Late last night, I realized I hadn’t follow my normal web routine that day. One of the first sites I hit every day of the week is the Amazon MP3 store. Why? Two reasons. First, they offer a new MP3 album on the cheap, for anywhere from 99 cents to $3.99. It’s a great way to build a music collection on a budget. Second, I’m expanding my musical horizons by previewing genres and artists I’d never listen to otherwise. Even if I don’t buy an album, I’m at least exposing myself to different types of music.
So anyway, it was nearly bedtime when I realized I missed out on my daily dose of DRM-free music. My Palm Pre was already in my pocket, so I fired up the Amazon MP3 application. Unfortunately, the MP3 du jour isn’t prominently featured on the small screen. I’d love to see an update to make that happen soon.
No worries. I just fired up the WebOS browser and hit up the Amazon site directly. That told me what the featured album was, but of course, I couldn’t preview the songs like I can on my full computers. The preview function requires an installation of Adobe Flash, which the Pre doesn’t yet have. There’s talk of it appearing in beta by October, but for now — no Flash.
Armed with the featured album’s title and artist, I went back into the Amazon MP3 app. Remember, the Pre can multitask, so this back-and-forth wasn’t painful at all. A quick search got me to the album of the day and since there’s only one Amazon MP3 store, the same $1.99 price tag I saw on the web appeared in the app.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to preview all of the songs with one click in the Pre’s version of Amazon MP3. I do that on full browsers to hear 30 seconds of each song, one after another. Instead, I had to tap each individual track to hear the songs. A “Preview All” function would be a welcome improvement in the future. I decided that I liked the album enough to spend two bucks, so I bought it from my handset over Wi-Fi. There were 10 tracks on the album and the downloads moved along at a reasonable pace.
I thought the process was pretty seamless, but then I realized that one of the tracks in the list didn’t download. There was no way I could force it, so after a few minutes of futzing around, I decided to close and re-open the Amazon MP3 app. Sure enough, the pending download was listed and it was pulled down immediately. Not sure what happened or why the app choked on the tenth track, but hopefully, it was a fluke.
This morning, the first thing I wanted to do was to put the new, DRM-free album in my main iTunes library, so I connected the Pre to my MacBook using the USB cable. Connecting the Pre to a computer offers three options: Media Sync, USB Drive and Just Charge. I chose Media Sync, which opened up iTunes on my MacBook. I clicked on the Palm Pre icon under Devices expecting to see the new album, but iTunes only showed the prior albums. If I recall correctly, any iTunes music purchases from an iPhone or iPod Touch do appear here so that you can sync them into your iTunes library. I could very well be wrong on this, however, as I’ve only purchased a handful of music from iTunes and probably not for over a year or two.
All wasn’t lost, of course. Since the Pre was connected via USB, it actually shows up as a USB drive in the Finder. In essence, using Media Sync also gives you USB Drive access, at least on a Mac. A quick tap of File –> Add to Library in iTunes let me browse to the AmazonMP3 folder on the Pre and add the tracks. It’s certainly not seamless, but it worked.
Another interesting observation: I’ve looked all over the Pre’s file structure on my Mac and I don’t see the other MP3 albums I’ve added through iTunes. Obviously, they’re on the device as I can listen to them. I used the Palm Pre Media Sync feature and iTunes to get them there in the first place. But unless I remove the music I purchased from Amazon on the Pre and put it back through iTunes and the Media Sync function, iTunes won’t show me an accurate view of the music on my Pre.
Before removing the tracks from the Pre’s AmazonMP3 folder, I used Media Sync to send the new album from my iTunes library to my Pre. You can probably guess what happened. Yup, the tracks appeared twice in the Music app because they now exist on the phone two places: in the Amazon MP3 folder and wherever the iTunes music gets synchronized. So basically I have to use two methods to manage the music on one device. Or I need to remove and then add back the same tracks; either way, that’s not good, nor is it seamless.
All in all, it’s not that difficult to get music from either iTunes or Amazon on your Pre. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the best implementation. This needs some work, although I don’t know how much more functionality Palm can actually add. Its entire approach is based on the Pre telling iTunes that it’s really an iPod; if Palm takes any further actions to truly make it a seamless experience, I suspect Apple will put its foot down through either legal means or software changes.