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Are Google’s First-Party Play Apps Any Good?

Google makes a lot of apps. Some are lesser-known, but many come pre-installed on Android devices, like the Play apps that recently got a nice unified redesign. These include Music, Books, Movies & TV, Games, and Newsstand.

But are these apps actually worth using, or should you delete them and never look back? Let’s take a look at them one by one to decide — because these are some very different apps.

Google Play Music

If there’s only one app on this list you genuinely try out, it should be this one. Google Play Music is easily the strongest app here, offering you a fantastic way to listen to all of your music and find new bands and artists.

First let’s explore the free capabilities of the app before diving into the subscription-based side. Think of it like a web-based iTunes — instead of all of your music being on your computer, all your music is stored in the cloud. You can then listen to it from anywhere you have Internet access and download it to any of your devices to play offline.

The biggest advantage of this is that your music is constantly backed up. If you fall into a pool with your phone in your pocket and your laptop in your arms (highly not recommended), all of your music lives on in the cloud.

You can upload up to 50,000 of your own songs, which for most people easily encompasses their entire collection. For the rest of you, maybe it’s time to clean up your collection to under 50,000 songs?

On top of all that, the Play Music app for Android is gorgeous and fluid, easily besting other music apps for Android. Navigation is simple, and all the functions you could possibly need are there. Google even recently added Podcast support.

If you’re willing to fork over $10 a month for YouTube Red, you get access to even more music. Google Play Music can then function like Spotify, allowing you to find any song in Google’s library and play it instantly. You can set up custom radio stations to discover new music similar to your tastes and, of course, there are no adverts.

Plus, with a YouTube Red subscription, you get access to ad-free YouTube and original YouTube programming, but that’s just icing on the cake at this point.

So is Play Music worth a look? Absolutely. Whether you use the free version as an iTunes replacement or the paid version as a Spotify replacement, it’s easily the best way to consume music on Android.

Download/Visit: Google Play Music (Free) on the web, for Chrome, for Android, and for iOS

Google Play Books

Alright, here’s where things start to get a little rocky, because Google has some major competition in this department, notably Amazon.

Amazon’s Kindle eReaders are fantastic and have helped Amazon’s eBook store has positioned itself as the one to beat. You can even get some free books by signing up for Amazon Prime. That makes Amazon’s Kindle app for Android an incredibly attractive proposal, and it means that Play Books has to differentiate itself somehow.

The major difference you’ll find in Google’s app is the ability to read ePub files (the universal standard for eBooks, which Amazon forgoes in favor of a proprietary file type). This means you can get your own DRM-free eBooks from any number of sources and read them using the Play Books apps — which is impossible on the Kindle app.

Otherwise, there’s nothing extraordinary about Play Books. It offers a clean ad-free eReading experience, and the selection of books in the Play Store isn’t terrible.

Whether you should use Play Books or not really comes down to how invested you are in the Amazon ecosystem. If you have a Kindle or a Prime subscription and would prefer to keep it that way, then Play Books is largely useless. But, if you have no interest in that and would prefer to have the ability to read DRM-free eBooks, then Play Books does make for a solid eReading app.

Download/Visit: Google Play Books (Free) on the web, for Chrome, for Android, and for iOS

Google Play Movies & TV

So you’ve ditched iTunes for Google Play Music, but now you’ve realized you want to download a new movie to watch. What service is supposed to replace that? Say hello to Play Movies & TV.

For a lot of folks, it’s hard to justify flat-out buying movies or TV shows in the age of Netflix and Hulu, but others just want to really own a copy of something rather than relying on a subscription. Since Netflix and Hulu tend to get movies later, purchasing or renting on Play Movies & TV can be a good way to stay on top of the newest releases without having to purchase a DVD like some kind of neanderthal.

New releases for movies tend to cost about $15 for an HD copy, and you can often (but not always) rent them for $3 to $5. New releases for TV shows are usually around $2, while prices for seasons can vary wildly and rarely you can find some episodes for free.

Obviously, being a Google product, Movies & TV supports streaming to Chromecast so you can have a real movie night in front of the TV rather than hunched over your smartphone. The biggest downside is a lack of any subscription model, so you’re going to be paying per episode, season, or movie. That certainly feels dated nowadays, but if that works for you, give Play Movies & TV a shot.

Download/Visit: Google Play Movies & TV (Free) on the web, for Chrome, for Android, and for iOS

Google Play Games

Google Play Games is a bit of a different beast. It’s basically a portal to all your Android games, giving you a nice interface to browse through them, see how your scores compare to your friends, and earn XP and unlock achievements for your games.

This adds a nice level of gamification to everything, allowing you to track your level and get competitive. Some games in the Play Store actually require Play Games to function properly, so you might be prompted to download it anyway at some point.

Additionally, you can record your screen using the app, which is a nice little bonus.

If you’re a mobile gamer, there’s really no reason not to download Play Games. It has no real competition and it only serves to enhance your gaming experience.

Download: Google Play Games (Free) for Android

Google Play Newsstand

Want to catch up on the news without switching between a bunch of different apps or websites? Want to read through your digital magazine subscriptions? Then you want to use Play Newsstand.

Play Newsstand is essentially the successor to both Play Magazines and Currents. It allows you to read through any of your magazines purchased on the Play Store, and it also works as a news reader app for browsing through websites like The New York Times, The Verge, and lots more.

There are other magazine and news reader apps out there, but as usual, Google does a good job of simplifying the experience and bringing it all together in one app.

Download/Visit: Google Play Newsstand (Free) on the web, for Android

What Do You Think?

Obviously, if you’re trying to avoid giving information to Google, these are apps to avoid — but if you’re on good terms with our almighty Google overlords, then these really might be worth a look. For the most part, they’re actually very useful apps.

What do you think of Google’s different Play apps? Which ones do you use on the regular? What improvements do you think need to be made? Let us know down in the comments!

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