Google Play Music offers personalized playlists based on location, weather

pandora premium news headphones woman listening to music spotify apple cur groove play google
When it comes to figuring out a way to stream your favorite artists and albums, there’s no shortage of options from which to choose. Apple offers Apple Music. Amazon has Prime Music. And if those don’t suit your fancy, there’s Spotify, and Pandora, and Tidal. And those only scratch the surface. Collectively, subscription streaming services made $1.6 billion this year, and are poised to boost music retail sales for the second straight year. It’s no surprise, then, that Google, which launched the eponymous Google Play Music service in 2011, is in it for the long haul.

The Mountain View, California-based company conveyed as much on Monday with the launch of a redesigned Google Play Music for iOS and Android. It’s colorful, responsive, and a lot more intuitive than the outgoing version, but also imbued with predictive smarts: the ability to serve up songs, albums, and playlists appropriate for a context.

It does so by leveraging machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence that allows software like Google Play Music to learn without being explicitly programmed. The new app takes into account factors like location, time of day, and weather to suggest offerings from Google Play’s catalog of more than 30 million songs. Pregaming at your apartment on a Saturday evening? You’ll get upbeat, energetic playlist of top pop hits. Putting in hours on a Monday afternoon? You’ll see suggestions of a mellower variety — classical, or perhaps jazz.

Google Play Music isn’t the first of Google’s services to benefit from its AI smarts. Earlier this year, the company rolled out a Gmail feature that automatically filters spam mail and suggests replies. A few months after, the company debuted DeepDream, a neural network with the uncanny ability to detect faces and patterns in images. And in September, machine learning algorithms began powering the translation of Mandarin Chinese in Google Translate

Google Play Music’s AI plays a simpler, but no less impressive, role: learning your musical tastes by tapping your Google searches, YouTube viewing history, Google Maps usage, Gmail inbox, and Google Calendar appointments. Open the Google Play Music app while you’re at the gym and you’ll see your preferred hip-hop and heavy metal motivators. Head to the airport after and it’ll swap out those playlists for more soothing sounds.

pixels-width-2000

They’re sourced from Songza, a New York City-based music curation company that Google acquired in July 2014. Google Play Music’s long offered the startup’s collections through the app and on the web, but previously, they weren’t easy to find — they appeared somewhat infrequently during major holidays, certain days of the week, and in manual searches. Now, your behavior dictates which you’ll see.

The playlists populate the revamped app’s home screen in the form of scrollable cards, each accompanied by an explanation as to why the app made the respective selection. It’s the realization of what Elliot Breece, co-founder of Songza and a lead product manager on Google Play Music, called an artificially intelligent “personal DJ”: someone who “follows you around and knows exactly what you want to hear.”

The approach couldn’t be more different from Spotify, Google Play Music’s largest competitor by subscribers. The service’s Discover Weekly and Release Radar features generate a collection of tunes tailored to individual tastes, but ones that emphasize new music over personalization. They lack the treasure trove of insight to which Google’s privy — a differentiator that will serve the search giant well in an increasingly competitive field. This year, the number of paying Spotify grew to 40 million paying subscribers, up from 30 million in March. Apple Music, for its part, boasts 30 million subscribers.

AI-powered playlists aren’t the only new feature Google Play Music’s gained in recent years. In 2015, Google launched YouTube Red, a free benefit for subscribers that provides advertising-free access to streaming music videos on YouTube. And in December 2015, it began offering a family plan, which allows unlimited access for up to six family members.

But it remains to be seen if feature richness trumps exclusives. Apple, Tidal, Spotify, and others have increasingly partnered with artists, among them Frank Ocean and Rihanna, to nab exclusive albums and signals on their respective platforms. And those arrangements have worked wonders: in the 24 hours following Tidal’s release of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, more than a million new users joined the streaming service.

Download for iOS Download for Android

Wearables

Garmin’s Vivoactive 3 Music adds Spotify support for tunes while you tone

After releasing Spotify for the Fenix 5 Plus series and Forerunner 645 Music last year, Garmin made good on its promise to bring the music streaming service to its Vivoactive 3 Music fitness watch.
Home Theater

Here's a handy guide to mirroring your favorite devices to your TV screen

A vast arsenal of devices exists to allow sending anything on your mobile device (or PC) to your TV. Our in-depth guide shows you how to mirror content from your smartphone or tablet to the big screen.
Home Theater

Make the most out of your new Apple TV with these must-have apps

If you're looking to turn your fourth-generation Apple TV or Apple TV 4K into an all-in-one entertainment powerhouse, we can help you get started with this list of the best Apple TV apps you can download.
Music

The best new music this week: Robert Ellis, Golden Daze, and more

Looking for the best new music? Each week, we find the most compelling new releases just for you. This week: Brand-new music from Robert Ellis, Broken Social Scene, and Golden Daze.
Mobile

Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e in the U.K.

The Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e have all been officially announced and can be pre-ordered right now, with deliveries expected on March 8. If you're in the U.K., this is where you need to go to buy one.
Mobile

Sony partnership with Light aims to take smartphone photography to new heights

Smartphone photography is in its ascendancy, and a new partnership between Light and Sony hopes to lift it to new heights through the development of multi-image sensor solutions for smartphones. We spoke to Light to find out more.
Mobile

Samsung says it has set new standard for mobile tech with the 2019 Galaxy range

Samsung launched a host of new products on February 20, with prices ranging from just $35, all the way up to nearly $2,000. This was not by chance, and the company believes it has something for everyone in 2019.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Google Pixel 3: Can Samsung beat the stock Android king?

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is here, offering modern specs, a beautifully high-resolution display, and an edge-to-edge design with a small cutout in the display for the front-facing camera. But can the phone take out the Google Pixel 3?
Deals

Protect your iPhone or iPad with the IPVanish VPN, on sale through February

One of our favorite virtual private networks for iPhones and iPads, IPVanish, is now offering a huge discount on its two-year subscription as part of its 7th-birthday promotion. Read on to find out more about how this VPN works and how you…
Mobile

Verizon is launching real standards-based 5G in 30 cities in 2019

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.
Deals

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. OnePlus 6T: Can the Flagship Killer survive?

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the new affordable flagship on the block, but at $750, it's $200 more than the OnePlus 6T. Does the Flagship Killer stand a chance against the new generation of flagship devices? Let's take a closer look.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for February 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Product Review

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are a brilliant combination of value and comfort

With six hours of battery life, an extremely comfortable fit, sweatproofing, and a very palatable price tag, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are putting all other true wireless earbuds on notice.