Google is replacing its Play Music service as the pre-installed music app with YouTube Music with the launch of Android 10. That's based on a recently-spotted change in the agreement between OEMs and the search giant, indicating that new devices will need to have the app installed by default.
The requirement doesn't just apply to Android 10 devices either. Manufacturers will need to include the app on all "new" devices, whether they're running Android 9 Pie or Android 10. The upcoming "Pixel series" devices are also implicated as handsets that will lead that charge.
New features will be arriving alongside the change too. The announcement hints that "OS-level functionality" is being brought to the app. That specifically includes “suggested actions in Smart Reply, improved Digital Wellbeing tools, Dark theme," and more. So the music service appears to be directly integrating at the system level to some degree from this point forward. That might explain why it needs to be installed by default.
Is YouTube Music really ready to replace Play in Android 10?
That Google is getting YouTube Music ready to replace Google Play Music isn't a surprise. The company has been talking about doing just that for quite some time. But there has been widespread doubt about whether or not it's up to the task since that was revealed. As recently as last year, Google itself was reportedly in doubt about the prospect.
While Google's motives regarding app replacements are often inscrutable, the reasoning for this one is easy to understand. The search giant is summarily working to consolidate all of its media offerings under the YouTube branding. The move will help define "Google" more clearly as a search and AI-based information-surfacing company. Meanwhile, the company's other brands will continue to do their respective things.
YouTube Music itself has grown significantly in the interim. For instance, the app can now play music offline from local files. Google has just a few features left to add if it wants to bring it into parity with Google Play Music. So, although users are undoubtedly going to be dubious about shifting to the new app, the overall experience between apps shouldn't be too different.
You can still install Google Play Music, for now
None of that is to say that Google Play Music is going away permanently. At least not yet. Google indicates that the app will still be available for download from the Google Play Store. Once signed in, all of the previously created playlists, song libraries, and other elements will be available as before.
The change is coming explicitly to devices that arrive with the above-mentioned firmware out-of-the-box. So users who update won't need to worry about their favorite music app disappearing upon installing the new firmware. For now, Google Play Music is sticking around. Google hasn't given any indication as to where the cut-off is for devices that have already been announced. So the switch-up will likely only apply to devices that haven't been unveiled yet.
The decision to keep the Play-branded app in the market and available likely comes back to giving users time to make the transition. Users are probably more likely to give it a chance too if it's pre-installed.
Conversely, some features still appear to be absent from YouTube Music that will need to be added. That's if Google plans to replace Google Play Music completely.
The biggest of those is the music backing-up and cloud storage features found in Google Play Music. With a desktop app, the feature automatically uploads music saved on a computer — when it's saved to the computer, as long as a connection is available. The app loads those to the cloud for playback via the app or the Play Music web service.
Whether or not Google is prepared with that and other features soon enough to convince users remains to be seen.