We know that Google
is planning a streaming music service for Android
devices, and rumors of Apple
offering a similar product have been circulating for years. Late last night, though, Amazon stole their thunder. With little to no fanfare, Amazon unveiled 'Amazon Cloud Player
,' a service that comes bundled with 5GB of free Cloud Drive storage for uploading your music and other files, too. The actual Cloud Player comes in two flavors: a web-based music manager, and a music player for Android that is now built-in to the Amazon MP3 app.
Signing up for the service is a little cumbersome. If you don't already have a Cloud Drive account (which you probably don't), you'll have to sign up for one. Once you've uploaded some music -- which is simple enough using the giant "upload" button on the Cloud Drive page -- you'll then need to sign up for Cloud Player. You have to do this from the Amazon
site on you computer; it can't be done from your phone, and it wasn't immediately apparent to us that Cloud Drive and Cloud Player required two separate sign-ups. Once we signed up on Amazon, we had to log out of our account on our phone and log back in to force Amazon MP3 to pull up our music.
Once up and running, the experience was relatively seamless. All of our uploaded music appeared and started streaming nearly instantaneously upon pressing play. The app even automatically pulled in album art for the tunes we'd uploaded. Tapping and holding on an artist, album, song or playlist allows you to download music for offline playback, add songs to playlists, or shop for artists in the Amazon MP3 store. And any music you purchase through Amazon is automatically added to your Cloud Drive account.
While we're generally enjoyed the app, there is one niggling quirk -- the back button rarely behaves as you'd expect it. Instead of navigating back through albums, artists or menus, pressing back frequently kicked us back out to the home screen instead.
You get 5GB of storage for free, and if you purchase an album from Amazon, you'll be automatically upgraded to a 20GB plan for one year. If you'd like more storage than that, or want to continue your 20GB plan after the free period has ended, Amazon is charging $1 per gig per year (i.e., $50 gets you 50GB for one year). Pricing is where Google may have the edge over Amazon, despite having been beaten to the market. If Google's streaming music service ties in with its existing Google account storage plan (which we assume it will), Amazon will have to bring down its costs dramatically to compete for business, especially from those with sizable music collections. Google currently offers 200GB per year for just $50, four times what Amazon offers at the same price. For now, though, Amazon is the most attractive player in the field (albeit a field with very few players).