I think there is no doubt that the future location of all our entertainment files will be “The Cloud”, but I think its a little presumptuous of Google and Amazon to suggest that the future is right now.
For starters, some people still struggle to get 2mb or 3mb broadband at home which could hamper the initial upload, let alone get a decent and reliable 3G signal on their phones for streaming. LTE could solve some of the latter problems, but you still have the shackles of prohibitively low monthly data limits to worry about over your mobile network.
Okay, I'll dive straight in, I think both Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player currently fall way short. In fact, i'd go as far as saying that both their failings are stopping me nailing my colours to either mast at the moment.
Its hard not to cast envious eyes over to Apple and their complete end-to-end solution of iTunes, iOS and ITunes Match. No matter what you might think about Apple, they have got their content delivery system absolutely nailed in my opinion. From locally stored files to cloud versions to syncing between iTunes, just one, or all your devices is just stunning. The beauty of a closed shop perhaps?
Having not committed to either, I have only briefly dabbled with Google Music (GM) and Amazon Cloud Player (ACP), but I haven’t been impressed thus far.
GM was announced in the US almost a year ago, but still hasn't hit the UK or anywhere else yet. Yes, we can frig it using Weekend Project: Try Google Music cloud streaming outside the US, but come on Google, sort it out.
There is currently no “match” option in GM, so you have to upload each and every megabyte of each and every track. All the track bit rates are as uploaded, so if you upload poor 128kps poor rips, that’s how they stay online. But at least you can upload 20,000 tracks for free.
ACP does has a match option and allows you to test the service out with 250 uploads for free, whereas for £21.99 a year you get up to 250,000 songs imported/matched/stored. Also, once uploaded and matched you can download your tracks back at 256kps even if you only uploaded a 128kps version. :)
One of my biggest bugbears though about this push towards the cloud is that Google and Amazon seem to have forgotten that many of us still have thousands of songs on our hard drives and that we still want to "actively manage” that local collection.
Its quite telling to me that both GM and ACP importer programs instantly look to iTunes for your music and playlists. (a doth of the cap?) But once your upload is complete, that's it, they assume your music is in the cloud and any local management/syncing is over.
Even though i'm an Android user I still use iTunes on my PC to manage my modest mp3 collection (6,200 tracks, 37gb). I then use DoubleTwist to get playlists and a subset of my songs over to my phone locally.
But within iTunes I have a number of Smart Playlists that are vital to me. For example, I have my own “Top Rated” smart playlist where any track over rated with 2+ stars gets auto added. Its not a massive list, its around 750 tracks at around 4.3gb but if i’m not in the mood for an album I stick this smart playlist onto random play and i'm sorted. But this smartlist grows and changes all the time as I make changes to song ratings.
ACP has no “song rating” marker whatsoever and it also lacks any sort of auto/smart playlist. So you have no option but to manually go through and make basic playlists from scratch. I wasn't able to test if I could do something with my iTunes playlists because ACP importer does not find your iTunes data if its not stored in the default location on the PC, mine is stored over on my NAS. Solutions online suggest making symbolic links etc, but come on Amazon, basics!!
GM has at least got this simple thumbs up/down feature and has now added a “Thumbs Up” playlist into “Auto Playlists”, so you can create a simple “rated” auto/smart playlist using this.
Unfortunately upon import into GM any iTunes ratings are lost/not transferred. Although you can con it by importing your faves as a basic iTunes playlist then batch highlighting those songs in GM and applying a mass thumbs up.
But once your music is up there (to either GM or ACP), thats it, you are expected to forget about your local collection and solely manage your ratings/playlists online. And to be honest, I don't think i'm ready to give up my local collection just yet. Are you?
I know I lauded praise on Apple earlier, but you don't get all of this faffing with iOS. You change the rating of a song on any device and it just updates everywhere, even locally, the beauty of having iTunes in the equation. Yes, I am a big fan as you can probably tell. Jealous? Of course.
Maybe i'm being a little harsh on both Android services as its difficult to live up to the Apple solution. But it does beg the question, do Google or Amazon need an iTunes equivalent to give a complete end-to-end solution?
From my initial Cloud Player findings, i’m surprised to say that even despite the lack of a UK presence and no match service its Google Music that appeals to me most at this stage. Amazon Cloud Player’s lack of song ratings and no auto-playlists just kills my interest at the moment as it's two features that are just too important to me. No matter how tempting the Amazon 256kps Match functionality is.
On reflection I suppose both Android services are in their infancy compared to Apple and should get better over time. But how quickly and up to what standard is anyone’s guess.
Maybe i'll upload my 6000+ tracks to Google Music and see how I get on, its free after all. But I really don't like the idea of abandoning my local collection and its organisation.
Is it only me who wants to keep their local collection going? Or am I being a little too old skool? Could a third party app come to our rescue? Doubletwist perhaps? But it would be another step in an already convoluted process.
And i've not even talked about the players/clients in all this. :)
- We'd love to hear your Cloud Music Player thoughts, tips and tricks?
- How would you improve Google Music or Amazon Cloud Player?
- What gripes do you have about the services?
- How do you intend coping with or without a local collection once you've uploaded?