Do You Google Play?
Users of Gmail, iGoogle, Google Voice, and the like may be familiar with Google Play, but as with the rollout of most Google offerings, this one has been flying under the radar. For the uninformed, it’s Google’s answer to competitors like Apple’s iTunes, iBooks and App Store, and Amazon’s catalog of videos, TV, music, books, apps and more. In this post, I’lll cover some pros and cons.
Simplicity = Accessibility
I was pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of Google Play. I think iTunes is the defacto “media outlet” these days, but there is so much content there that it’s easy to get lost. Google has done a nice job of keeping their offerings simple and easy to navigate with quick choices like; My Music, My Books, My Movies and My Android Apps, making it is very easy to dive in.
Going mobile with Google Play is challenging since there are different options for consuming the content of choice, depending on what type of media you want. For My Movies, you can watch via the Chrome browser or a downloadable Android app. My Books offers choices for reading with a browser, an iPhone, iPad or Android app. My Music can be accessed via the browser or by downloading Music Manager. It would be nice to have one user experience rule them all, regardless of device, similar to what Apple has done. My guess is we will see that level of accessibility grow as their store matures.
There are a few other kinks keep the user experience from being fully baked. For example, if you go to My Books while listening to music, the audio stops. I think it would be a big win to allow the music to keep playing in a dedicated player while the user is browsing other parts of the store. The Google Play home icon doesn’t actually take you to Google Play home page from every page. For example, when on the My Music page, it just seems to refresh that page. This is a small annoyance, but a low-hanging usability issue that, when fixed, would make a much nicer experience for the less-savvy user.
Missed Opportunity for Google?
Google Play doesn’t go so far as to offer TV shows like iTunes does, giving Apple the advantage by capturing engaged users who want to keep up with serial television episodes. Not getting that repeat business is a loss for Google.
Another area of missed opportunity is not offering discounts for users who “+1” purchases to their Google+ accounts. This seems like an obvious way to leverage their existing social network, and an area that both Facebook and iTunes have had no success in because they don’t “own” both sides of the equation. Google has the unique opportunity to deliver an instant, seamless audio/video social experience from sharing to purchasing. Spotify has come the closest in this regard but that’s just audio. In the flip side, the social gap may be that not everyone wants to share what they watch and listen to. People don’t refer to watching trash tv as a guilty pleasure for nothing!
Overall, Google has done a solid job of creating enough offerings to get users interested in shopping for media content on their site, including offering both affordable and the more-pricey content. If they could find a way to leverage Google +, this could really be groundbreaking.