Music in the Cloud: Google vs Amazon vs iTunes vs Spotify

We explain the pros and cons of the four big cloud music services.

By James Oliver Cury

Music in the cloud: Spotify

Buying and managing music online has never been perfect: Interfaces are clunky, free song samples are too short, and arcane rules govern whether or not you can listen to the tunes you’ve legitimately purchased on the devices you own. But things are changing thanks to cloud computing — basically, it means you can listen to your music from any device, not just from the one storing the mp3 files.

Google Music was just launched to compete with Apple iTunes Match, Amazon’s Cloud Player, and Spotify (all four offer songs for between $0.99 and $1.29). So we wondered how they stacked up against each other.


Pros: Stores up to 20,000 songs for free. If you use Gmail or Google documents or Google Plus, then you’re already half way to understanding the user interface and sharing metaphors. What’s more, you can add songs from iTunes or Windows Media Player. And listening on mobile devices is easy — not true of other music managers.
Cons: Setting the system up takes a little work. You have to download and install a “Music Manager” and then wait an eternity for the songs to upload with very little control over what songs you want uploaded and when (most people will choose automatic uploading). Also, there’s no cart-like storage area; you buy what you want one thing at a time. And there’s no wish list. You can find the music store here.
Ideal for: Android users.


Pros: Stores up to 5GB (1,000 songs) of music uploads — not including whatever you buy on Amazon — or 20GB for $20/year.
Cons: Some searches will produce CDs, not MP3s. Not optimized for all mobile devices (Android and iPad users are OK). Sorting options are limited in both the store and player.
Ideal for: Folks who do a lot of Amazon purchasing, get a lot of Amazon gift cards, or own a Kindle.

Pros: Pretty much everyone in the universe is familiar with the interface; the basic system has been around since 2003. Uploading is eased by the fact that the system finds file matches from your hard drive instead of uploading songs already in the cloud. You can stream or download with up to 10 devices (five can be computers).
Cons: There’s a fee ($24.99 a year for 25,000 songs). Syncing playlists or files is rough if you’re not an all-Apple kind of guy with all-Apple products.
Ideal for: Apple fans.


Pros: Spotify is not a browser-based storage solution but rather a dedicated music-playing and purchasing application, which differentiates it from the others. It also happens to allow users to listen to an unlimited amount of streaming music without worrying about per-song costs (if you sign up for the premium version). Premium also provides ad-free and unlimited listening when you’re offline.
Cons: Somewhat confusing and pricey fee structure (premium membership costs $10 a month).
Ideal for: Social types who want to share their playlists and see other people’s music tastes.

TAGS: Amazon, cloud, Google, iTunes, music, Spotify


Post a comment:

Mauricio Torres Madrid (Sat, 26 Nov 2011 19:12:45 +0000): I am an Apple lover and iTunes is ideal for me.What about you?
Paula Woodford Luckey (Sun, 27 Nov 2011 20:57:38 +0000): iTunes Match is a nice feature, but I've noticed it has a few kinks that need to be worked out. Number one is the album artwork. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not. Another is that if you are in wifi mode and you start one song from the cloud, another from the cloud will play, whether you want it to or not. This can be a problem in shuffle-mode. It's be nice to also be able to put the audio books on iTunes Match. But all in all it's a nice service so far.
Roberto Hiram Torres (Sun, 27 Nov 2011 21:15:26 +0000): I use Google Music and I love it, don't know what he's talking about control what uploads. You can do it right from the manager.
Jonathan Baldwin (Mon, 28 Nov 2011 13:25:32 +0000): Why are Android users called "Android users" but Apple users are "Apple fans" - seriously, can we have some non-judgemental descriptors? Also, iTunes Match works wonderfully for Windows users so why wouldn't they want to use it? (NB - US only at the moment, mind…).
Steven Esteban (Mon, 28 Nov 2011 15:17:56 +0000): iTunes Match also requires Lion, the latest version of OS X. Not everyone has upgraded and there are battery issues with respect to laptops. You also cannot use playlists with "unauthorized" files which are perfectly legal, like say a recording made by yourself. Google Music works best with Android, but I am using an iOS app, gMusic on an iPhone and it works just fine. Spotify gets so much press, but I found many more holes in its collection compared to say MOG. At least for my taste. MOG has a better selection in the classical and jazz genres.
Roger Joseph (Mon, 28 Nov 2011 15:49:40 +0000): RE:"Why are Android users called "Android users" but Apple users are "Apple fans"" Because many Android users are not necessary fans of Android, sorry to burst your bubble. Many Android users Choose android because it's a cheaper version of iPhone or don't want the expense of ownership in an iPhone and with many providers giving away free Android phones owning one does not make you a fan. IPhone users are fans because they are paying 2x as much when they "know" there is an alternative.
Modern Man (Tue, 29 Nov 2011 02:59:15 +0000): We weren't trying to send any subtle messages — we probably just didn't want to repeat the same word. Though you have to admit Apple users tend to be a LITTLE more vocal about their fandom.
Jonathan Baldwin (Wed, 30 Nov 2011 16:23:55 +0000): Roger Joseph Not necessarily. I payed twice as much for my suit as I could have done because it was better quality than the alternative. Am I a "fan" of my suit? No. You're making a judgement about people who bought iPhones - stop it, it's not very nice, really, is it?
Jonathan Baldwin (Wed, 30 Nov 2011 16:24:19 +0000): You've clearly not read Engadget much recently...


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