic features the familiar tabbed interface found in iOS's standard Music app, and gives quick access to artists, albums, playlists, genres, and more. The more tab offers access to the settings menu and individual songs by default, though you can move the songs tabs to the main bar if you wish. Album is displayed while browsing through the artists and albums list, and the playlist tab shows both user created playlists and Instant Mixes, as well as Google Music's automatic playlist.

On the iPad, GoMusic mimics Google Music's interface on desktop web browsers, as it displays thumbnails for each album and artist. Unfortunately, this seems to be where the performance issues lie, as it is very laggy when scrolling through the grid of artists or albums. The iPad version also lacks a search feature, so you have to scroll to find anything you are looking for (the iPhone version has a search box at the top of each list). There are more pop-up menus in the iPad edition than the iPhone version, and each menu is slower to load than its iPhone counterpart.

GoMusic is a little cheaper than gMusic, costing just $0.99 in the iTunes App Store. At the time of this writing, it has gone conspicuously missing from the U.S. App Store, though. You do give up a couple of features (like Last.fm scrobbling) for that buck, and the iPad version is a inferior in performance when compared to gMusic.

Melodies

Melodies is a relative newcomer to the Google Music app scene on iOS. Unlike its counterparts, Melodies lacks a native iPad version and is not a universal app. The iPhone version (which can be run on the iPad in compatibility mode) sports an interface similar to GoMusic (though with a cleaner look, despite the splashes of ugly, fake wood). There are familiar tabs at the bottom to jump to playlists, artists, songs, albums, and more. The more tab offers access to genres, thumbs-upped tracks, purchased music, offline songs, and the settings screen. Each list features pull-to-refresh, and Melodies refreshed my massive library faster than either gMusic or GoMusic.

The now playing screen is attractive and displays album art when available, but it lacks the ability to rate a track thumbs up or thumbs down while it is playing, though you can thumbs up a song from the general list of tracks as you browse the library. Melodies does offer the ability to create playlists on the fly, as well as make Instant Mixes from individual tracks, and new tracks loaded and buffered very quickly.

Offline support in Melodies is weaker than in the competition, however, as the app only allows you to save playlists for offline listening, as opposed to albums, artists, or individual songs. You can test drive Melodies with a free version that has ads and does not allow for any offline playing, while $0.99 will net you the pro version of Melodies that removes the ads and restores offline storage functionality.

Google Music webapp

Finally, we take a look at what is officially offered by Google for Google Music users on iOS: a webapp available at music.google.com in the Safari browser. Google launched an HTML5-based webapp for iOS devices last year, and while it can work for occasional use, it's hard to make it something that you use every day. It provides access to playlists, artists, albums, songs, and genres, and supports background playing of tracks, though that hasn't been terribly reliable in my tests. Scrolling through long lists of songs or artists can be flaky as well, and there is obviously no support for offline playback. You also lose the ability to create or manage playlists, and the now playing screen does not offer buttons to thumbs up or down on a track. Lastly, the webapp looks rather goofy on the iPad's large screen, as it was clearly designed for the smaller display of the iPhone.

Wrap-up

Based on what we have seen here, it seems that the winning Google Music app for iOS is gMusic. It offers the largest set of features, provides a native iPad version, and performs fairly well on both new and old hardware. If you don't have an iPad and don't mind giving up extensive offline support and Last.fm scrobbling, Melodies is a fine alternative, with quick performance and an attractive interface. For those that want to play music stored in their Google Music library infrequently, the webapp can be suitable enough (and let's you do so for free), but it's hard to recommend GoMusic to anyone with its heavy interface and slow performance.

 
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About the author

Dan Seifert
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.

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