Google Music, Amazon Cloud Player and the iCloud can save your music in a cloud so that it is available where you want to listen to it. Each service, however, takes a slightly different approach. By comparing the capabilities of each player, you can decide which cloud solution will work best for you.
Adding Music to the Cloud
The goal of a music cloud is to make your music available wherever you want to listen to it. First, you need to save your music to the cloud.
Google's solution is to upload all of the music from your computer's library to the cloud. Similarly, you need to upload the music in your library to the Amazon Cloud. Because Amazon also sells music, any music you buy from its store also can be added to your cloud.
Apple's approach eliminates the need to actually upload any of your files to the iCloud. Initially, only music that was purchased from the iTunes store is available in the iCloud. Beginning in the fall of 2011, iTunes Match will add music from your computer's iTunes library. Instead of uploading music, iTunes Match scans the music in your library and finds the titles in the iTunes store. Those songs are added to your iCloud so you can download and listen to them along with songs you purchased from iTunes.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each approach:
Google Music uploads -
- Any music that isn't copyright protected (DRM) can be uploaded to the Google Music cloud. This means that rare LPs you have imported, and other improperly titled files, can be uploaded and streamed to your device.
- Google Music provides a backup for your unique or rare music titles.
- Uploading music is time-consuming, and will slow your internet connection during the time you are uploading.
- Music that is copyright protected cannot be uploaded and streamed.
- Google Music will upload your whole library at once unless you take the time to manage which files are uploaded.
Amazon Cloud Player -
- New songs can be added to your cloud and instantly streamed.
- Cloud Player provides a backup for your unique or rare music titles.
- Uploading music is time-consuming and will slow your internet connection during the time you are uploading.
- Music that is copyright protected cannot be uploaded and streamed.
- Only MP3 and AAC (.m4a) file formats are supported.
- The Amazon uploader may not automatically find iTunes music that is saved to an unusual folder or location on your hard drive; it works after you designate the folder.
iTunes in the Cloud and iMatch -
- Any song purchased from iTunes is available. Copyright protection is removed from DRM purchased songs.
- All songs are made available in higher quality audio 256 kb bit rate.
- No song uploading is required and no internet bandwidth is needed. iMatch finds your songs in iTunes and adds them to your iCloud.
- Rare songs may not be available in iTunes and cannot be added to the iCloud.
- Improperly labeled songs may not be found in iTunes and will not be added to the iCloud.
Cloud Storage Capacity and Pricing
Google: 20,000 uploaded songs are free.
Amazon Cloud Player: 5 GB uploaded song storage is free. Songs purchased from the Amazon store are not counted toward the 5 GB. There is unlimited "storage" of Amazon purchased music.
You may upgrade to 20 GB for free. If you make a purchase of any song from the Amazon MP3 store before December 31, 2011, Amazon will upgrade your free storage to a 20 GB limit for 12 months. Typically, this is over 4,500 songs.
Additional Storage is available.
Note: The song count is estimated at 250 songs per GB.
50 GB - $50/year - about 12,000 songs
100 GB - $100/year - 25,000 songs
200 GB - $200/year - 50,000 songs
500 GB - $500/year - 100,000
1 TB - $1,000/year - 200,000 songs
iTunes in the Cloud and iMatch: Because songs are not uploaded, there is no limit to the number of songs that can be made accessible through iTunes in the Cloud.
iMatch will cost $24.99 per year.
Downloading Music From the Cloud
To listen to music when your device is not connected to the internet or a mobile phone data service, songs must be downloaded to a device that has memory — either a network media player, mobile phone or tablet. Each service has different capabilities.
Google Music: You cannot download music from Google Music. The only way to listen to your music offline is to separately copy your music from your computer to the device. Once saved on the device, the Google Music player will play the music.
Amazon Cloud Player: Downloading songs from the Amazon Cloud Player is as simple as choosing a song and pressing a button to download it. It is then saved to your device.
iTunes in the Cloud: Unlike Google's and Amazon's cloud players, iTunes in the Cloud only downloads the music you want to hear. The iCloud will not stream music. Instead, choose the songs you want to hear and download them from your purchased song list. Because the songs are always available for download, you can delete songs and add new songs at any time.
Compatible Devices That Play Cloud Music
Cloud music players are still new, so there are presently no apps on network media players and media streamers to directly access the clouds. Undoubtedly, apps will be developed for media players and network music players.
Both Google Music and the Amazon Cloud Player can be accessed using a web browser. Therefore, any device with a web browser — the Boxee Box, LG Smart Updater, Google TV, some networked TVs and Blu-ray players — can stream music from Google or Amazon.
Both Google Music and the Amazon Cloud Player have apps to play on Android phones and devices. While the Amazon Cloud Player works on most Android devices, Google Music requires a device that has the Open GL2.0 standard. The Droid X and Samsung Captivate are two popular phones that cannot play Google Music but are able to play music on the Amazon Cloud Player.
Apple's iTunes in the Cloud is available to download to an iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that has iOS 4.3 or above. It is not available on the Apple TV, because the iCloud does not stream music and the 2nd generation Apple TV does not have storage. Unless the iCloud changes, it is unlikely that it will play on an Apple TV. Perhaps the reasoning behind this decision is that you can stream music from your computer's iTunes library to the Apple TV, so you wouldn't need the iCloud as you do when you don't have access to your computer’s library.
Cloud music services have just come on the scene and are sure to evolve to better suit the needs of those who want to access their music from online. Choose which service you want to use based upon your needs.
If you have 20,000 songs and want to upload them all to a cloud to stream your music, Google Music may be right for you. Again, be sure that you have an Android device with OpenGL2.0 or that you are streaming to a device with a web browser. You will need to request an invite to the Google Music beta.
If you want to buy songs and upload songs, play them and download them on any Android device, the Amazon Cloud Player is right for you. And if you don't want to upload music and you use iTunes and iOS devices — IPhones, iPads or iPod Touch — ITunes in the Cloud is already available to download your purchased songs.