Google Play Music Has Already Failed on iOS

Last week, Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) launched its Google Play Music app on iOS, bringing yet another mobile music streaming service to Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) mobile devices. Google Play Music on iOS is late to the party, hardly a competitor to the likes of Pandora (NYSE: P  ) , and doesn't have the music chops Apple enjoys.


Google Play on iOS. Source: Apple.

A day late and a download short
It's obvious that Google is late to iOS' music streaming space, considering that Apple itself showed up late when it launched iTunes Radio back in September. At least Apple has been firmly embedded in the music space for years and the company knows how to make great native apps on its mobile platform. These two things have helped iTunes Radio to at least make a dent in mobile music streaming.

iPhone screenshot.

A month after its launch, Apple said 20 million people had tried iTunes Radio and more than 1 billion songs had been streamed. But despite those high numbers, reports show that iOS users still prefer Pandora over Apple's service. Investment Bank Canaccord Genuity put out a report last month showing that 92% of iTunes Radio listeners still use Pandora, mainly because iTunes Radio has "poorer automated song collection." While iTunes Radio may have brought down Pandora's active listeners a bit in October, Pandora's monthly listening hours and overall U.S. radio market share grew from 7.77% to 8.06% since iTunes Radio launched.

Aside from Apple's skill at launching services its own devices and Pandora still being a go-to service for iOS users, Google also shot itself in the foot in two big ways: There's no mobile sign up in the app and no in-app song purchases.

The Verge reported last week that Google didn't want to negotiate with Apple for in-app purchases, which means users can't buy songs from inside the app. iTunes Radio obviously has this feature, as do iOS Pandora users.

But another potential hurdle to Google's music service is the fact that iOS users can't sign up for it from their iPhone. After downloading the app, users can sign in through their Google account and are then taken to screen that tells them they need a Google Play Music account and provides a web address that can't be clicked on or copied and pasted from the phone.

This may seem like a simple problem, but consider that Microsoft just added Facebook Login to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 because they said that one of users' biggest hurdles in trying a new app is "getting past an identity screen." The login issue is likely another way Google is trying to skirt having any in-app purchase ties with Apple, but it's likely to hurt potential signups.

Foolish final thoughts
Pandora investors are obviously the ones who have the most at stake here, and so far things have been going their way. Even after a highly publicized iTunes Radio launch, Pandora is still growing and -- at least for now -- seems to have a superior service. Google Play Music on iOS seems more like a halfhearted attempt to keep up with what everyone else is doing.

One nice feature that Google Play Music has is that users can add 20,000 of their own songs to the service for free, but aside from that, there isn't much that would lure iOS users away from iTunes Radio or Pandora. While Pandora investors don't have much to be worried about with Google Play Music on iOS, they should keep an eye on any more gains iTunes Radio makes, as well as updates that will make Apple's service better.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2013, at 10:38 AM, twolf2919 wrote:

    "But despite those high numbers, reports show that iOS users still prefer Pandora over Apple's service" - the article lists only *one* report - by an Investment Bank, who we know are experts in music?

    I think Pandora is retaining users mainly because of momentum. Streaming services are pretty similar (I use both Pandora and iTunes Radio and can't tell the difference in "music selection") and Pandora has the first-mover advantage. People have created their favorite stations on Pandora (my daughter has several dozen stations!) and don't have much motivation to recreate all those stations on another service. The only thing iTunes Radio has going for it - beyond what Pandora has - is the ability to buy songs with a single click....but that's simply not that big a deal.

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2013, at 3:08 PM, NeuroProf wrote:

    Apple should buy Pandora...It would be a great fit in a company with amazing music perspective and would half to lure more folks into the Apple universe. Pandora has the "love" factor that Apple products have...Bring em in...

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2013, at 4:29 PM, Gato337 wrote:

    Honestly, I don't believe the in-app purchase of songs will be very crucial to the adoption/success of this music streaming app (except perhaps generating a bit of extra revenue once it is established in the radio market). I have used Pandora for 4 years now and I have never bought a song through their app. As a millennial, I tend to consume my music media for free whenever possible (youtube, pandora, spotify, FM radio), and spend my money on concerts and festivals to support my favorite artists. I rarely purchase music anymore, and when I DO buy music, it's generally obscure genres of music that I cannot easily find on Pandora or on other streaming/radio platforms. I think the most important disadvantage Google Play has going against it is the sign-up page debacle. Not being able to create an account from within the app would be a very serious barrier to adoption for me, personally. I would just get annoyed and delete the app because it's too much effort to set-up and try the service when my pandora account is already set up and ready to go. What is google play going to give me that pandora won't? Again, I don't buy music, so the privilege of adding up to 20,000 of my own songs to the play list doesn't produce much added value for me. Google, I'm not impressed.

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