Your Music, Anywhere
The availability of the content that you own has been an issue for decades. Purchasing an album is great, but to enjoy it you need to have that album with you, either in the form of its physical media or in the form of a digital file kept on an approriate player.
The popularity of the MP3 and digital file players like the iPod have reduced the hassle of keeping music organized and available, but they've not eliminated it completely. You still have to shuffle music between devices.
What if you could just stream all of your music from one place to your smartphone, via the 3G and 4G networks that are now available? You wouldn't have to worry about shuffling files at all! That's what Amazon Cloud Player is trying to offer.
The Amazon MP3 App (2 out of 5)
The naming used by Amazon for its services and apps on Android is actually a bit confusing, as is the distribution. In order to use Amazon Cloud Player on your smartphone, you need to download not the Amazon Cloud Player app (there is no such thing) but rather the Amazon MP3 App. This app can be found on either the Android Market or an Amazon's own app store.
Once you download the Amazon MP3 app, activating the player is fairly simple. If you haven't activated the Cloud Player via PC before, you'll need to be sitting at your computer, because Amazon requires that you do this before using any of the Cloud Player streaming services.
The app makes it possible to stream your own music hosted on Amazon's servers. It works fine in this regard, and is even attractive. However, as a media player, the app is poor. There are no equalizers, no alternative ways to sort songs, and only a few ways to sort your entire library of music (by Artist, Album or Songs). There's a playlist creation feature, but it's quite clunky if you have lots of music to browse through, because the playlist creation interface doesn't offer much in the way of filtering. You can't mix cloud and on-device music, either.
Using Amazon Cloud Player means sacrificing a significant amount of player functionality in exchange for the ability to stream your music. Unfortuantely, this trade-off sours the entire experience.
The Service (3 out of 5)
Of course, the app itself wouldn't matter if the service itself doesn't work. So, can it truly stream music to your smartphone clearly?
So long as you're in a 3G or 4G area, or connected to Wi-Fi, the answer is yes – if your signal is strong. Amazon Cloud Player obviously can't stream if there's not enough bandwidth between the device and the cloud service, so if you work in the basement floor of your office building it's unlikely that you'll receive a strong enough signal to properly use it. Even if it does work, the service can automatically downgrade music quality when need – so you may end up listening to a sub-par version of your original file.
Another issue is the limited space. The goal of a streaming music service is to make all of your music available via streaming. This helps you if you can't keep your entire collection on your phone. However, the service starts with a 5GB capacity limit which upgrades to 20GB if you purchase an MP3 album from Amazon (but only for a year – after that, you're back to 5GB). Most smartphones have a higher capacity than the cloud service.
The Verdict (3 out of 5)
Amazon Cloud Player is able to strictly fulfill its purpose of offering streaming music. It does not, however, fulfill the broader purpose of making all of your music available at any time. There simply is not enough storage space available.
In addition to that, the app is cumbersome. The sum result is a product that's decent, but not great. It's free, so you should certainly give it a try if you think streaming music would be cool. Just don't expect to be blown away.
- Opinions based on author experience.
- Images courtesy of Amazon press materials.