Amazon (s amzn) continued its mobile push into the land of Android (s goog) this week by adding music streaming functions to its Amazon MP3 app. The software is pre-installed on most Android phones as a way for device owners to purchase DRM-free music over the air from their handset. With the update, Amazon MP3 can still be used to buy music, but can now play it back or stream it from Amazon’s servers.
I tested the Cloud Player and new Cloud Storage service, which functions as a digital locker, and found the experience to be quite good. It’s simple, inexpensive and flexible, as music can be streamed or downloaded locally to save on bandwidth. These are the very functions I expected to see Amazon provide when I noted in 2009 that among the top-tier companies, Amazon was in the best position to offer music in the cloud (subscription required). The new services and software give Android a competitive advantage over iOS for some, although I expect it to be short-lived due to long-time rumors of Apple (s aapl) offering a similar service. Google is surely planning a digital music locker for Android as well, but it’s still not known if the company will sell music directly — something both Apple and Amazon (s amzn) do today.
In another area of playing catch-up, Android apps can now take advantage of in-app purchases for digital content and add-ons. Google added the ability in Android, and now it’s up to developers to implement it in their software. I suspect many will do so quickly where appropriate as recent studies show that in-app purchases in free applications can net more revenue than such purchases in paid apps. Given a large number of free Android apps, developers are often reliant upon advertising revenue but the new in-app commerce feature can provide additional profits.
Alternative browsers abound on Android for those that don’t like or want to use the stock browsing software and his week saw the official release of Firefox Mobile for Android. The software works well and outperforms the standard Android browser by up to three times in specific cases. Firefox Mobile also brings customization levels not found in Google’s browser through the use of themes and extensions. Perhaps the most appealing feature, at least for those that use Firefox on the desktop, is Firefox Sync which synchronizes bookmarks, passwords, and even open tabs between Firefox on the computer and on the handset.