Google debuts music service for Android gadgets

Google on Wednesday rolled out a music service for smartphones and tablets powered by its free Android software, in a ramped-up challenge to streaming radio firms such as Pandora and Spotify.

Google Play All Access combines the Internet giant's music catalog with users' personal collections in a radio station-style subscription service, according to Android engineering director Chris Yerga.

"Anything I am listening to in All Access I can easily turn into a radio station," Yerga said while unveiling the service at the annual Google developers conference in San Francisco.

"It allows you to explore radio without rules."

All Access launched in the United States with a monthly subscription fee of $10 and will roll out to additional countries "soon," according to Yerga.

The California-based firm was offering discounts to those who sign up quickly for the service.

The number of Android smartphones and tablets activated more than doubled to 900 million in the past year, according to Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android and Chrome.

"That is an incredible achievement," Pichai said. "We are incredibly humbled by where we have reached, but remember there are more than seven billion people on this planet so we have a long way to go."

More than 48 billion applications have been downloaded to Android devices from the Google Play store and revenue being made by developers of those mini-programs has increased 2.5 times in the past year, according to vice president of Android product management Hugo Barra.

Google's Android mobile operating system grabbed three out of four smartphones sold in the world in the first quarter of 2013, extending its gains over Apple and its iPhone, a survey showed Tuesday.

Gartner said more than 156 million Android smartphones were sold in the first three months of the year, or 74.4 percent of the global total. That compared with 56.9 percent in the same period a year ago.

South Korean electronics giant Samsung, the largest maker of Android phones, boosted its lead in the marketplace with a 30.8 percent share, up from 27.6 percent a year earlier.

Apple held second place with its iPhone and iOS operating system, accounting for 18.2 percent of smartphones and the same percentage for its operating system, the Gartner survey showed.

Google shares leapt to a new all-time high Wednesday, topping $900 for the first time, as the Internet giant opened its developers' conference.

Last week, Google's YouTube unveiled its first paid subscription channels in a long-anticipated move to challenge streaming services like Netflix.