Above the clouds: Amazon Cloud Drive

A little after midnight last night, Amazon rolled out it’s new cloud services, Amazon Cloud Drive & Player to much fanfare. The service gives Amazon users (most notably their digital goods buyers) an allotment of virtual storage to store your mp3 files (or other digital documents as the front page says). This is not to be confused too much with Amazon’s Web Services, which realistically can do the same thing. As a avid Amazon user, I found this service intriguing and decided to jump in take a look at it.

First things first, if you have Amazon account, this service will already be going for you. Supposedly, you can house/backup your music collection to it and have it available for you to reach from any pc and Amazon’s mp3 store app. More about that in a bit. You will be given a free 5 gigabytes (GBs) of storage off the top, with the ability to pay for extra allotment of space as you see fit to do so (which comes out to an dollar per gigabyte. Not a bad deal). What I’ve also seen is that you can get an upgrade to 20 GBs of storage for one year free with the purchase of an mp3 album from Amazon from now until the end of the year. Now when I first saw that, there didn’t seem to be any mention of the free for one year part of the 20gig upgrade. Either that has been changed now, or there was a part that I missed when I read through the page last night. That is something to be aware of, though. I went ahead an bought an album last night for the upgrade. I was going to anyway, so I figured why not. I will be curious to see what happens at the end of the year should I have more have than 5 gigs used of the service. I will say right now that 20 gigs, while a lot, is not a whole lot if you are the type to have say….an few hundred gigs of mp3s. I am will not confirm nor deny that I may be one of those people. And the 5 gigs you get for free is even less, but it is free and could be potentially useful in the long run.

 

There are many more in depth looks at the service, but I wanted give my thoughts on it from what I’ve seen so far. And the first thing I’ve noticed, which may or may not be an oversight, is that purchases that you’ve already made from Amazon’s mp3 store are not automatically put into your virtual space. You start off empty and will have to upload any songs or albums you wish to store there from your pc/mac. I should point out that this can include anything you’ve bought from Apple’s itunes, as well. Probably the un-DRMed music, though. However, if you buy any mp3s from Amazon, you have the option to have the go directly to your space and you can download them from there. In fact, I would make the suggestion that the first thing you do is go to the settings page after logging in to your Amazon account (the settings will be in ‘Your Amazon mp3 settings’ under ‘your digital items’ or ‘your account’ links at the top of the page) and set your purchases to go straight to the Cloud Drive. I believe you can choose to download your purchase and have it go the storage at the time of purchase. It’s just as easy to have it automatically go to the cloud and/or play from there. Backing up, it might not be that big of a hassle to upload your already purchased Amazon mp3s back to the drive but it would just make more sense to just have pushed what you’ve already bought over there. That’s just me, I guess. Oh, one very important thing to note is that any purchases made through Amazon’s mp3 store will NOT count against your storage space. A quick recheck of my storage used confirms that is the case. That is awesome, though still doesn’t exactly negate what I’ve just said previously.

Okay so, once you get your music uploaded or have made purchases from Amazon, you will want to play them. You can still download them and put them on your player of choice, or you can also play them from the web or from Amazon’s mp3 store app, which seems to be only the case on Android devices at the moment. I’ve seen reports that it doesn’t work on IOS devices(iphones, ipods, ipad, etc) yet. The Cloud Player interface is pretty simple as you can see below. You have your player controls at the bottom of the page and your list of songs/albums in the middle of the page. If in song view, just click on the little play icon of a highlighted track and go for it. If in album view, click the thumbnail to go to the listing and on from there. There are also buttons to play, add to a playlist, download track(s), and delete track(s) across the top of track listing. If you’ve spent any amount of time in the mp3 store, this will be familiar. At the top left of the page, there is the link to start uploading new tracks to the cloud. You cannot upload tracks from the mp3 downloader app at this time. You probably never will be able to. Would be nice, though.

 

So, you may not be near a pc, but have your Android device handy. Chances are, you already have the Amazon mp3 store app on your phone and updated. At the top right, is the link to the Cloud Player side. From there you can play either on device music, or download/ stream your music from the Cloud Drive. Streaming from 3g worked pretty well when I tried it. It’s not gapless playback, but what do you expect from streaming this way? Streaming from wifi also works quite well and naturally faster. That is also within norms, which is why a lot of apps ask you to stream/download from wifi if you can. You can, of course, hit the store and buy new tracks/albums from the app as always which is handy, but also can be the devil if you’re an impulse buyer…like some people might be *ahem*. What it has done is put the fire under the likes of Apple and Google who have been trying to pull off such a cloud storage/streaming music service for a little which coming. It’s not such a big surprise that Amazon beat them too it. They’ve had the infrastructure and relationships to do it already. Whether they can maintain the step ahead will remain to be seen.

All in all, its a pretty good package deal whether it will be ultimately whelming for anyone. I will kick it around some more, for sure. Not sure how often I will end up using it. It has also reminded me of another app/website that I’ve been meaning to talk about that serves a similar purpose. While I am the type who still buys physical albums from time to time, I buy a good bit from Amazon’s mp3 store, so for me this service will likely end being the storage space for what I get from them. That’s only logical and those purchases I’ve bought before this happened don’t equal up to 5 gigs yet that I can recall. What I would be curious to see if Amazon plans to make a value add for it’s Amazon Prime user base like it did with it’s video side. That could make things a little more interesting, though I’m not sure what they could do. Maybe 20 gigs of storage for Prime members? Only time will tell and I’m not wondering that because I use Prime (would be nice though). At any rate, this is a pretty cool deal if you’re already invested in Amazon’s ecosystem. If anything, it’s good for backing up your purchases through them for free.

EDIT:

I did say there were more in depth looks into this service. Check out the links below for a couple.

Tested.com: Amazon Debuts Cloud Player, Cloud Drive with Free 5GB

CNET First Look: Amazon Cloud Drive & Player