In recent years, we’ve thought a lot about Apple’s iOS as a platform for music services and apps, but perhaps not as much as we should have done about Google’s Android.
At the company’s opening keynote for its I/O developer conference yesterday, though, Google announced a set of milestones that are well worth discussing.
The big one: “There are now 2 billion monthly active Android devices globally,” according to a blog post by Google’s VP of engineering Dave Burke. That’s up from 1.4bn active Android devices in September 2015, while Apple’s last comparable public milestone was 1bn active iOS devices in January 2016.
An additional Android stat announced yesterday: Android users installed 82bn apps and games from the Google Play store in 2016, up 26% from the 65bn installs in 2015, as the number of Google Play ‘buyers’ grew by nearly 30%.
The growth of Android and Google Play – it’s important to remember that other Android app stores are available, from Amazon’s to the cluster of Chinese stores – is reflected in the stats for music services.
Spotify falls into the ‘100m-500m installs’ bucket on Google Play, with nearly 8.4m user ratings. Other services in the 100m-500m club include Shazam (3m ratings); Pandora (2.7m); TuneIn Radio (1.4m) and Deezer (1.2m), while Google Play Music has between 1bn and 5bn installs.
Google’s music-platform credentials extend to newer devices like its Google Home smart speaker, which now supports SoundCloud, Deezer and Spotify as well as Google Play Music.
Meanwhile, the company is pushing on with its Daydream VR platform for virtual reality: Daydream will be part of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S8 smartphones from this summer, with additional plans for standalone VR headsets with partners HTC and Lenovo in late 2017. Daydream seems well-placed to emerge as a key platform for the music industry’s VR exploration.
All of this is a reminder, once again, that Google’s importance for the music industry goes well beyond its licensed music services and the arguments about safe harbour and the ‘value gap’.
Or rather, it reinforces the need to bring those arguments to a resolution, accepted by both Google and rightsholders, so that both sides can focus even more energy on Android, Daydream, Google Home/Assistant and, yes, YouTube as powerful platforms for digital music.