Groove Music is Microsoft’s music service which competes with Spotify, Google Play Music and Apple Music on Windows, iOS and Android. It is the successor to the much maligned Xbox Music app (though remaining the same service underneath), and the basic music player on Windows 10. It’s also one of my favourite music players on Windows and Windows phone. When compared to its iteration from a past year ago, Groove has made some serious strides but it still fails at one crucial point, being cross-platform.
When Microsoft announced a rebrand of Groove in 2015, they stated the following:
“Let’s start with Music. Our fans asked for faster ways to access the music they love – quickly, efficiently, and on their favorite devices. And for that, we’re proud to introduce the evolution of our current Xbox Music experience, now titled Groove, with new features we think you’re going to love. Groove describes what people feel and do with music, and is more intuitive for our Windows 10 customers on what they’ll find with the app.”
Microsoft claims you’ll be able to use Groove on your “favourite devices” and that much is true. You can use Groove on iOS, Android, the Web, alongside Windows devices,so you can indeed use it on all your favorite devices. Unfortunately, if your favourite mobile device is anything other than a Windows device, then Microsoft effectively holds you hostage to Windows phone should you want to use Groove’ on the go. Don’t believe me? Download Groove on iOS or Android and run screaming back to Spotify, Apple Music, or one of the other music services on iOS and Android. Even comparing it to Groove on Windows Phone is odd, normally a Windows phone app by Microsoft is usually equal or lesser than its iOS or Android counter part, but Groove is just ugly and buggy by comparison. While the user interface of Groove has been steadily improving for months on Windows, its iOS and Android (as well as Xbox) counterpart has been left behind – culminating in Microsoft adding curated playlist support for the Groove Windows apps and leaving the older apps so far behind.
As a semi-ex Windows phone user, I can’t help but feel a sense of Schadenfreude about this situation. As Windows phone users, we are often used to having inferior version of apps, even those from Microsoft itself. In a situation like this, it feels good to be ahead of the curve for once and have the superior method. But then, there’s the flip side of this. For users on iOS or Android, Spotify or whatever native music service is the popular one, is the music service of choice for them. The only ones who are affected by a poor Groove Music app are pre-existing users of the Groove music service itself. In other words, the only people who are already being affected by this are people who are already Microsoft fans.
By limiting Groove’s best features to Windows phone, Microsoft is hurting the uptake of its music service and punishing fans who want to enjoy the best Microsoft mobile experience. Groove Music is pretty good service, it shouldn’t have to go down with the Windows phone ship.