Feature updates include a redesigned interface, curated podcast feeds, and offline playback for all users
In the dynamic world of music streaming services, other platforms are often judged against the long-established standard set by Spotify. Spotify had a 30% market share in 2022, leaving rivals Apple Music and YouTube Music in the dust with 15% and 9%, respectively. The battle is still far from finished, though, as YouTube Music keeps working to close the gap and provide users with a more complete media platform.
YouTube Music has added a 'Dismiss queue' option in response to user feedback
YouTube Music's most recent update has gotten a lot of heat, mainly because of changes to the mini player that appears when you collapse the Now Playing UI. Users lost the ability to dismiss the mini player through a swipe down gesture — a popular function, as it was the only way to quickly clear the current queue aside from starting a new playlist. Thankfully, another update has provided a solution, but it isn't as convenient as a swipe.
Prepare to see comments on songs and podcasts
YouTube has been strong in its rivalry with Spotify and other popular entertainment apps like Apple Music and Deezer. However, Google still seems to be searching for an advantage, trying new features like podcasts on YouTube Music in hopes of standing out from the crowd. Learning from the main YouTube platform, YouTube Music now seems ready to introduce a social element to the user experience. It is a unique addition, but we have our doubts about its usefulness.
Going against user feedback could detrimental
It may be tough to maintain a YouTube Music subscription in Spotify times, but of late, the former has picked up several desirable improvements like a new web UI and a feature that remembers the last playlist you were grooving to. However, YouTube Music has now rolled out a couple of changes to the mini player that appears at the bottom of the UI. It simplifies casting to a nearby device and going to a previous track, but there are a boatload of demerits users aren’t happy about.
YouTube Music will remember your last used playlist
YouTube Music and its more popular sibling YouTube are intertwined in more ways than one. You can get access to the premium tier of both services with a single subscription, your playlists are shared across the two platforms, and you can even add YouTube videos to your YTM playlists. Bringing the two services closer together, YouTube Music is now picking up a playlist management feature that has been available on YouTube for a while.
What switching means giving up, and what you get out of it
Spotify has been the de facto music streaming service against which we compare all others for years now. Sure, there are plenty of competing services, of course, but none of them are anywhere close to being as successful as Spotify: In 2022, Spotify had a 30% market share for music streaming, with Apple Music in second place with 15%, and YouTube Music in fifth at 9%. Despite that well-earned popularity, back in February I decided to switch to YouTube Music. Why would I put myself through that?
It’s not the music — Google takes issue with some violent album covers
YouTube is taking an ever-more aggressive approach on explicit content, quickly demonetizing videos with too many swear words and ruthlessly deleting sexually explicit ones. It’s understandable on a platform that needs to have good relationships with advertisers and that wants to have a family-friendly image. However, sometimes policies like this simply aren’t well thought out. Case in point, YouTube Music has a disruptive viewer discretion warning for album covers, and then not even all problematic ones.
A new sidebar makes better use of space and puts search front and center, like on regular YouTube
YouTube Music was met with a lot of criticism when it was first positioned as a Google Play Music replacement, but the company managed to make the new music player better with every update. The latest tweak to YouTube Music on the web offers a throwback to Play Music by adding a new sidebar for navigation and quick access to all your playlists.
The new button arrangement is only available to a select few listeners
YouTube Music may enjoy fewer subscribers than Spotify or Apple Music, but the service has come a long way since absorbing Play Music in late 2020. The music streaming app has picked up a few features in the recent past, with Apple announcing full compatibility for the service on its HomePod speakers not too long ago, while dedicated apps for the Apple TV and Garmin smartwatches are also said to be in the works. The Google-run service is now reportedly testing a new playback UI for its Android app, which rearranges all song-related actions into a carousel.
PS5 and Xbox users are still out of luck, however
For years, YouTube Music has been trying to position itself as a viable competitor to the most popular streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. While it's taken a few pages out of other streamers' books like album recommendations and showing song play counts, its lack of availability on numerous devices made it hard to recommend to people who love Spotify's ability to seamlessly switch between listening platforms. It seems like YouTube is realizing it needs to be accessible on more devices, as the app could see a major expansion in the near future.
Siri support for AirPlay is coming to YouTube Music
Apple's WWDC event kicked off yesterday. The majority of the keynote event was, of course, news for Apple's core audience, including details about new Mac hardware and the hotly anticipated (and wildly expensive) Apple Vision Pro mixed reality headset. But tucked away in the corner of a single slide was a little morsel of good news for YouTube Music subscribers: as spotted by an eagle-eyed Redditor, Google's music streaming service is picking up support for Siri playback on HomePod speakers.
Start playback with your voice, then control it with your phone
You can't make a new feature for a streaming music app without addressing the 500-million-subscriber elephant in the room: Spotify sets the tone for the industry, and rightfully so. A laundry list of useful functionality like Spotify Connect, which lets you seamlessly control playback as you transition from one device to another, has other apps perpetually playing catch-up. YouTube Music has been hard at work on this front, and is now testing a way to make Google Cast devices like the Nest Audio easier to control.
Catching up with Spotify one feature at a time
It may not be the absolute best music streaming service in everyone's eyes, but you can't argue that YouTube Music has come a long way since its inception. Google has been hard at work trying to keep up with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, adding useful new features like real-time lyrics and full song credits in recent months. Now, one hotly requested feature is finally making its way to YouTube Music: play counts.
YouTube Shorts could come to the music streaming app in some form
Recent trends in social media have resulted in apps copying different features from their competitors. YouTube made an unsurprising attempt to recreate the viral success of TikTok with the launch of Shorts in 2021, adding to the slew of TikTok clones that had cropped up in the United States over the past few years. Last March, Spotify redesigned its app with a TikTok-inspired feed for discovering new songs and artists. The vertical video feed format could soon spread to YouTube Music, if a recently discovered experiment is any indication.
Just in case you didn't know Soft Cell's 'Tainted Love' wasn't an original
The YouTube Music experience hasn't always been the smoothest, but some of its latest updates make it more enjoyable. It recently caught up to other streamers when it added real-time lyrics for certain songs, but now it looks like it could be adding a feature that the rest don't have. You could soon be able to learn if a song is a cover without having to dive deep into the credits.
It's time to listen to something new
It's clear that YouTube Music is trying to reach more people with its recent influx of updates. Earlier this month, the streaming service removed the skip button on its mini-player in favor of casting and a new swipe gesture, and now it wants to help expand your tastes with recommended albums.
The streamer will replace the skip button with a cast button
Since its launch, YouTube Music has been playing a lot of catch-up with its competitors. Companies like Spotify and Apple Music have had features like listening stats and real-time lyrics for quite some time now but Google's streaming service has only added those this year. As YouTube Music continues to mature, it's adding a new way to skip a song in its mini-player.
Still no word on when podcasts will appear for non-US residents, though
Google's YouTube Music is constantly adding new features to its toolkit in a bid to take on giants like Spotify. One of the biggest additions to the platform in recent times is podcasts, with the head of YouTube's podcasts division, Kai Chuk, confirming the arrival of podcasts on the streaming service back in late February. While podcasts started appearing for some users in the subsequent months, the YouTube Music team is only now announcing a wider rollout of podcasts on the app for customers in the US.
Design experiment or gradual rollout, we aren’t sure yet
YouTube Music is Google’s Spotify rival, vying for a spot among the best entertainment apps around. The app’s content library remains reliant on the main YouTube app, but Google makes every effort to keep it up to date with new features and visual enhancements. One such change, a transition to a grid layout from lists in the Library tab, seems to have graduated to the testing phase before making its way to YouTube Music users.
There is a fun Google Photos integration as well
Following in the footsteps of Spotify Wrapped, YouTube Music started its own annual tradition of releasing personalized recaps for users to look at their past year’s music journey. These recaps have become a cultural event, allowing people to reminisce about their music preferences and share them with their friends on social media. But YouTube Music wants you to do that every few months with its seasonal recaps, and its latest Winter Recap 2023 has arrived.