Amazon Cloud Drive: First Look

Apple may have dominated the digital music sales world since MP3 became a household name, but Amazon is clearly ready to compete with Cupertino. Preempting Google’s attempt at implementing a similar idea in its own Android OS, Amazon released Cloud Drive, a cloud storage platform that lets you upload music (as well as any other file format) and stream that music to any internet-connected device. While this, in and of itself, is not much, the Android app that works with Cloud Drive, Amazon Cloud Player, is the real kicker.

While there have been a few services in Android’s past that have offered these types of services, only some were free, even fewer were cloud storage based, and none of them had the music catalog and digital sales clout that Amazon currently enjoys. While being the only real competition to Apple’s iTunes digital music sales platform, Amazon only has 13.3% of the digital music sales space, and a product like this could really start another upward trend in that number if successful.

The service itself is strikingly easy to set up. If you have an Amazon.com account, you simply login, and you’re good to go. You can upload anything, from music and video to pictures and documents, in a simple and easy to use uploader. The first five GB are free, and then there annual rates for various levels of storage space. You can organize your files any way you like, and the Amazon Cloud Player automatically sorts your music via ID3 tags. There is playlist support, as well. It’s all laid out very nicely, and your available and used space is shown prominently in the bottom left corner.

The website clearly wants you to download the Android implementation of all this, and provides a QR code to easily navigate to the install link. The Amazon MP3 app isn’t just a shell to stream music, however. It is easily one of the best looking media players on Android to date, and it provides the same functionality you’d expect from a dedicated media player without the Amazon Cloud features. You can easily switch from your local library to your Amazon cloud library using a toggle on the main page.

As this is the first released version of the app, there are some minor hiccups. First off, for a streaming media player, we’d like to see an option for downsampling some of the larger files. We love ourselves some 3200kbps MP3s now and then, but those of us on 3G connections have to wait upwards of a minute to listen to a high quality MP3, and sometimes, when you just need a tune on the go, downsampling would be a welcome addition. Also, we’re not sure if this is a bug or a “feature”, but you can’t seek inside a track. Doing so takes you to the beginning of the track. It seems like Amazon meant for this to be functional; if it wasn’t, you’d think Amazon would disable sliding of the seek bar. We hope an update will address this.

Amazon has a great deal going right now that gives you 15 extra GB of space for a year (for a total of 20GB) if you buy an MP3 album from their music store. There is no limitation on it, and we’ve found some extremely cheap albums that activate the free space. This worked well, and we didn’t experience any hiccups getting this to work.

It’s a great service, and it’s something that seems like an obvious play for anyone in the digital music business. It’s almost too good to be true. According to record labels, it is. WSJ reports that Amazon may have rolled out the service a bit too early, as it is still in negotiation with major labels to acquire licenses for hosting and streaming the music on their servers. Amazon doesn’t feel that it needs licenses to store the music, but streaming the music opens up a legal can of worms that Amazon is confident it can get through unscathed. Releasing the service before talks have concluded was a risky move on Amazon’s part, but it shows that they’re pretty sure things will go smoothly on the legal front.

Cloud Drive beat Google to the punch. Google had announced this functionality in an as of yet unannounced version of Android at Google I/O last year. The demo exhibited at the conference was impressive, and had people chomping at the bit to get their hands on such a service. Now that Google will be entering an already occupied market, they’ll have to step up their game to compete. Media services has been one of Android’s weakest contributions, and getting this service off the ground, especially now that Amazon has such a good product in the market, is becoming more important by the day.

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This is actually pretty cool. It looks like that any songs that you purchase from Amazon MP3 that are saved directly to your cloud drive do not count toward your storage total. I sent in a suggestion asking if for a limited time could customer have the ability to save albums that were previously purchased to the digital locker.

get sick of music company's and we want more money. what am i paying for, if i want to upload a music file onto another location and listen to it from there, then why not and why do company's need to pay to host and steam it! im the one listening to it, im the one that payed for the files to be listen to no matter where i am or what means of transport i choose. sure i understand that i may need to pay the company money to host it, which i understand, but where does the music company come into this! they got my money when i paid for my music!

Or just use Jukefly You don't need to upload anything, there are no limits (well apart from your hardrive space), you can access it anywhere and it's completely free. Only downside is your computer needs to remain on and connected to the internet.

And there's an Android, WP7 and iOS app for it too.

/- Razorfold said,
Or just use Jukefly You don't need to upload anything, there are no limits (well apart from your hardrive space), you can access it anywhere and it's completely free. Only downside is your computer needs to remain on and connected to the internet.

And there's an Android, WP7 and iOS app for it too.

I don't have to back anything up with CloudPlayer, any MP3 purchased from Amazon doesn't count towards my storage, and automatically goes into CloudPlayer(no uploading a second time), I only have to worry about my connection to Amazon from where ever I am...Minimal interaction is the key here, buy it, dump it, play it, anywhere, any time.

isnt this just dropbox meeting amazon mp3?
its basicly a digital filelocker with built-in support for amazon mp3
record companies is gonna destroy innovation if they are gonna sue amazon for this

how is this diffrent from putting a 10 deck cd player inside a filelocker?
Rhialto, i belive they will still store the stuff, but you cant upload new stuff, am not 100% sure but this is how google does their extra storage for picasa/googledocs

Tzvi Friedman said,
The streaming is the kicker.

well you can stream files on dropbox to and all websites basicly stream stuff yo you if you ask them to do it

Alastyr said,
... but I use Spotify.
Why would I use this? :-)

store your pr0n collection for maximum durability =p

Alastyr said,
... but I use Spotify.
Why would I use this? :-)

Indeed, with the rise and rise of Spotify and Grooveshark and whatnot, this seems sort of... old school. I don't think it will be long before Spotify offer a similar service too.

Nice heads-up and a great review ... but you didn't mention that the Cloud Player is available only in the US.

Timble said,
Nice heads-up and a great review ... but you didn't mention that the Cloud Player is available only in the US.

Market Enabler helps

Uploading my 8Gb of music since yesterday... my main problem is the lack of support for ogg vorbis in the uploader/web based player - which is stupid considering the player on Android phones supports it. I imagine Google will support it, so Amazon better fix this before Google opens its own service.

The fact that musics you buy on amazon after activating cloud music service do not count towards your storage limit is a very nice move by amazon.

ccoltmanm: neither Microsoft nor Apple has anything remotely similar... Amazon is the first.


Ikshaar said,

ccoltmanm: neither Microsoft nor Apple has anything remotely similar... Amazon is the first.

nothing remotely similar eh? looks like a cloud storage with a media player (and streaming capability) that means any cloud storage service more than remotely similar and the both have cloud storage.
Skydrive (and mesh in a way, more or less part of the same product anyway) for Microsoft and iDisk for Apple and i think you can play music from your iDisk not a complete media player but still...

NOTE: Unless you set your account to auto-renew to a paid plan, the 20 GB plan will revert to a free plan one year from the date of your MP3 album purchase.

Hackersoft MS MVP said,

That looks like a single rather than an album. Did it work and get the extra 15gb of space?

Anyone confirm this works?

I'm interested to see the file extension list of what you can upload.

It's good to see Google and Amazon coming into the same realm as Microsoft and Apple. All the big players will compete more and more and we will get better products.

I'm a MS fanboy, so, i am drooling over what Microsoft will come out with in the next year or so.

ccoltmanm said,
I'm a MS fanboy, so, i am drooling over what Microsoft will come out with in the next year or so.

Expect a Kin themed extension to Skydrive.