- Review Date: 3/30/11
- Bottom line:
Amazon Cloud Player works in conjunction with the desktop Cloud Player software to let you sync music and playlists, but there are a handful of head-scratching limitations.
Free. Playlists synced between browser-based Cloud Player and the Cloud Player Android app. Album and song views offer album art. New Amazon MP3 purchases don't count against Amazon Cloud Player storage total.
Only supports AAC and MP3 audio files. Doesn't support audiobook or audio files over 100MB in size. You need to download the Amazon MP3 Uploader to upload files. No music uploads from your phone to the cloud.
Amazon has beat the competition to the punch. The retailer formerly known as "The World's Largest Booskstore" continues its music push with Amazon Cloud Player and an accompanying Android-exclusive feature bundled within the free Amazon MP3 music-store app. Cloud Player lets users stream and download music stored in the newly launched Amazon Cloud Drive to virtually any Web-connected device—unfortunately not including the hottest such devices around—iPads and iPhones. Rumor has it that Apple is working on a similar Web-based iTunes (Free, 4 stars) service, and Google's purportedly getting into the game with Google Music. Amazon isn't just the first major player out of the gate with personal, cloud-based music streaming: Cloud Player for Android is an enjoyable, useful app (featuring 5GB of free Web storage) that's only limited by the impositions placed upon the use (particularly in regards streaming certain file types) and possible privacy issues.
The Browser-Based Amazon Cloud Player
The first half of the Cloud Player equation is the browser-based Amazon Cloud Player. This Web-based music player lets you play songs, create and manage playlists, and upload audio files. Unfortunately, you can't upload files directly into Cloud Player; you're required to download Amazon MP3 Uploader to accomplish that task, which automatically scans your hard drive and uploads files into Amazon Cloud Drive. This is an odd setup, as I could upload files directly into Amazon Cloud Drive without the need for installing an uploader. Frankly, I would've liked the choice of using either option. On the upside, the Amazon Cloud Player imported three playlists that I had created in iTunes and synced them to Amazon Cloud Player for Android—very cool.
Cloud Player has a few curious limitations. You can't upload audiobooks, ringtones, files larger than 100MB in size, or tracks recorded in FLAC, OGG, WAV, or any other types other than AAC and MP3. If you prefer to listen to lossless music, this service is of no use to you. You can, however, store those incompatible files in Amazon Cloud Drive, but they won't appear in the Amazon Cloud Player, as Cloud Player only displays playable tracks. You can also upload video clips (AVI, MOV, WMV) to Amazon Cloud Drive, but they also don't appear within Amazon Cloud Player. I suspect that it's only a matter of time before that's rectified.
Apple mobile fans are out of luck with Amazon Cloud Player, though. It's not possible to play back content when using the browser-based Amazon Cloud Player on the iPad or iPhone. The mobile version of Safari is incompatible with Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Cloud Player—you can load the pages, but you can't play back any of the content. Plus, when I tapped the "upload Files" icon, a message appeared onscreen stating that I needed Adobe Flash—something that the iPad doesn't support. Still, Amazon has decided to support AAC, the audio format that Apple uses in the iTunes Music Store.
By default, Amazon Cloud Player serves up 5GB of free storage, but you can bump it up to 20GB for $20 per year. Purchasing a MP3 album before the end of the year gives you a free year of 20GB cloud storage. There are also 50GB ($50 per year), 100GB ($100 per year), 200GB ($200 per year), 500GB ($500 per year), and 1000GB ($1,000 per year) options available. I really appreciated the fact that music purchased from Amazon MP3 does not count against your storage, which potentially frees up a lot of space if you purchase most of your tunes from Amazon MP3. Amazon has really gone out of its way encourage people to sample their music store and new service.
Amazon Cloud Player for Android
After downloading the Amazon MP3 app to a Samsung Epic 4G ($129, 4 stars) smartphone, I was presented with the option to either enter the Amazon MP3 Store to purchase music, or launch the Amazon Cloud Player upon firing up the app. I selected the latter option. Once inside the Cloud Player, I was given the choice of listening to music that's "On-device" (that is, stored on the phone itself), or signing into "Cloud Drive Music." Once again, I selected the second option.
I signed into Amazon Cloud Player for Android with my credentials, but didn't see the handful of tracks that I had uploaded to Amazon Cloud Drive earlier that the day. The app suggested that I log out of my Could Player for Android account, move back to the desktop, sign into the browser-based Amazon Cloud Player, return to the phone, and then log back in. It worked! My handful of songs appeared within seconds, and I could sort music based on artist, album, or song.
Tapping "Create Playlist" opened a dialog box that let me name my list. Next, I added songs to the playlist by clicking the bright green "+" icons that live to the right of each file, and then clicked "Done." Tapping "Edit" let me remove tracks from the playlist, or add new songs. You can also download files by tapping the download icon—data transferred quickly over the phone's 4G connection. Thankfully, Amazon includes a search field that returns results on the fly as you key in letters—a much-appreciated addition for those of us with deep song catalogs. Creating a playlist from the content within "On-device Music" let me assemble a playlist of music stored on the handset. At this time, you're unable to upload music from your phone to the cloud.
Streaming Audio Quality
Amazon Cloud Player streams music at a song's original bit rate audio quality. I enjoyed the loud, crisp, uninterrupted music when I streamed David Byrne's "Like Humans Do," and other tunes, to my phone using the 3G and then the Wi-Fi radios. The bottom-end sounds were a bit weak, but that was more of a speaker issue than a streaming issue as the bass was quite substantial when I streamed songs through the browser-based Amazon Cloud Player.
Making Music Purchases
When I purchased Pete Yorn's "Life On A Chain" using Amazon Cloud Player for Android, I was given the choice of saving the DRM-free track to the handset itself or saving it to Amazon Cloud Player. I saved it Cloud Player, returned to the desktop Cloud Player, and was happy that it had quickly synced.
Cloud Drive EULA
The Cloud Drive End-User License Agreement (EULA)states that by using the service to upload music and files to the cloud, you give Amazon "the right to access, retain, use and disclose your account information and Your Files." Amazon also states that you are "responsible for maintaining appropriate security, protection and backup of Your Files." The former, however, sounds very invasive, and worth keeping in mind if you value privacy.
Should You Use Amazon Cloud Player for Android?
Amazon Cloud Player is designed for music fans who want to listen to their libraries whether at home on a Mac or PC, or on the move with a tablet (but not an iPad) or smartphone in tow. Audiophiles should shy away as the service doesn't support lossless codecs, but all others who aren't spooked by the EULA should give it a go as it lets you effortlessly keep all of your tunes at hand without worrying about transferring the catalog from device to device.