If you ask most people to name a music service they will answer Spotify, Apple Music or Google but most people (unless you are a Microsoft watcher) won’t name Microsoft Groove. Despite it not being the first name on people’s list it is actually a pretty good service. It has cross platform clients, a music subscription plan and the ability to upload your own music to OneDrive and stream it from the cloud.
In the last twelve months the Windows 10 Groove app has become a really good music player with personalised playlists, on and offline playback, music pass and OneDrive streaming. The Windows 10 version is great on PC and Windows 10 Mobile, it works well with Continuum and will soon be the music app on the Xbox One. All this is great and should mean that Microsoft have a viable competitor to Google, Apple and Spotify but there is one problem and that is the Android & iOS versions.
When it comes to cross platform services Microsoft are normally really good at supporting iOS and Android. Office, Microsoft Health, Skype, Outlook and many more apps are available on iOS and Android as well as Microsoft’s own platforms and in some cases they are better than the Windows version. This is totally understandable given the market share of mobile OS market but for some reason Groove is woefully inadequate on iOS and Android and when it comes to music most people want to have their music available on mobile and PC.
The poor experience on iPhones and Android phones means that Groove is not up to the job as a cross platform music service. If you go to Microsoft’s own forum you can see many Groove fans ditching the service due to the poor experiences on Android and iOS and let’s face it there are more people using Windows 10 and Android than there are Windows 10 with Windows 10 Mobile.
Even without any issues you have a tough sell for Android users going against Google Play Music and iOS users going up against Apple Music but constant crashing and signing in problems leave the user really frustrated.
So what is wrong with the Android and iOS apps? First there is the UI. The Windows version has a nice clean UI and is really easy to use and navigate around. Whereas the Android and iOS versions are cluttered and make poor use of the available screen. In fact the iOS version is iPhone only and you either have to run it in x2 mode or have a tiny window in the middle of the screen, I can imagine it looking really poor on an iPad Pro.
The other problem is the various bugs in the app. It randomly crashes when listening to music and constantly always asking me to sign in before I can play music. It has troubling syncing collections and offline playback doesn’t always work. The forums are littered with people have crashing issues so I know it is not just me. Once you have been using it for a few days the app gets extremely frustrating and soon has you reaching for an alternative app.
The other problem is that the apps are really basic, they doesn’t support the new “You Groove” machine learned playlists or any of the radio stations that Google Play Music offers. It doesn’t have the explore section of the Windows app which you can use to browse music from the Groove collection based on music types or music activities. In other words a very basic app that iOS and Android users are not going to put up with.
Microsoft can easily fix the situation doing what they have done with their other apps, just make the iOS and Android apps as good as the Windows 10 versions. Look at the Microsoft Health apps, they are identical versions across all the platforms. Look at Word, Excel and Outlook as well, it shows Microsoft can do make great cross platforms apps. Maybe an update is in development, the current apps haven’t been touched for months so it could be a matter of time. If the apps are updated then I would stick with Groove, if not then I would look at Google Play Music which is great on mobile but not so good on Windows.
If Microsoft are serious about Groove Music then the update has to happen or Groove will continue to be an also ran when it comes to music services.
Ian Dixon is a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), founder of TheDigitalLifestyle.com tech site and producer of the weekly The Digital Lifestyle Show podcast. Ian has been writing and talking about Windows for over 10 years and has over 20 years in IT as an IT Manager. Ian has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook and over 4 million views on his YouTube channel.