Amazon just released a new version of their cloud player for iOS. It has me wondering why I use the Music app on my iPhone and iPad. First and foremost, AirPlay does not crash when using the Amazon app, and it can play iTunes music on my device! Amazon is taking aim at Apple and trying to take their customers. While I might not be buying much music from Amazon, I will start using their app to play music. It works better. It’s simply a better way to play my iTunes collection!
The most compelling feature of Amazon’s Cloud Player is that it can play iTunes music without crashing AirPlay. By clicking on the “device” tab, it can access iTunes music downloaded on the device, as well as music downloaded from Amazon. You can play your Amazon music directly from the cloud, if you don’t want to fill up your iOS device.
Amazon is very generous. The Cloud Player can be authorized to run on up to 10 devices from one account. A very large family (or one geek with too many gadgets) can share music from one Amazon account.
Unlike iOS Music, the Cloud Player can stream or download music. While iTunes lets you download music from the cloud, downloading a long song over a cellular network is not possible. In fact, after attempting this, some of my songs cannot be downloaded at all, which seems to be a bug. You also need to use two apps — iTunes to download purchases and Music to play them. Cloud Player downloads can be initiated by the user, or downloaded automatically, all within the same app. If one chooses to delete downloaded music, it can be downloaded later. The user can also configure the player to only allow streaming and downloading over a wi-fi network, preventing excessive data charges.
The Amazon Cloud Player user interface looks very much like iOS Music. Indeed, if one didn’t see the splash screen, they might think the app was developed by Apple.
Both have virtually identical functionality. One can create and edit a playlist, shuffle music, play music directly, search for music, and browse music. Unfortunately, Amazon only offers an iPhone version of the Cloud Player. It works on the iPad, but it is not designed for the larger screen.
The Amazon Cloud Player has rock solid AirPlay support. It’s actually better than iOS Music. It doesn’t crash. With several hours of using Cloud Player over AirPlay, it has not crashed once. There are some minor flaws. While Amazon’s Cloud Player will show the album art and track info on Apple TV, the progress bar does not work. You cannot see how long the song is or current playback time. My hunch is that this crashes AirPlay, so Amazon disabled it. Cloud Player also does not support gapless playback. While listening to ELP’s “Brain Salad Surgery”, I experienced a mildly annoying gap in the Karn Evil suite. It’s far less annoying than AirPlay crashing. Amazon Cloud Player is my go-to music app for my iPhone and iPad.
Much like iOS Music, Amazon’s Cloud Player does not have a built-in store. You can either buy MP3s online or use the convenient Amazon app.
The Amazon app is very simplistic. It gets the job done, but it isn’t sexy. iTunes for iOS looks better. iTunes downloads sound better. Bit-for-bit, AAC’s sound slightly better than MP3’s. iTunes downloads are in the AAC format, while Amazon’s are in MP3. Some prefer MP3, as they may have an older MP3 player that doesn’t support AAC. I’ll still be buying my music from iTunes. Amazon actually has a better selection of music than iTunes. I bought one Amazon MP3 album, as it was not offered on iTunes. It sounds good to me. I may buy more from Amazon in the future. Desktop or mobile, Amazon makes it easy for Apple users to buy and listen to Amazon MP3 albums. Amazon music can also be played directly from the cloud, instead of downloading first.
Both Amazon and Apple offer cloud-based music storage solutions. They both cost the same — about $25/year. Amazon lets people store ten times as many songs — 250,000 vs. 25,000 for iTunes in the Cloud. Amazon also allows anyone to store 250 songs for free. Amazon’s backend is also much faster and more robust. In fact, companies like Netflix host their services in Amazon’s data center. Apple’s data center is pathetically slow.
Both Amazon and Apple offer a “match” feature. Music that you have imported from CD will be matched with a cloud version, if available. Anything else will have to be uploaded, which is a painfully slow process. Uploading is almost always much slower than downloading.
Even though MP3’s don’t sound as good as AAC’s, you can upload your iTunes AAC’s to Amazon’s cloud. If you choose to have these matched, they will be in the slightly inferior MP3 format. I don’t think most people will notice the difference. Overall, Amazon’s cloud is superior. The fact that you can store ten times as many songs is good enough reason to choose Amazon. Their robust backend clinches it. I have over 25,000 songs, so “iTunes in the Cloud” (ugh, what an awful name) would not work well for me. That said, I have no need to store my music in the cloud. Perhaps I will take Amazon up on the 250 songs stored in the cloud for free. They even have an html 5 (non-Flash) web-based player, so you can play your Amazon music pretty much anywhere.
Amazon’s cloud player has solid, flawless AirPlay support. It can play iTunes. Whether you buy iTunes or Amazon MP3s, the Amazon Cloud Player is simply a better option for playback on your iOS device. Of course, the best way to enjoy music is using an audio transmitter from your computer to stereo. However, when I just want to listen to some music quickly, I reach for my iPad and the Amazon Cloud Player. If you are tired of AirPlay crashes, use the Amazon Cloud Player. It’s rock solid.