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YouTube Music Key beta review

We review YouTube Music Key, a new dedicated music service and Spotify rival from YouTube, which allows you to download and enjoy ad-free tunes for £7.99 a month.

The likes of Spotify already offers a dedicated mobile music service, so you can download and enjoy tunes on your phone wherever you roam. Now YouTube wants a piece of that profitable music pie and the YouTube Music Key beta has officially landed, offering offline ad-free music videos for a small monthly fee.

If you join the YouTube Music Key beta, you’ll notice a shiny new ‘Music’ tab in your ‘What To Watch’ section. Tap this and you’ll be presented with a bunch of specially-created mixes based on your past YouTube browsing, as well as song recommendations and a selection of other playlists designed to introduce you to new artists.

Find a track you like? Just hit the download icon and it’s dropped onto your phone’s storage, so you can enjoy the full video at any time, even when you’re offline. Alternatively, you can set up your own playlists, which you can then be downloaded in one whallop with a single tap. Occasionally you get a choice when it comes to quality before you download a track, although many songs only come only 360p standard definition.

Another essential feature is the ability to keep the music playing when you minimise the app, or hibernate your phone. Without this, YouTube Music Key would be about as useful as a kick to the groin. Thankfully it works as promised – just tap your phone’s home button to go back to your desktop and the track will keep on playing in the background. A tab is also added to your notifications bar, so you can pause or skip the track without going back into YouTube’s app.

Likewise, you’ll find media controls pop onto your lock screen so you can pause or skip without fully waking your phone.

The only issue we noticed was a brief stutter in playback every time we put our phone into hibernate or minimised the YouTube app, which proved rather irritating. Hopefully this is a glitch that can be ironed out sooner rather than later, even if it is a minor complaint.

YouTube Music Key easily rivals Spotify for music selection, with an incredible catalogue to browse and play. We tried everything from classical tunes to pirate metal, via 80s cheese and gangster rap. And while you can’t get some big artists such as The Beatles on Spotify, you can happily download the entire White Album from YouTube, or any of those Scouse scamps’ other LPs.

With your YouTube Music Key subscription, you also get full Google Play Music access. This allows you to stash away up to 20,000 of your songs in the cloud, to stream at any time. Handy if you’ve not got much storage on your mobile.

So far the YouTube Music Key service looks to be a seriously strong rival to Spotify and its ilk. The ability to download and enjoy as many videos as your phone can handle is an essential feature that’s been well implemented, and the catalogue on offer is simply unbeatable. Spotify should be shaking in its shoes right about now.

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