Apple’s much awaited subscription music service, Apple Music, has finally arrived for Android smartphones and tablets. The good news is that even if you don’t have an iPhone or an Android phone, you can still groove to more than 30 million music tracks that are already available on the platform. This is in line with Apple’s changing approach to Google’s Android operating system, and this is their second major app for Android devices.
Android users signing up for Apple Music will get three months’ free trial of the service, post which they can choose to carry on with the paid subscription. The packages are the same as that on the iOS version—Rs.120 per month for single user subscription and Rs.190 per month for the family plan that allows you to share the same subscription with up to six family members. What is important to note is that Apple Music costs much more in markets such as the US—$9.99 (single subscription) and $14.99 (family plan).
We used the Apple Music for the Android app in detail, and here are some observations.
Same set of features as iOS, different design
Contrary to certain opinion, Apple isn’t treating Android users as second class citizens. The Music app has been replicated as is, in terms of the features, options and settings. Just like the iOS app, Apple Music for Android has the music recommendations, curated playlists, connect to updates from favourite artists and radio streaming options. Users can create their own playlists. If you use an Apple device and have purchased some music from iTunes, that will also be available here through the cloud. The Beats One radio station is available too.
For those who travel a lot, there is the option of downloading songs and saving them on the device for use when there is no Wi-Fi or 3G connection. Apple doesn’t put any restrictions on how many songs you can save for offline listening, but the actual number will depend on the storage space in your phone.
While navigating the Apple Music app on an Android phone, it is very clear that Apple has followed Google’s design guidelines for Android apps. Which is why the main options slide in from the left of the screen, while the settings can be accessed from the sandwich icon on the top right of the screen. Nevertheless, it is slick and we didn’t notice any usability issues.
No voice control
The only thing missing is the voice command feature that is available on iOS devices. That is because on the iPhone, Apple Music ties in seamlessly with voice assistant Siri, allowing you to search for and play music by speaking to the phone. On Android, there is no Siri. At the moment, Apple Music for Android isn’t integrated with the Google Now voice controls.
Audio quality will depend on Android phone’s hardware
Whether you are using Apple Music on an iPhone or an iPad, the quality of audio remains largely the same. That is because similar hardware is used by Apple across its line-up of devices. However, that is not the case with Android, and this is one of the aspects of the fragmentation that we keep talking about. The sound that you get across various Android phones may not exactly be the same—it is entirely dependent on what sort of audio decoder chip the phone maker has installed on that particular phone model as well as the software processing. For example, a low priced Samsung Galaxy smartphone may not have the same high quality hardware and software as a high-end Galaxy Note series device, and that will impact sound quality.
We tested Apple Music for Android with the same Yamaha speaker and Bowers and Wilkins headphones (we use the same with Apple Music on the iPad, just to keep things absolutely consistent), and the quality across Android phones varied ever so slightly—it is pretty much a case of you get what you pay for.
No family plan subscription sign-ups
The only real limitation of the Apple Music app for Android is the fact that you cannot sign up for family plan subscriptions through the app. At least not yet, but that may soon change. While single subscription sign-ups are a breeze, the family plan upgrade will require you to sign in through an Apple device.
Apple Music for Android is in beta
Apple has released the Music app for Android with the beta tag. This means it is still an unfinished product, and work is in progress to iron out the bugs and add new features. We did not really encounter any usability issues, but there were a couple of instances when a music track would not start streaming the first time and we had to select it again.