After using iTunes Match for about a year now Google Play Music is available here in Germany I gave it a try. I’m quite impressed with Google Play Music so here a quick comparison of both services.

Cloud service

Both offer a cloud storage for your music and let you sync your tracks to various devices. So you start by uploading your music collection to the cloud service and can download or stream if afterwards.

Also both services integrate a matching algorithm that identifies your tracks and only uploads music which isn’t present in their store. If the music is found online you can download it afterwards in the optimal quality, even if you provided a crappy 96kbps MP3.

On the Desktop

On the desktop both services differ: The Apple solution works with iTunes. Period. Since I manage my music already with iTunes, that’s not a big deal.

Google on the other hand doesn’t offer a dedicated music player but an upload/download manager (free, PC/Mac) called “Music Manager”. It lets you choose which tracks you’d like to upload either via selecting one or more folders or using the iTunes Library (the whole library or a set of playlists). On the PC you can also use the library from Windows Media Player (in case someone really uses WMP).

Mobile

iTunes Match of course works great on iPhones – but there’s no way to listen to your music on an Android device.

For Android just download the free Play Music app and there you go. But iOS devices are also supported – either via the webinterface (see below) or by using an app for that.

Web frontend

Google offers a nice modern web frontend for all your music ( https://play.google.com/music/ ). Here you can listen to all tracks, create playlists, update metadata, download your music and so on. The web interface works flawlessly and can be controlled via keyboard, like Gmail or Google Reader – nice.

One example of how good the web interface works: Recently I purchased an album from the store and found that the genre tag was incorrect (yes, I’m a bit special here..), so I changed it online and downloaded the album one or two minutes later via Music Manager: The files were downloaded, sent to iTunes with the correct metadata.

iTunes Match has no web interface at all, you have to install iTunes on your PC/Mac.

Supported file formats

Both services support the usual suspects: MP3, AAC/M4A. Copy protected tracks from the iTunes store of course only work with iTunes Match as well as ALAC (Apple Lossless) and AIFF. Google supports WMA (probably PC only), FLAC and OGG.

Google lets you upload files up to 300MB, Apple up to 200MB. For normal tracks this doesn’t matter but for classical music or audiobooks the 100MB more are nice.

Audiobooks

Here’s where Google excels: It uploads just anything in a supported format, also AudioBooks. With iTunes Match you’re (partially) out of luck. You can’t upload AudioBooks you bought at iTunes, any AudioBook tagged as such in iTunes or any file with a bitrate less than 96kbps (which audiobooks often have). You can circumvent this restriction by tagging your Audiobooks as “Music” and/or re-encoding them in a higher bitrate – but that’s a very annoying and time-consuming procedure. And that doesn’t help with copy protected files of course.

Google’s own store has only some audiobooks until now (in Germany) but they are MP3s – compared to the annyoing DRM trash Apple offers this is another big advantage.

Pricing

While Google Play is free, iTunes Match costs about $25 – which is a reasonable price for the features.

Comparison

 iTunes MatchGoogle Play
Number of songs2500020000
Supported formatsAAC, MP3, WAV, AIFF, Apple LosslessAAC, MP3, WMA, FLAC, OGG
Maximum file size200 MB300 MB
Supports AudiobooksNOYES
Number of devicesup to 10up to 10
Player: WebNOYES
Player: iOSYESYES (via Web or App)
Player: DeskopYES (iTunes)Any music software
Download format256kbps AAC320kbps MP3

Conclusion

If you have lots of audiobooks or an Android device Google is definitely the right service for you. It’s easy to use, supports up to 300MB files and all common formats. Plus it has a web interface so you can listen to your music virtually everywhere. I was quite content with iTunes Match but regarding that there’s no way to use iTunes on Android and Google does a much better job when it comes to compatibility I have switched now.

For iPhone/iPad-only users iTunes Match is the better solution, it’s seamlessly integrated into the Apple universe and the $25 price tag is not a big deal IMHO.