Hands On with Amazon’s Cloud Player and Drive

March 30, 2011

Amazon continued to roll out the building blocks of their media ecosystem empire on Tuesday with the release of their new Cloud Drive for storage and Cloud Player for music. Any Amazon customer can store up to 5 gigabytes of data in their cloud based storage for free. For another $20 a year or the purchase of an album, you can store up to 20 GB. You can then stream or download your music through Amazon’s Cloud player which exists as an Android and web-based app. Luckily, the Hub just started using the LG Optimus V Android smartphone providing an opportunity to test out Amazon’s new service.

The Hub started out by uploading some songs from iTunes. The Cloud Drive provides pre-built folders for your music, photos, documents and video. It’s surprising that you have to select the individual files to upload, you can’t just upload an entire directory with all of its sub-directories. That makes it tedious to upload your music collection or data files into Amazon’s cloud. If you like to be organized, you have to manually create a folder for each album (this is also true with albums you have previously purchased from Amazon). This isn’t the case if you buy an album from the Amazon store going forward, it auto-creates the appropriate folders for you. The other issue encountered was that uploading Pages or Word documents would fail from OS X (but not from Windows).
Web interface to Amazon’s Cloud Drive

While the web interface to cloud storage and player had some rough edges, the Amazon Player app for Android had some pleasant surprises. Let’s assume you didn’t create a file structure and just uploaded all of your songs to the Music folder. The Cloud Player app is smart enough to organize all of the songs into albums with cover art (see below).
Amazon Cloud Player for Android

You have the option to either stream music from your Cloud Drive or to download it onto your Android device. Streaming is a nice way to overcome the storage limitations of your device. Over Wi-Fi, the performance was acceptable. On Sprint’s 3G network, it took a few minutes before a song started playing. The song streams at its original quality making it more bandwidth intensive. To deal with this situation, the Cloud Player allows you to download the song onto the device’s local storage (time to buy a bigger memory card) with a single click. There’s also play list and search functionality built into the player. Just like iTunes, you can browse the Amazon store and make purchases.

Downloading an album locally

The Amazon music store
The current audio formats supported are MP3 and AAC (MP4) for both the Android and web-based player. Vogg orbis (.ogg) and Windows Media (.wma) files are not. One bug with the client is that the song showing in “Now Playing” is out of sync with what’s actually playing. Given it was just released, this sort of thing is to be expected and the client functions well overall.

In conclusion, when I purchased my Android phone, I missed the ease of iTunes. Amazon has come up with a solution that is a credible challenge to Apple’s iTunes ecosystem. It actually raises the ante, given you can either stream or listen to locally stored music on a device. The next step is to build players for Amazon Instant devices such as the Roku. This would let Amazon also compete with the Apple TV’s ability to stream music into the living room. This would round out their offering quite nicely assuming they beat back any legal challenges from the record labels. It’s also interesting that the digital video library from Amazon Instant is not integrated with the Cloud Drive nor were there rumblings when Amazon stored our purchased TV shows and movies in the cloud. To finish, the only remaining question is when will the Android-powered Kindle be released?

Update: Amazon has an app for the PC and Mac called the “Amazon MP3 Uploader” to upload your music files and playlists into Cloud Drive. Details can be found here. It only uploads mp3 and aac files and will not load music in other formats or that are protected by DRM (as are the iTunes free songs at Starbucks).

Amazon MP3 Uploader

Update 2: There is a free utility available for Windows that integrates Cloud Drive into Windows explorer making it appear as a mapped drive. It removes the clumsiness of uploading your data. The product is from Gladinet.  I’m still searching for a similar utility with OS X support.

Tags: Amazon, Android, apps, review, streaming

2 Responses to Hands On with Amazon’s Cloud Player and Drive

  1. Rodrigo Rodriguez on June 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Very informative! I actually just read a great article about the Cloud Player on Ourstage, check it out: http://www.ourstage.com/blog/2011/4/7/the-great-race-to-the-cloud

  2. Margene on November 30, 2015 at 7:50 pm

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