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Last Updated: July 24th, 2011

When Amazon Cloud Player hit the scene, my exact words were "Google Music who?" and now that Google Music Beta invites are starting to rollout to the masses, I can aptly answer that question.

I've used Amazon Cloud Player as the primary music player on my Android phone since its inception at the end of March, so I've become quite familiar with how it works. The service has its pros and cons (like any service, I suppose), but overall I am a big fan. Now that I have had a day or so to play with Google Music, though, I thought it would be appropriate to put these two in the ring together to see who would rise as the victor. Journey with me in this head-to-head deathmatch between Google Music Beta and Amazon Cloud Player.

Storage and Pricing

Before I get into the technical comparisons of each application, lets talk about how much music you can actually upload to each service and how much it will cost you.

Amazon Cloud Player

CloudPlayerPricing

Amazon offers up 5GB of storage for free, so if you haven't taken Cloud Player for a spin, there is really no reason not to do so. The price goes up from there at a dollar per gigabyte, though - all the way up to 1000GB. That should be more than enough to handle even the biggest music packrat's collection, if you're willing to shell out that kind of cash, that is.

Google Music Beta

MusicBetaStorage

Google has taken an interesting approach as far as storage capacity is concerned for beta testers - instead of giving a set limit in digital space, you have a song limit. 20,000 songs, to be exact. There is currently no way to increase that storage as of right now, but I have a feeling that model will change as time goes on and this service leaves its beta tag behind.

WINNER: Google Music Beta

On The Desktop

Logically, the best place to start the comparison is where the magic begins - with the uploader.

Amazon Cloud Player

CloudPlayerUploader

This the first thing that you have to interface with in order to start enjoying your music on the go. If you currently use iTunes or Windows Media Player, it should auto-detect your tunes, but for some reason I could never get that to work properly, so I had to manually choose which folders I wanted to upload. I guess it's not that big of a deal, but it's clearly more of a pain than it should be.

clouddrivewithfolder

The uploader itself is another annoyance altogether, as it is basically tethered to the browser. On two separate occasions, I accidently closed my browser while uploading music to the Cloud Drive, and *poof*... the uploader closed, too. Now, had I been able to get it to sync correctly with either iTunes or WMP, it may have only been a minor annoyance, but considering I had to select each folder that I wanted to upload individually... it was almost more trouble than it was worth, as I had to go through the entire selection process again (aside from the music that had already uploaded, of course).

The interface of the uploader is clean, easy to navigate, and basic. Exactly what is needed from something of this nature - it does what it's supposed to to do without navigation woes.

Google Music Beta

GoogleMusicUploader

Just like the uploader for Cloud Player, you can upload tracks from iTunes, Windows Media Player, and individual folders, but you also have the option to upload your entire music collection all in one go. Since Google is allowing beta testers to upload up to 20,000 songs, I opted to forgo the tedious process of selecting individual artists or albums and just dumped my entire collection to the cloud. Don't be mislead by that statement though - when I say dumped that makes it sound like it's a fast process... believe me, it's not. As a matter of fact, it probably won't be finished until next week (if I'm lucky).

musicbetawithfolders

One area where Amazon's uploader is a bit more functional than Google's is the "other folders" area. As I stated earlier, that was the only way that I could the Amazon uploader to work efficiently for me, but it was quite easy - I picked the folders that I wanted to upload at the time. Unfortunately, with Music Beta when you choose "Other folders", the folders that you select at that time are static. They will stay synced with your Music player all the time, which is kind of a pain if you just want to upload a few tracks from a random artist.

Back on the bright side, Google's uploader is a standalone application, so I can just let it do its thing. It even hides itself in the system tray as to not take up any room in the taskbar, which is quite nice. Another very nice feature of Google's uploader is the fact that it has options. You can control when to upload music, how much to upload at one time, and even how much bandwidth to allocate for the task. The one features that it is lacking over Amazon's uploader, however, is a pause button. If you need to stop the upload process for some reason, you have to close the program altogether, but it will pick up where it left off when you launch it again.

googlemusicuploaderoptions

While both uploaders serve their purpose, and each of them have their pros and cons, I have to say that Google Music Beta is the better contender in this area.

WINNER: Google Music Beta

In The Web Browser

Now that we've covered the uploaders for each service, lets move on to the web-based player for each. Before I get started with the comparison, though, I have one gripe that pertains to both players: tags. Normally, I am a Winamp user on the desktop, which reads both ID3v1 and ID3v2 tags, so all of my tracks show up in the correct spot regardless of which tag they use. Cloud Player and Music Beta, on the other hand, simply do not. I'm not entirely sure how Amazon or Google go about reading the ID tags of uploaded music, but some of my tracks show up drastically different in the cloud than they do in Winamp. That really wouldn't be so bad, but there is no way of fixing it within the Cloud Player or Music apps. [Update: It turns out that you can update the track info in Music Beta, but not within Cloud Player. Simply click the down arrow next to the track title and choose "Edit song info." Thanks to Rastor for pointing this out!] Now that I have that of my chest, we can continue with the comparison.

Amazon Cloud Player

CloudPlayer

If there's one thing that I can say about Amazon Cloud Player's interface, it's that it still looks like a web app. Call it nitpicking if you want, but I prefer apps that look like more like native desktop applications. With that said, the interface is still quite clean and easy to navigate. The controls are very defined and easy to locate (see 'em there, in the bottom left?) with volume, shuffle, and repeat all just a click away.

The library is simple and direct, offering varying ways of browsing through your music. You can sort by song, album, artist, genre, latest uploads, or latest purchase. It also offers a search function, which can be a Godsend if you're looking for one track among many. It also includes simple playlist support, so creating a quick mix of your favorite tracks or a playlist to work out to is easy peasy.

Another really nice feature of the Cloud Player is that is allow for quick access to the Amazon MP3 Store, which makes purchasing music and adding it to your Cloud Drive a breeze. The best part about buying music directly from Amazon MP3 is that it doesn't go against your quota in Cloud Drive, saving you precious space for future tunes.

Overall, I really like the Cloud Player web app. It's easy to use and does exactly what I want it to do - organizes and plays my music.

Google Music Beta

MusicBetaPlayer

Let me just start off by saying that I really like the Music Beta interface. It definitely feels more like a native application to me, which is a huge bonus in my book.

The controls are not as dominant as they are in Cloud Player, as they just sort of blend in down at the bottom. All of the features are still there - shuffle, repeat, and volume - but it also adds a thumbs up and thumbs down feature, similar to Pandora. I'm not entirely sure why thumbs down is included though, since you upload your own music collection. Why would you want to thumbs down music from your own collection? This could hint a bigger things for Music Beta, but I'll leave the speculation for another day.

The library is quite similar to that of Amazon Cloud Player, with categories for songs, artists, albums, genres, and recently added tracks. It also includes some pre-made playlists for recently added tracks, free songs (if you choose the include the free tracks when you setup Music Beta for the first time - I did not), and tracks that have received your thumbs up approval.

InstantMix

I'm really not sure why track 2 isn't showing up here, but I better figure it out... that's my favorite track on the album!

What really sets Music Beta apart, however, is the Instant Mix playlist. Quite similar to iTunes' Genius playlist creation, you select a track, click the down arrow, and choose "Make Instant Mix." It will then create a playlist of similar music, saving you all of the hassles of doing such a task for yourself.

One thing that Music Beta is lacking in comparison to Cloud Player is an MP3 store. No buying music and quickly adding it to your library here - you have to upload everything, which is kind of a downer.

Like Cloud Player, Music Beta also includes a handy search box for quick access to any track - but wouldn't it have been sort of silly for a music service provided by a search company to lack suck a feature?

Overall, I am a big fan of the web interface for Music Beta. Even though it's lacking a store, it's clean, very easy to navigate, very organized, and has the super-awesome Instant Mix feature.

WINNER: TIE (if you never plan on using the Amazon MP3 store, however, Google Music Beta easily takes this one)

On The Android

This one is the big deal. It can make or break the entire service depending on the app's usability, interface, features, and everything in between. Without further ado, I give you the Android app comparison.

Amazon Cloud Player

cloudplayerapp CAP201105181132 cloudplayerstore

For starters, the Amazon Cloud Player Android app is nice. We've talked about it before, and I love it just as much now as I did back then (as if it were so long ago). The ability to access both local media and music stored on the Cloud Drive from the same app is incredible - and the fact that that app displays them in separate interface instead of bundling them together is a huge bonus.

The interface is extremely intuitive, with the navigation controls along the top of the app and all media controls setting conveniently at the bottom. Just like the web app, the media controls standout from the rest of the Android app, which only adds to the usability.

The app has direct access to the Amazon MP3 store, so you can quickly and easily buy music and add it to your library on the go. The music becomes available immediately, so you don't have to deal with the hassle of uploading music just to have mobile access to it.

cloudplayerdownload

Have some music stored in your Cloud Drive and want a local copy of it, too? No problem, the Cloud Drive app has that covered as well. You can download both single tracks or full albums from your Cloud Drive directly from the Android app, avoiding the need to grab the USB cable to get some new tunes on your device.

amazonwidget

With all music apps, there is one feature that can break a great app down very quickly: the widget. If a music app has a bad widget, it almost kills the usability of the entire app. Fortunately for Amazon, the widget for Cloud Player is quite solid. It's what you would expect from a music widget - basic controls, now playing, and quick access to the app. The fact that it's also very clean isn't a bad thing, either.

Google Music Beta

musicbetaapp musicbetaappplayer

Google had a wonderful opportunity to save itself from the terrible monstrosity of a music app that ships with stock Android with this new incarnation. Unfortunately... that didn't' happen. As much as it pains me to admit it - this app is really no better than the stock app as far as functionality is concerned. Sure, it looks better - but a pretty face will only get you so far.

The interface isn't quite as intuitive as it could be - sliding through the various categories is okay, but it just doesn't seem to be all that practical. One of my biggest peeves with this app is the fact that it shows all of your media - cloud and local - all in the same list. If you have some of the same music on your SD card that you have in the cloud, it shows up twice, which is as annoying as it is ridiculous. 

Just like the Cloud Player app, the media controls are along the bottom of the app as long as music is playing, but there's one thing missing... the back button. What is it with Google and the lack of back buttons? I don't get it. Sometimes I want to hear a track again, or perhaps I hit the next button on accident. Whatevs, Google.

musicbetalist musicbetaoffline musicbetacache

When it comes to selecting an album to listen to, I absolutely hate the tap > dropdown > tap again thing that Google has going on with the Music Beta app. When I tap an artist, I want to see an album list without having to scroll. That is just an extra step between me and music that I'm not interested in dealing with.

Music offers a similar feature to Cloud's ability to download tracks to your SD card - but it's more like offline caching. Once you tell it to make an album available offline, it will download the album (this is set to happen only on Wi-Fi by default) and store it locally on your SD Card. It took some digging to find exactly where it stores these files, as it's buried semi-deep: SD Card/Android/data/com.google.android.music/cache/music is where you'll find all of the cached tracks (pictured above). Be aware, though, it doesn't use properly named files, so you'll have no idea which tracks are which.

musicwidget

If you've seen the widget for the original Google Music Player, then you've seen the widget for the new Music Beta as well - it's the same exact one. It probably goes without saying, but I wasn't impressed with the widget originally and, well, nothing has changed. Again, no back button. C'mon.

WINNER:  Amazon Cloud Player

Summary and Conclusion

I realize this is quite long and for those that didn't want to read the entire thing, here is a quick recap:

Amazon Cloud Player

Pros

  • Easy to use uploader
  • Very clean web interface
  • Direct access to the Amazon MP3 store from both the web player and the Android App
  • Incredible Android app; very well organized and intuitive interface

Cons

  • The uploader is tied to the browser, which can be annoying if you close the browser by accident
  • The web player still looks like a web app, not a native app
  • Limited space/price per gigabyte

Google Music Beta

Pros

  • Huge amount of storage while in beta
  • Very nice uploader
  • Intuitive, well designed web app

Cons

  • No MP3 store
  • Poorly designed Android app
  • Terrible widget

OVERALL WINNER: Amazon Cloud Player

While Google Music Beta started off strong, the Android app was really the deal breaker for me. It's lacking features that I feel are clutch in a good music app, and the interface isn't as intuitive as it could be. If you're just looking for a service to hold your music and allow you to stream it from any PC, then Google Music is definitely the way to go. But, if a good Android app is a must-have for you, then I just can't recommend Music Beta at this point

In the end, though, it's really up to you to decide which service you prefer.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • Dennis

    I use Amazon's cloud player on Android to download music and play using PowerAmp. Given Amazon's cloud issues lately I want to make sure I get my music when I want it.

  • http://existing-light.blogspot.com/ Mario

    I haven't received my invite to Google Music yet but I can tell you a major gripe I have about Amazon's service: they don't support WMA files. A big portion of my music library is WMA and not MP3, so I'm SOL.

  • ocdtrekkie

    The Android app for Music from Google has always lagged behind, but now that they have a service behind it, it'll likely see the update rate at which we see Google Maps get updated.

    Expect rapid addition of new features!

    • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

      In the next version of Andriod, which, of course, your manufacturer will not push out to your device.

  • JR

    Is it just me or does the Google voice app give a metro style feel like it should belong with WP7?

  • Rastor

    Not sure what you mean by "there is no way of fixing it within the Cloud Player"... just click the arrow next to the song and choose "Edit song info". You can also select multiple songs first if you need to make batch edits.

    • Cameron Summerson

      Thanks for pointing that out! I've updated the post accordingly.

      It's worth noting, though - this works in Music Beta, not Amazon Cloud Player. Either way, it's a solution to a major annoyance for me.

  • SiliconAddict

    There is no death match. Google Music....I don't have. Amazon Player I have and use NOW....game over. Now if Google would ever send me an invite...then lets talk. Until then I'm Amazon's beech.

  • jrgg

    The biggest issue I have with the Amazon cloud player app is when it is in landscape. The list is exactly 2 rows (HTC Evo) with alot of wasted space. I use the landscape view in the car and it is impossible to use, while driving, with only 2 rows of a scrolling list.

    Also, if I play a song and its cached, I can play it from cache when "Streaming from the Cloud", but it doesn't show up in my On-device music. The Google music service does that right, all cached music is available offline, until it is removed from cache. You can PIN the song in cache to force it to download and remain available.

  • Sam V

    Great article, and nice taste in music, I might add. Its nice to see August Burns Red getting the spotlight in your screenshots. And did I see a Blindside and BTA album in there? Awesome!

    • Cameron Summerson

      Thanks for noticing. I try to throw my favorite bands a bone whenever I do this type of article, hoping to subtly spread the word to like-minded individuals who may not have experienced them yet.

      ABR are absolutely amazing in my eyes; I'm super excited for Leveler!

      And yes, you did spy some Blindside and BtA in there. Both amazing bands as well.

  • Relwal

    I've been experimenting with both services. I've got 1300 songs on Amazon and 6000 on Google.

    There's something to be said for having my entire music collection in the cloud. And Google is headed in that direction.

    I've had the opposite impressions of the music player apps from Google and Amazon. I think Google has done a great job with the new UI and feature set. Whereas, I find Amazon's player to be clumsy.

  • Rotmann

    Awesome professional deathmatch, AP is becoming the best android related site, congratulations!

  • Ian

    The biggest thing that Google Music beta did right, was give the ability to edit ID3 tags. I uploaded the same album and I had the same issue with the tags I was able to correct it. Google won in my mind. The only drawback is buying music. Amazon pwned in buying.

  • mattm

    You noted that with music beta if you have local music AND cloud music you will get duplicate songs in your library. This is only temporary. For me after a few days (actually more than a few) the music player automatically merged duplicates. I actually really enjoy that it seamlessly moves between local cloud music with no problem.

  • frankiec

    Does Google Music Beta work on any phone other than Android? Of course, no big deal if you never plan on using another phone o/s but android. In case you do want to change, it is nice to know that Amazon will try and support all makes and models, and I am not sure Google is headed that way.
    Also, Amazon has now separated the Uploader to a native app.
    They still don't let you edit tags, which is a bit of pain - tho I don't do that very often. However, if you edit the file locally, it will get uploaded with those changes.

  • Screaming101

    Some of this info is wrong, if you buy the 20 GB plan, they give you automatic FREE UNLIMITED storage for music. the 20 GB only applies to other files. (Yes, the unlimited includes uploaded music too)

  • erica vhay

    The amazon cloud player interface drives me pretty crazy when I am trying to build a playlist.  If you are scrolling through your list of artists (12,000) or albums (2500), and you want to look at one of them, you click it and it takes you to that album.  You click back and it takes you back to the beginning of the list.  If you have many albums or artists, losing your place is a real bummer.  You also can't right click on an album and Open In New Window, like any pleasant web app would allow.  It will open a new window, but it will just take you to the beginning of the same list you are already on.

    Also, you can't sort by something as basic as release date, or date added to the collection.  I often want to see my latest albums, and they support a "recent purchase", that expires after a while, and is not a sort mechanism, but a filter.

    Am I going about this the wrong way?  I am going to try google's music service to see if they handle these things better.