Review: iTunes Match wins cloud music war by wisp

Nov 28, 2011 By RYAN NAKASHIMA , AP Business Writer
This screen shot provided by, shows a page from the Amazon Cloud Player. Released in March, Amazon’s cloud storage system is free for up to 5 gigabytes of storage _ roughly 1,250 songs. If you bought Lady Gaga’s latest album, “Born This Way,” in a 99-cent promotion in May, you’ll have 20 GB of space _ good for about 5,000 songs. (AP Photo/

(AP) -- In recent weeks, Apple, Google and have each launched the missing puzzle piece in their wireless mobile music systems.

Apple enabled and delivery of your songs over the Internet through iTunes Match. Google started selling music digitally. Amazon shipped an electronic-books device, called the Kindle Fire, that does much more than books.

With those additions, each system now lets you buy songs, store them on faraway computers called the cloud and retrieve them wirelessly on devices connected to the Internet.

But which system do you want to live with? It's a choice you can't make lightly because these companies don't play nice with each other. Once you've adopted one, it's hard to switch.

If this were the Music Cloud Wars, then Apple's iTunes Match would be winning - but not by much.

Here's a quick primer, along with a few ways to get in and around their digital barriers.


iTunes Match.

There's a good chance you are familiar with iTunes. The software is on millions of computers, and many of you have iPods, iPhones or iPads that let you consume content bought through the iTunes online store.

ITunes Match is a $25-a-year service on top of that. It sees everything you have in iTunes and matches it to copies Apple already has stored in the cloud. Songs not already there will be uploaded from your computer to a personal locker in the cloud.

It's alone among the three to let you download songs to iPhones and iPads wirelessly. That means a full copy of the song is stored for listening anytime, rather than streamed on demand over , which can be spotty. There's nothing more annoying than having your songs stop and start as your connection flutters.

You can have up to 25,000 songs on the service, plus an unlimited number bought through iTunes - great for those with large . Of course, most of you won't fit 25,000 songs on your device, so streaming is an option for songs you haven't downloaded yet.

If there's a tune you want to listen to offline, just tap an icon. It takes only a few seconds, and you can start listening before it's done.

One major caveat: You need an Apple device to use this, and specifically a newer one with Apple's iOS 5 mobile software. You're out of luck if you have a phone running Google's Android system, for instance.


Google Music.

Using Google's free Music Manager program, you upload music you own into Google's cloud. Unlike Apple, Google doesn't have songs preloaded, so this can take hours or days.

Google Music works best with an Android phone or tablet computer. You simply download the Google Music app to your device. Voila, your songs will be available for streaming. You can save songs for offline playback by "pinning" them with a digital push pin icon.

The service stores up to 20,000 songs, not including those bought through a companion music store run by Google. That's not as many as iTunes Match, but it's free.

I like Google's music store because it offers plenty of bargains. I found Coldplay's latest album, Mylo Xyloto, for $5 - half the price on iTunes. Google plans to release lots of free music, too.

I also like that if you buy from Google's music store, you can share the songs with friends on its Google Plus social network. They get one full listen for free - that's something not available anywhere else.

One downside: Google's store isn't as extensive as Apple's or Amazon's. For instance, it's missing songs from Warner Music Group, which accounts for about 20 percent of music sold in the U.S.

Google Music also isn't a great option for users of Apple devices.

Google found a way to make the system work on iPhones and through Apple's Safari Web browser. It has a surprising app-like feel because of the way menus respond to touch. But you won't be able to store songs on your phone for offline use.

There's also a trick for Apple users to take advantage of music deals: Download the songs onto a computer, put the music in iTunes and upload the songs into Apple's cloud through iTunes Match. It's not pretty, but it works.


Amazon Cloud Drive.

The new Kindle Fire completed Amazon's music system, though it's not required. It works fine on Android devices through the Amazon MP3 app.

Released in March, Amazon's cloud storage system is free for up to 5 gigabytes of storage - roughly 1,250 songs. If you bought Lady Gaga's latest album, "Born This Way," in a 99-cent promotion in May, you'll have 20 GB of space - good for about 5,000 songs.

Amazon's uploader works about the same as Google's. It could take hours or days to get your songs into the cloud. But once there, you can stream or download songs to the Kindle Fire or to Android devices.

Like Google, Amazon sells songs and albums at a discount to iTunes, and its long-running music store has a selection comparable to iTunes.

Amazon has also found a way to make its system work on devices, using Safari as well, but that workaround is clunkier than Google's and doesn't support downloads either.

One other downside to Amazon's service is that you'll likely have to pay for cloud storage, as you do with iTunes Match.

Having 5 GB of storage for free is kind of meaningless because most mobile devices have that already. The Kindle Fire comes with 8 GB on board. For a limited time, you can get 20 GB of storage for $20 a year - and most music files won't count against the total.


Although there are things to like about Google's and Amazon's systems, they both favor streaming, which isn't how I want to listen to music when I'm not at a computer.

Apple's iTunes Match is fundamentally more oriented to work with downloading in mind, and it meshes well with your existing song library, either on your device or on your computer.

The store is also set up better - showing what's new and popular, and acting as a barometer of popular culture. promotes what's free and emphasizes its bargains, but those picks aren't always what I'm looking for.

Ultimately it's great to have cloud services out there. It has helped me organize my music collection and reconnected me with songs stuck in the recesses of my computer.

In the end, though, these services ought to be as free and easy to access over multiple devices as email is. Instead, they come across as tools to get you to buy this or that device. And we shouldn't be made to pay for a once and then again when we store it.

in the cloud has promise, but it hasn't fully delivered just yet.

Explore further: Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

1 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Review: iCloud 'just works' for songs, so far

Oct 19, 2011

Syncing music from your iPhone or iPad across computers has got to be one of the least enjoyable experiences in Apple's computing ecosystem. The advent of iCloud was meant to lift the headaches of this cord-reliant ...

Apple's cloud music could finally make piracy pay

Jun 07, 2011

Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs on Monday introduced more than just a cloud storage system for songs that fans buy legitimately through iTunes. He unveiled a system that might finally get music lovers to pay for the songs they ...

Usefulness of 'Cloud' is a little hazy

Apr 19, 2011

"The Cloud," which is also simply known as online storage, got a bit more crowded recently with the launch of a new Internet locker from Amazon.

Recommended for you

Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

Aug 26, 2014

People on Facebook and Twitter say they are less likely to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center.

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

Aug 23, 2014

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

Aug 22, 2014

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

Aug 22, 2014

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

How much do we really know about privacy on Facebook?

Aug 22, 2014

The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

Aug 22, 2014

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

User comments : 0