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Google Music All Access Can Eat Data Like No Other, Be Careful Tiered Data Folks

google music vs spotify

One of the biggest announcements to come out of Google I/O last week was Google’s new streaming music service called Google Play Music All Access. It’s like Spotify meets Pandora, in that you can check out any album at any time, play them as many times as you’d like, or use them to create special radio stations. It works on both mobile and desktop and is currently available as a free trial, but will jump up to a monthly subscription service once the trial ends. You can sign-up before the end of June and lock in for $7.99 per month, however, the price will go up to $9.99 on July 1. It’s pretty awesome, though, that’s for sure.

But for many of you who are considering a move to All Access from something like Spotify, there is something you should consider should you have had the unfortunate pleasure of moving to a tiered data plan with your wireless carrier (shared data plans included). All Access lacks any sort of control over the quality of the music that is streaming through your device, meaning it can eat up data in minutes. 

Take the screenshot above as a great example. The left shot shows a test that a reader of ours conducted over WiFi using the default settings for both All Access and Spotify. He played the exact same album all the way through, which resulted in Google Play Music using up four times the amount of data as the same album played via Spotify. That’s pretty significant, especially with data caps as low as they are today. The screenshot on the right shows All Access after the same album with default settings, while Spotify has been turned up to its highest quality setting. In this case, you can see that both consumed about the same amount of data.


So here is the problem – Google Music only has one setting for quality adjustment. If you go into the app’s settings, you’ll see an option to force it to “Stream at highest quality only.” But that’s it, there is no way to turn it down a notch to help save you data. Google Music streams music based on your connection speed, so assuming you have a decent phone and live in an area covered by a solid 4G LTE network, (in theory) you will always stream the highest quality (320 kbps). You can’t tell it to not stream at high-quality, or to use a low quality stream instead. It all depends on how your network connection is.

In Spotify, you have options to turn music quality to “Low bandwidth” (96 kbps), “High quality” (160 kbps), and “Extreme quality” (320 kbps). We would love to see Google change Google Music to include additional quality settings, especially when they want you to buy into their new streaming service and in a time when carriers are forcing you into tiered data, but the settings have been this way since it was first introduced.

While we’re huge fans of All Access, be aware that it can gobble up data without you even realizing it.

Cheers Bret and Chris!

  • Paul Blah

    Can you download music to your phone like with Rhapsody?

  • BR

    A little off topic here but has anyone had a problem with Google Music with regards to syncing issues with the comp that you have used to upload music after re-installing the OS? I had to re-install Win 7 for various reasons and now when I try and load G Music it wants to upload all my songs again that have already been uploaded, essentially duplicating them. I also tried downloading my library from Google to see if that would be synced but that still isn’t the case so I’m not sure other than deleting my entire Google Music Library and starting over (Losing playlists etc) is there a way to fix this? Any help would be most appreciated.

  • dgarra

    It isn’t Spotify meets Pandora. Spotify has let you create “radio” stations for a long time now.

  • deathtolossyfiles

    YES!!! Finally!!! My hope is that someday you will not have the option of streaming mp3’s or lossy files at all! Here’s to high quality music! Cheers Google!

  • Solomon Chiropractic

    Will Google’s new (still beta) data compression change this?

  • LionStone

    Eh, I still have Unlimited data but I’m gonna stick with Pandora One and I mix it up with free version of Slacker 🙂

  • I’m actually quite surprised Google doesn’t allow you to manually select your desired streaming quality. Thankfully I caught the data usage before it got too bad — used 400MB from All Access in a mere half an hour.

  • juancarlos ramirez

    do I get to download all the music I want? or is it only for streaming?

  • uncle paul

    Verizon Unlimited Data = out of my cold dead hands!

  • Nathaniel Newman

    Google Play – All Access also EATS the BATTERY like no tomorrow! My Maxx HD ran down in less than 6 hours. Using a small bit of music. I’m making my favorites offline now. I urge the rest of you to do the same. Then even with data caps you can enjoy HQ audio. Just do the downloading in WiFi.

  • ElectroGadget

    I pay $30 a month for 20000 minutes, 20000 SMS’ , 20000 MMS’ and 1GB per month. Sure, the 1GB is nothing, but i’ll live! $40 and it’s unlimited. The US should get back on track and follow the rest of the world.

    Cheers, Europe! (you’re awesome!, your corporations are not!)

  • none

    I live in a 4g area and i cant stream from access it just is a none stop skip fest. I have to download all my music first. Its annoying. Love the service but not much of a streaming service at this point.

  • Casen Brashear

    I have used 4 GB from Play Music All Access. In a week. Not even listening to it that much… Good thing I still have Verizon unlimited 🙂


    The person that downvoted, is jelly.

  • Honestly I don’t even care about it using tens of GBs of data because All Access has been absolutely amazing and the interface looks absolutely spectacular!

  • Silver Veloz

    I’m still debating on this having unlimited data right now. I guess jump in with the trial period and see if I like it, then cancel, if I don’t I’m keeping up on all the posts here for pros and cons. Thanks for all the comments.

    • Everyone

      It’s pretty excellent so far. Been using it for a couple of days, and it’s like everything good about Pandora, but with unlimited plays for anything you want, unlimited skips, and no restrictions of any kind. I was skeptical at first as a Pandora devotee, but I might be sold on this – I seem to have gotten so used to being locked into a particular selection of songs and features, that the freedom given by Google Music is opening my eyes to a world of any song I want.

  • MKader17

    So this begs the question. Did this guy use high or low bandwidth on Spotify and GMusic. That should really be a part of the DL article overview.

  • a.d.AM

    Crushing data like WHOA. Cache over WiFi only is in the settings.

  • Tyler

    I don’t understand how so many of you need to stream so much media without a wifi connection…don’t you have wifi at work and home?

    • Finire

      I take a train for an hour and a half two times a day. There ya go.

    • TD


      • TD

        No wifi at work and music blocked anyways.

    • ilovetechnology

      I know in my case with a big employer they do not have wifi for employee personal use. Only those areas with a legitimate need get wifi, and only when using a company device. Sure would be nice though…

    • Stephen Cox

      Hour commute each way to work. Not many wifi hotspots blanketing the road…

  • Dylan Patel

    BTW, most of the data usage of Play music is the Cache ing of the songs.

  • gotta say that I love it, I have racked up 8gb of streaming since they rolled it out. Its nice to have unlimited data. Nex4 Tmo

  • I-Troll-U

    Between being on WiFi most of the time and pinning playlists to my device, I don’t use up much data at all.

  • ddevito

    3.2GB in the last week. LOL.

  • Justin Schmiesing

    lol! you don’t even know! The removed app was spotify

  • NeedUnlimited

    Can anyone verify if you’re on a family plan and couple lines have smartphones, when one line gets S4 by signing new contract, all lines are tiered? I’m trying to get my sister the S4 without losing all (especially my line) our lines with unlimited data. Thanks in advance!

    • Nathan Choler

      My wife got a new phone about 6 months ago. I put her on a 2 GB plan and kept my unlimited. You should be fine.

      • I second that. I transferred my upgrade (GS4) to my wife so she got the 2 GB plan and I kept unlimited.


    PFFF!!! That’s lightweight…. My Music and Youtube apps suck 10GB combined per month!

  • Brandon Golway

    108 MB psh! I only had used All Access for about 8 hours and was at 500 MB! Thank god for my Verizon unlimited data and soon to be unlimited T-Mobile data!

    • Bob G

      $35 a month plan?

  • Shaunwin

    Somewhat off topic question. I accidentally put an album into My Library that I don’t want. How do I delete albums from My Library in All Access?

    • YES, this please… I also accidentally played an album from the “featured” section that I had no desire to hear, and now I’m getting recommendations based on that.

    • I-Troll-U

      I think you have to do it from the browser interface.. I haven’t found a way yet to remove music via the mobile app 🙁

  • Kels Gz

    hooray for vzw S4 unlimited data plus tether

  • JaredHoney

    Guy at the verizon store got me a subsidized price on my GS4 and somehow keep my unlimited data because he thought it was “ridiculous I wanted to spend $700 on a phone”. Theyre not all evil!

    • John Davids

      How? Please tell me how. What did you say / do. What did he say / do.

      • UnlimitedOrGTFO

        Would also like more info…

        • terrorist96

          If you’re on a family plan and you use another family member’s upgrade for yourself, then you can keep your unlimited data; that’s what I did when I upgraded from the Incredible to my DNA.

          • Jazzy Josh

            You can also do this by adding a line and then switching the phone to your line. Additional cost per month: $10 for the voice line. Then you can reuse that line in 2 years to upgrade again.

          • Jazzy Josh

            Oh, if you want to tell the rep, this is usually referred to as an “Alternate Upgrade”

      • Nathan Choler

        Did the same thing Terrorist96 did. Thought I was losing my unlimited plan, but turned out I got to keep it. Super pumped.

    • Geoff Johnson

      Watch your plan over the next few months, it wouldn’t surprise me if they switched you anyways.

      • itznfb

        I switch phones a lot and this happened to me. I didn’t even buy phones from Verizon. I just got them on eBay and switched the phone myself. After so many switches it wouldn’t re-activate my line on the phone I was switching to… wouldn’t switch back either. I spent over a month without VZW service while I was fighting with them to get my line re-activated. No go. I ended up having to sign a new contract.

    • Dan

      Whaaaat. God damit i lost my unlimited plan cause I upgraded and didn’t really want to spend 700 on a phone -_-

  • joejoe5709

    Yeah. At first I LOOOOVED Google Play Music. Then my battery life tanked. Normally my drive to work with Pandora would take 10-15% of battery life. GP Music took more like 25-30%. Ouch. By the time I drive to work and back plus using my phone at work, my phone was dead by dinner. So I started using Pandora again. I got a text recently saying I was almost out of data – which I rarely hit. I attributed it to watching a few videos at a restaurant, but it could have partially been GP Music. Please fix this, Google!!

    • Stephen Cox

      Yeah I have been noticing this as well. I could take my Galaxy Note II off the charger in the morning, and by the time I went to bed (without any boosts through the day) it would be around 40 or 30%…. now it’s dying by the time I get home from work after streaming during the commute. Also I have had problems with it randomly skipping tracks, crapping out and needing restarted, etc. all in solid 4G. The service has some bugs to iron out still.

      Oh well, after the month is up, I’m going back to streaming off my microSD card… where did I put that 64GB I just bought?

  • jnehama

    Hasn’t anybody tried unchecking high quality stream only. Usually if you uncheck a setting you get the opposite choice. I’ll try streaming something with it on and off. I think it’s poorly executed but I think the choice is there.

    • bretjutras

      The first test was done with the high quality only unchecked. It will still give you high quality though because of the good connection speed.

  • Finire

    Commuting on the train every day has really started to eat up my data with Google All Access. But I really do like it.

    That, and I’m very glad to have my Verizon Unlimited data plan. If it ever goes away, I’m going away from Verizon. It’s really the only way I still put up with them.

  • Kenny Larson

    I am totally coughing up the $8/month for this. I’ve been using the free trial and loving it. As for the data issue…You can always pin music you like to your phone when you are on WiFi. I do wish they had settings that allows highest quality streaming while on wifi. A few more settings would be nice.

  • George Fayad

    So are the few of us who cache our playlists to our phones in the minority? My entire spotify library was cached to my phone and I’m doing the same with google music. I gotta say, it seems to make more sense for everyday use than relying on streaming.

  • cjohn4043

    Say The Same Thing also takes up a good bit of data for what the game actually is.

  • Caleb Martin

    Ditto. I’ve only been using my S4 since Wednesday evening (less than 2 days ago) and already used 1.22 GB (746 MB of that is Google Music D: ) and I plan on using much more.

    • michael arazan

      6 days of all access from 3o mins to 2 hrs at the most, downloading to my device mostly, 756 MB just with all access. With pandora I listen 2 hrs a day everyday for 1 month and use 2 gb.

      Also if you force close your music app to save data, it re-opnes itself with in 30 mins.

      • Caleb Martin

        Force closing the app doesn’t save any data… if it’s not playing music, it’s not using data.

    • I think it may be bugged as well. I used it on a 3 hour car drive where I had mostly 3G data, and it says it used over 48GB, which is impossible.

  • calum wilper

    about that not being able to control that music streaming quality…

    • Not sure what you are getting at, but yes, as we mentioned in the post, this is the only option. There needs to be options to lower the quality to save on data usage.

      • gorkon

        He’s got a point Kellex. What happens when you uncheck Stream at Highest Quality only???

        • JoeDirt2217

          I am assuming Kellex means that the results posted is without the high quality option unchecked and that the only option available is to select higher quality/more data, and not an option for less quality/lower date.

        • If you don’t check that, Google Music looks for your internet connection to determine quality. Since LTE is almost everywhere and we have great connections, it streams at the highest possible. You can’t tell it to not stream at high-quality.

          • gorkon

            Fair point….but you could get the same thing by just turning the 4G off right??

        • What Kellex is saying is that with “Stream at highest quality only” turned off, it still streams at highest quality if your connection is sufficiently fast. So there’s no way to keep your phone from defaulting to 320kbps streaming, even on mobile networks, unless your connection is slow.

          • gorkon

            Right and you missed my comment that I get that….

            I say again…can’t you just turn 4G off and get the lower quality because of the lower bit rate of 3G and that forces the stream to a lower level?

          • Raven

            Yes, but that is a pain and most people don’t even know how to do that on JellyBean. Going into that semi-hidden system menu is hard and scary for a lot of people.

          • Everyone

            Should in theory work, but yeah – that’s not a solution

      • calum wilper

        Whoops! My fault, my phone didn’t even load that! My bad!

      • hngz

        Deselecting highest quality is pretty much the same as selecting lower quality, isn’t it?

        • bretjutras

          No, deselecting it is basically setting it to auto. It will change the bit rate based on your connection speed. If you have a good 4g connection you will still get high quality.

          • Exactly.

          • gorkon

            I’ll say it again here….then you could turn off 4G…..just saying.

            It really should be in the app but you could use that as a workaround or only stream on wifi. After all, once you get it started on the car who cares if web pages or other things go slower.

          • Raven

            Again, ask or even try to explain to the average user how to shut off 4G and only use 3G on various different models of JellyBean phones. Very few people know how to do that on JellyBean phones, and fewer actually want to even when they do know how.

          • ^^ This guy and his 4+ replies saying the same damn thing…

  • JoshGroff

    I listen to music at work and home over WiFi, I never stream on my data plan. When I don’t have WiFi, I stick to the 6GB of music I have stored locally. (Mostly Dream Theater/Metallica/Mumford & Sons) Tiered data sucks, but it’s completely manageable if you don’t use it to stream media.

    • Jeff C

      Same here. The one exception would be when traveling long hours in the car, but I don’t do that often.

  • ezpotato

    i agree, my phone got hot and it took forever to do a few albums… and then i have to hit like 6 menus to try to get to my music and artists on offline music… which is why i’m sticking to rhapsody for now for streaming and new music!”

  • I third it and when it is gone I’m going somewhere else!

  • Chris

    How can one cancel the All Access subscription? Not seeing an option in my account.

    • ezpotato

      i did it on the web.

      or on the app, go to settings > cancel all access (updated app)

    • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

      It’s right there in the settings menu

  • I noticed this the Sunday after Google I/O. I had used it for like 2 or 3 days and had already gotten 1.3gb of usage, thank god I’m still on unlimited.

  • ezpotato

    yup. 350$ on CL for a phone, or 200 with an upgrade and lose your unlimited???? only an idiot would do that… oh wait, they’re called regular consumers….

    • Detonation

      Only downside is you don’t have a warranty. So if something like your headphone jack or power button craps out, you’re SOL. It’s a risk I’ve been willing to take though.

      • Get squaretrade insurance.

      • Radgatt

        If you pay for insurance as part of your plan then your insurance will transfer to the phone that is on that line so you will be covered.

        • I thought Asurion only covered devices purchased from retailers?

      • JoshGroff

        The warranty applies to the device, not the owner, it is usually transferable.

        Source: Did a warranty replacement on an Atrix 4G I bought off eBay.

      • Yes you do. Asurion covers any phone. Bought from anywhere

    • Bionicman

      umm a Galaxy Note 2 on VZW when it was released was way more than $350 on CL. not to mention phones for $350 on CL for VZ now aren’t newer phones or necessarily top of line. I didn’t like switching to tiered data but ive learned to cope with it especially since i was in my previous plan going over my talk minutes.

      id also like to point out i love my Note 2 and don’t regret giving up unlimited data to get it at its subsidized price.

      • irtechneo

        Same here love my note 2 and dont regret it however I just used 800 mb taking a 3 hour trip to Detroit while streaming google music. Gonna have to start using this 32 gb sd card for on device music now.

  • No wonder why I got a text message saying I used half my data one week into the month.

    • KleenDroid

      Ouch, sounds like you got stuck in a share plan. You could always sit next to your Wi-Fi at home and listen.

      • Yeah my Gf at the time decided to upgrade without telling me and going into this new system because they said it was good. Figures she would think that. She is blonde.

        • Warwick

          My GF told me that and I told her never to go back to the Verizon stores lol

        • KleenDroid

          I was at Verizon and was listening to them tell people how great their share plan was. I am sure that they convince most to go with it. Yesterday when I bought my new S4’s my salesgirl said not many are keeping their unlimited. Sad…

  • ezpotato

    haha yeah for unlimited. I’m torn between this and Rhapsody. I love the streamlined usage of just google music instead of two apps, but rhapsody’s streaming quality seems to be better and not as much of a network hog in low coverage areas… the music selection is very similar. I also like Rhapsody’s interface, being a lot more clean and intuitive, (not as cluttered it seems) although GMusic will prob improve a lot over the next few months…

    Also, I put my google music account on my wife’s phone so she could access my library as well as the premium music stuff, but she gets all my gtalk (hangout) messages on her phone too, although no email (from my gmail)…..

    Plus i save 2$ a month hahaha but i’m still debating on keeping my rhapsody.

    • ezpotato

      PS I use about 10gb of on board music, which i use Google Music for offline music. SO i’m using two apps, but the new gmusic interface, although pretty, seems cluttered to me… but i’m such a google sucker! torn!

  • Providers/carriers should subsidize it because of guaranteed “data overdraft”.

  • Daniel

    Further reasons why tiered data is stupid

  • derek connolly

    First time I actually will utilize my unlimited data.

  • Nw_adventure

    Holy mother of data usage- three days of light useage- 1.4GB- Data Hog activated

  • Sirx

    Thanks, Droid-Life, and Bret and Chris, for bringing this to light. Streamed (just regular streaming) on a three-hour car ride, and Google Music jumped to 638 MB. Good thing I have unlimited, but that’s still highly ridiculous.

  • Dan

    It’s at 1GB for me based on streaming during one week of my daily 55-minute round-trip commute. That’s compared to about 100MB that Pandora would take for streaming during a full MONTH of commuting.

    On top of that, the app on my Verizon GNex uses a ton of CPU which causes the phone to be laggy and suck battery. No other streaming music app does that on my phone. Oh, and even on the high-quality settings, Google Play sounds worse when played on my car stereo through Bluetooth than Pandora sounds on normal quality. I’m quite disappointed. I really wanted to like this service.

  • Someone

    I listened to a song on Google Music for three minutes. Then a colleague of mine stopped by. I paused the music and talked to him for about 15-20 minutes. Then I came back to my phone and closed Google Music. (Please note. Google Music was paused all through this time.)

    I checked my data usage and saw that Google Music had used up 67 MB. While Pandora which I had used during my 5 minute morning commute only used 2.6 MB.

    I’m not going to keep Google Music. $7.99/month is attractive. But if I have to upgrade my data plan with Verizon, it is not worth it.

    • ceejw

      When you start playing a song in Google Music it will download the next 5 or 6 songs in the queue as a buffer. That’s why it used 67 MB. Pandora just downloads one song at a time and

    • hkklife

      Google is in cahoots with the wireless carriers, as I have been preaching to deaf ears here for the past two years. Why else do you think they are so adamant about removing SD card support, seemingly limiting every device possible to 16 gigs or less of internal storage, and trying to gobble up as much of the tiered data as possible with simple music streaming?

  • Rep told my friend that plans are in the works to get rid of everyones exiting unlimited…..T-Mobile, here i come

    • Thomas

      Yeah b/c Verizon reps so know what they are talking about. If true then why did they just start the full retail payment plan.

      • Don’t think they have a huge sign saying “keep unlimited and buy full retail”.

        • misterE33

          most of the vzw people i’ve know have been very open about buying full retails. didn’t vzw just announce a new monthly-payment option for new phones w/o signing a new contract too? this could be seen as a direct move to keep off-contract grandfathered unlimited in the vzw flock

        • Thomas

          Of course they don’t b/c they want you to switch over to a tiered plan hoping you’ll go over so they can cash in, plus the CSR’s make more money when they switch you over. When I got my S4 yesterday at Verizon the guy tried every line/trick in the book to get me off unlimited, but no way. So of course Verizon isn’t going to advertise something they make less money on when there is another option to make more money.

          • Robert Allen

            Let’s clarify some misconceptions. Vzw reps make NOTHING from “taking away” an unlimited plan. They make NOTHING from selling a phone at full retail. They make NOTHING on plan changes to share everything. They are not out to get you. If share evening works for you, like 75% of the population, then it works. If you’re a data junkie, like myself and others above, finding an alternate source for a new device may be your best option top keep your unlimited. But lay off the reps as they do their best to serve you and Vzw. Keep this is mind too; those that do your upgrade switcharoo are possibly risking their jobs.

          • TD

            Agree about the reps but we both know that 75% of the population doesn’t get a choice unless they switch carriers.

    • misterE33

      my cousin’s friend’s uncle’s neighbor’s dog’s groomer told me plans are in the works to replace android with ios secretly

      • El_Big_CHRIS

        This made me LOL so hard

        • SkylaC90


  • Shane Redman

    Viable option that’s been working for me in the car at least….Pinning my thumbs up to the device.

  • DanWazz

    Google music has been like that for a long time. It’s what uses most of my data. Thankfully I’m still on my unlimited data.

    On a side note, they should use variable bit rates instead of constant. It’ll save a little data and the quality will be the same (v0) or comparable (v2..etc.)

  • ceejw

    This has always been the case. I’ve blew through 4GB of data 2 months ago just streaming my cloud music. If I didn’t have unlimited data I wouldn’t even consider using All Access. I would stick to using Rdio and Spotify.

  • ßen Murphy

    I second that emotion!

    • Brandon Golway

      Futurama reference? 🙂

    • roqefyrodiw

      мy ɴeιɢнвor’ѕ мoтнer мαĸeѕ $89/нoυr oɴ тнe coмpυтer. ѕнe нαѕ вeeɴ ғιred ғor 8 мoɴтнѕ вυт lαѕт мoɴтн нer pαy wαѕ $16549 jυѕт worĸιɴɢ oɴ тнe coмpυтer ғor α ғew нoυrѕ. reαd мore oɴ тнιѕ ѕιтe Zap2­2­.c­o&shym&shy

  • Samuel Ludwig

    Turns out tethering also eats up your data…

    • Incidentally, so can torrenting 😛

    • JasonWhite

      Yep! This is what happens when the internet goes out and you decide to just tether your home computer for a month.

      • Samuel Ludwig

        I love that you set 105 GB, of all numbers, as your ‘warning’

        • JasonWhite

          Go big or go home, right?!?!?!


          • MotoRulz

            Jason, you sir are the man… That is impressive

          • JasonWhite

            I’m tethering this way until Google Fiber gets to my house in 2 months. Then I don’t believe I’ll ever need to tether again in my glorious, high speed life.

          • nsnsmj

            I’m jealous. I wish they’d bring Fiber to AL. Congrats!

      • Bigwavedave25

        Nice, music is always in my top 4. I have some limits set, but not as lofty as yours, my friend! (It’s been a slow Netflix month…)

        • JasonWhite

          I believe in you!!!! Go forth and CONSUME ALL THE DATA!!!!

          • Bigwavedave25

            Haha, oh I do. My wife went in a Vz store to inquire about an off-contract i5, they looked up our account and she told me the rep nearly hit the floor when they saw I have averaged 35Gb for the last 1.5yrs… I was actually impressed myself 😀

          • Guest
          • JasonWhite


      • Obvious Sarcasm

        It sure does.

  • Really glad I said NO to the 30 day trial.

    • Ian

      Not a fan of free?

      • Love free. Not a fan of a service I don’t need, eating up my data 🙂

  • Ray

    Since the launched of “All Access” Google play has used 730MB of data. Mind you I dont stream music that often maybe 3 hours tops.