App of the Week – Amazon MP3
Cloud music services are nothing new but when a player as big as Amazon wades into the mess of DRM, piracy, quality and licensing, it's always worth checking it out. And its new Cloud Player and MP3 app might just be keepers.
The concept is pretty simple. Amazon provides 5GB of online storage for music (also documents and photos, to defuse any whinging from the record companies), rising to 20GB when you buy an MP3 album. There are paid options for larger libraries. Once you've uploaded some tunes, you can listen to them on virtually any other device, via a basic website or a swanky app like this – currently available only for Android devices and only in the US.
The app is pretty good. Choose Player and you can see all the songs you've uploaded (yep, including Apple DRM tracks), sorted by artists, albums, songs or playlists (sorry, your iTunes playlists and ratings didn't survive the transfer). Play controls are simple and intuitive, and you get album art but no further info. Sound quality is promised to be the same as you uploaded at, and 320kbps songs did sound pretty awesome on the HTC Thunderbolt over 4G. At any point, you can hit the download icon to drag songs from the cloud down into your device.
Click into the store and you can browse Amazon's decent (and decently priced) MP3 shop. All the songs you buy from now on can automatically move into the Cloud Player, where they don't count towards your 5GB or 20GB limits. Everything worked quickly and seamlessly, with the app just crashing once in my test.
This is a tidy little app and a decent service from Amazon. However, the hassle of uploading, re-rating and re-playlisting massive audio libraries can't be underestimated. Amazon Cloud Player might be the best integrated MP3 store/music locker for now, but when Apple finally builds the awesome Lala - which didn't require actual uploads - into iTunes, Jeff Bezos had better have another musical trick up his sleeve.