If you have an iPhone or iPad you probably use the iTunes Store app to buy music and the Music app to play it. However, this is not the only way to buy and play music on iOS devices. There is an alternative.

Mobile phones make great portable music players and they have replaced the old MP3 player or iPod for a lot of people, myself included. I have an old iPod Touch somewhere, but it hasn’t been used for years and either a phone or tablet is used instead.

The trouble is, phones and tablets lack storage space for anything like a decent sized music library, unless you pay a lot of money for a model with a larger memory. What is the solution? Keep most, if not all your music online.

iTunes Match is the obvious choice for iPhone and iPad owners. For an annual subscription of US $24.99 or UK £21.99 Apple will store all your music online. Music tracks can then be deleted from your phone and tablet, but they still play because they are streamed over the internet.

You can store a few tracks or a whole album for those occasions when you don’t have an internet connection, but most of your music can stay online. This keeps your iPhone or iPad storage clear and free for apps, photos and other things.

What is the alternative? Google Play Music.

Google’s service works just like Apple's iTunes and Music app. You can buy albums and tracks, and subscribe to all-you-can-eat music streaming.

The difference is that Google Play Music works with your own music for free. You can upload 50,000 tracks to Google and store them online. These tracks can then be streamed to any computer or device, including the iPhone and iPad. You can even store some tracks offline for those occasions when you don’t have an internet connection.

Google Play Music . Google Play Music

Getting your music online is straightforward and I wrote about uploading to Google Play Music here. I actually used the Google Play Music Manager on my computer to upload all my iTunes music (I buy CDs and copy them to disk using iTunes).

Once your music is online, install the Google Play Music app from the App Store. You can browse your online music library by genres, artists, albums or tracks, and tap any to play it. Instant Mixes are Google’s take on Apple’s Genius. Select a track or album and you can instantly create a playlist of similar music that fits the style and mood of the selected one.

There are auto playlists and you can create your own playlists and add tracks and albums to them. Tapping the three dots button displays a menu (it’s a feature borrowed from Android), and you can shuffle albums, play the next track, add it to a queue or playlist, download it or go to the artist.

Google Play Music for iOS . Google Play Music for iOS

With the iTunes and Music apps you can on the iPhone and iPad you can buy music and it is automatically added to your music library. However, you cannot buy music with the Google Play Music app on iOS. You can on Android, but not on iOS, probably because Apple won’t allow it.

If you want to add music, you can buy it by going to the Google Play Store on a computer, or by copying the CDs using a computer and then uploading them. I use a bit of both, sometimes buying CDs when there is a sale on, and sometimes buying tracks online. I prefer to own my music on CD rather than keep purchases in the cloud anyway.

My iTunes Match subscription expires next week, so from then on I will be using Google Play Music full time on my iPhone, iPad and other devices and computers. One final thought, if you buy lots of music on iTunes and at some point in the future would like to use an Android phone, you would have to abandon all the music you bought on iTunes. Google Play Music works on both iOS and Android, so it follows you if you switch platforms.

TitleGoogle Play Music
Price: Free
Developer: Google
Size: 13.1 MB
iOS: 7.0 or later
Version: 2.3.4