Having waited for what seems an eternity for the Google Music service to be released in the UK, I recently downloaded and joined the Amazon MP3 service. The Amazon service automatically allows streaming of purchased MP3s from the music store on mobile devices and allows a limited number of files from ones home library to be added for online streaming too. Two or three days after joining, the invitation came from Google Music arrived to join up. FINALLY!
Google Music allows up to 20,000 music files to be uploaded to the cloud for instant streaming. My personal MP3 collection amounts to a little over 5000 files and includes a number of audio formats including ogg, wav, wma and MP3. These filetypes are supported by Google.
Google also have an app available on the Android market which allows free streaming of the music that’s been uploaded.
The Amazon MP3 service allows a much smaller number of ‘offline’ audio files to be associated with your cloud account (only 250). This indicates that Amazon really wants you to move to an MP3-only music purchase. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but I don’t think an MP3 album will be the same as owning the physical disc, with all the album artwork. Of all the albums I’ve bought, there are only a couple which I have bought in MP3 format. The rest are CDs / Vinyl.
Update: 20/11/2012 – Since initially writing this article, I have given the Amazon Cloud player a trial run with some music which I have bought in the MP3 store. The interface is very similar to that of Google’s so it’s easy enough to use, but part way through my listening, while I had an album on pause, I had a dialogue pop up warning me that my session had expired. Not what I expect really.
I also tried to download an entire album from the cloud music player to my laptop, and was forced to download one file at a time (apparently downloading a whole album is not possible on Linux machines).
Google provides an app which can be used to sync your music collection to Google Music. I have tried the app both on OS X and Ubuntu and uploaded my entire collection using Ubuntu. The application allows folders to be specified which will subsequently be monitored by the Google Music application and will automatically upload any new albums added. This is a great way of backing up files straight away. I was using services such as Dropbox and Ubuntu One for this, but with their limited space only new purchases were being backed up.
A nice touch is that the browser reported the upload progress and as my computer was uploading files at home, my browser at work told me how far the upload progress was.
The advantage of being forced to wait for the Google Music service to arrive in the UK is that by the time it got here, it was well-established. There have been a number of adjustments and changes made to the web UI before being launched in the UK improving it. There is also the Android app available which provides access to all the online albums and integrates well with with Android phone. This includes audio control on the lock screen (very important for listening at work).
When using a computer, the Web IU is the default method for listening to music but also has some downsides. For example, if I want to quickly pause the music, I need to find the browser window containing the player, find the right tab and press the pause button. I have tried the Music Plus Chrome extension which supposedly provides keyboard shortcuts allowing music to be paused during playback. In my experience these shortcuts don’t work – perhaps when the browser is not the active window.