Amazon Cloud Player and Drive review: Not for music lovers

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Amazon’s Cloud Player

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Giant iPods used to be the norm, but as many users’ MP3 collections have grown, the capacity of phones and MP3 players has actually decreased. While a 64GB or 120GB MP3 player was normal a few years back, most modern smartphones and media players hold only 4GB to 16GB due to a shift to Flash storage, which is faster and better for batteries, but more expensive. In addition, music files now must sit next to games, apps, photos, and videos. There is no such thing as a music player anymore. Almost everything is a “media player.” Music has lost its prominence as technology has advanced.

Amazon could have released its Cloud Drive as a standalone product, but it went the extra mile and tried to solve one of today’s big problem: accessing and managing music collections. Most music is still purchased as standalone files, but modern users are on more and more devices. Until now, you’ve only been allowed to download a new MP3 once on services like Amazon MP3 and iTunes. So which device should you download it to? Your computer? Your smartphone? Your tablet? And once it’s there, how do you get the music to the rest of the devices? It’s a problem that has turned into a hassle for many users. The Cloud Player attempts to solve this problem, but falls short on the details.

How it works

Using an Adobe Air application, you can upload music files directly to your Cloud Drive. Amazon automatically sorts music by artist, album, genre, and songs. You can also create playlists, and view recent uploads and purchases with relative ease. Playing a file or album is as easy as clicking the play button next to it. Shuffle, pause, and repeat features are also included. The interface is very webby, but it works.

Buying music from Amazon’s MP3 store works differently. Instead of downloading it to your computer, you can now download it straight to your Cloud Drive, which intelligently adds it right into your collection.

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The Good

I like the album view, and how simple it is to instantly access new music from anywhere. An already-released update to Amazon’s Android MP3 app has a built in Cloud Player. I downloaded a couple free songs on the MP3 store from my PC and instantly began streaming them and downloading them to my Motorola Droid. This, I like. Streaming appears to work very smoothly on Android devices and PCs with no degradation in quality. After a few moments, I forgot I was streaming music at all.

The Bad

Though it has all of the basic functions you need, Amazon’s Cloud Player will be too limited for some users and nearly unusable for others. Though you can create playlists, you cannot upload playlists you’ve already created. There is also no way to rate songs with stars, or thumb them up and down. However, the real problem is that there is no way to edit metadata (artist names, album names, song names, etc.) once music is in Amazon’s Cloud Player. The first upload I made was for a band called “The Damnwells.” However, one of the songs was listed as a separate artist “Damnwells.” There is no way to fix this unless I delete the file, fix it on my computer, and re-upload.

Though the service is Web-based, those using iOS devices or mobile Safari won’t have much luck. Amazon’s Cloud Player does not operate on these devices. Supposedly, it does work on Macs, though I was unable to test its performance.

Those who already use Amazon’s MP3 store may walk away feeling cheated as well. The Cloud Player does not automatically pull in any of the songs or albums you’ve downloaded from Amazon (though the company keeps such records). If you’d like to store previous Amazon MP3 purchases, you’ll have to upload them to the Cloud Player like anything else. And though you may already be a loyal Amazon MP3 user, don’t expect that 20GB storage bump unless you buy a new album. For a company that usually rewards its loyal users, Amazon is acting a bit out of character (see legal woes below).

The Ugly

Uploading music using Amazon’s Cloud Player is a pain if you happen to have a lot of MP3 files (especially in one folder). Instead of using a Windows Explorer window to choose files, Amazon forces you to download an Adobe Air app to find files. It was incapable of rendering my music list without crashing. In fact, it crashed nearly 10 times before I was able to upload a single album to the service. Uploading from an Android device is not yet offered.

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I got very excited when I discovered that the uploader on Amazon’s Cloud Drive site used an explorer window instead of a crazy Adobe app. The Cloud Drive uploaded an album much easier and faster than the Cloud Player, but did not pull in the artist, album, or any relevant metadata. So now I’m stuck with several “Unknown Albums” by “Unknown Artist.” This is a severe enough flaw, but the lack of any way to change the metadata means that I can either delete these files or have a library full of mystery music.

I will admit that my music collection is large, but I don’t think I’m the only person with thousands of songs. Amazon needs to fix these problems if it hopes to make the Cloud Player and Drive usable for its target audience: music lovers.

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