Google Play vs iTunes Match: which Mac music streaming service should you buy?

iTunes Match and Google Play are both cloud-based music streaming services available for Mac OS X and iOS. Both take your personal music collection and place it onto a remote server, where you can access it wherever you are. iTunes Match and Google Play both offer free services, but you have to pay to get the full deal. Here’s our Google Play vs iTunes Match comparison review.

  • Price: iTunes Match (Free or £21.99 per year) vs Google Play (Free or £9.99 per month).

  • Space: iTunes Match 25,000 tracks; Google Play 20,000 tracks

iTunes introduced its iTunes Match music service in 2011, it enables you to access music from multiple iTunes Libraries with any Mac or PC running iTunes, or stream it directly to any iOS device.

Google Play was introduced this year, and also enables you to upload all of your music into the cloud. It can then be played from a web browser on any computer, and streamed to Android and iOS devices.

See: Guide to using iTunes Match and iTunes Match review

iTunes Match vs Google Play: what they both offer

Both iTunes Match and Google Play enable you to place your music into the cloud. Both systems scan the music in your iTunes library and upload the tracks to a remote server (technically they both actually cut back on the uploading by matching tracks to ones they already have in their respective stores).

Once you have set up iTunes Match or Google Play, you can then play the music on other computers, smart phones, tablets or other devices.

You can also download tracks from one computer to another, so they enable you to sync up your music collections across multiple machines. The real advantage though is for devices with limited storage space: MacBook Air and the iPhone or iPad. Both Google Play and iTunes Match enable you to access your entire music collection.

Google Play

See: Google Play review

What’s the difference between Google Play and iTunes Match?

The key difference is that iTunes Match is designed to work within iTunes, whereas Google Play is designed to work with web browsers.

When you sign up for iTunes Match all of your tracks are matched against tracks in the iTunes Store, or the files are uploaded, and you can then play them inside iTunes on another Mac or PC, or using the Music app on a tablet device. This has its good points, it’s generally pretty easy to use and if you have more than one iTunes library on the go (or more than one Mac). iTunes Match is a great way to sync up your libraries. You can even highlight all the tracks in iTunes and download them at once.

Google Play provides a Mac plug-in that goes through your iTunes music collection and sends any tracks inside iTunes to the Google Play service. The plug-in sits in the background and any songs you add to iTunes will also be sent to Google Play. You playback music from the Google Play website instead of iTunes.

Whether you see this as a good or bad thing largely depends on how you feel about iTunes. It’s not the most loved music player in the world, although we imagine it’s the most popular. Even so some Mac users will skip and dance away from iTunes. But for most people it’s an easy to use app that’s fairly central to the whole Mac and iOS experience. There are also advantages to using iTunes, such as AirPlay that are baked directly into iTunes.

See: iTunes 11 review

iTunes 11

iTunes Match vs Google Play: what you get for free

One key difference is what you get for your money (see ‘what you get for free below’). Google Play is more expensive on a monthly basis but the free version enables you to upload and stream your entire music library. You then pay £9.99 per month for a spotify-type service that also enables you to play just about any other track for free.

iTunes Match on the other hand only uploads songs you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store for free. You have to pay £21.99 per year to upload and stream all your own tracks. There is no Spotify-like all-you-can-eat music service, but Apple has introduced iTunes Radio into the US and it’ll be coming to the UK soon. If you have a paid-for iTunes account you can listen to iTunes Radio without adverts.

See: Spotify review and iTunes Radio music service

Why should I get iTunes Match when Google Play is free?

It’s a good question. Google Play essentially offers iTunes Match for free. And the Mac integration is pretty good. It shifts all of your music to the Google Play servers and you get to play it all online. The online web interface is pretty good too, offering the usual Google level quality of search and a great variety of sharing options. If you’re into Google+ then you’ll also appreciate the playlist sharing options.

We find Google Play a little keen to put music that’s for sale in front of your eyes but aside from that it’s an excellent web service.

But iTunes Match integrates with iTunes and iOS itself. Which means that if you sign up for it you’ll find yourself able to seamlessly sync, download and share tracks across all of your devices. We’ve been running iTunes Match since launch and haven’t had much cause for complaint. £21.99 per year isn’t a huge fee considering the service on offer.

iTunes Match and Google Play: which is worth paying for?

We find iTunes Match is probably a better service for Mac and iOS owners. Mostly because of the integration between iTunes and iOS devices. If you’re an Android-phone owner then you’ll almost certainly prefer Google Play. But if you’re a Mac owner that is ready to leave iTunes behind the Google Play is a good way to take your music collection into the Cloud and forget about iTunes (or just use it for music importing and storage along with app management).

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OUR VERDICT

We think iTunes Match is a great service for £21.99 per year. It’s invaluable to people with multiple iTunes accounts (say a home and work computer) and iOS devices. But if you’re keen to move away from iTunes then Google Play is the first real viable alternative.

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