When Amazon began offering MP3 song downloads without digital rights management (DRM) back in late 2007, I quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Even as an iPhone owner at the time, I ceased buying my music from iTunes, which later dropped DRM. Amazon continued to lead the way in mobile music this year by introducing its Cloud Player software for Android devices and integrating its music store with the online storage service. Amazon’s Cloud Player website can stream stored music as well, but until now, it hasn’t worked well on Apple’s iPad.
Amazon changed that yesterday with the introduction of Cloud Player support for the iPad browser. While you’d think the website might work for other iOS devices, too, it really doesn’t based on trying it on my iPod touch. Using the iPad, however, brings a solid, but basic, music streaming experience. Hitting the http://www.amazon.com/cloudplayer link on my iPad brings up a clean two-paned interface: categorized music and playlists on the left, and track details on the right. Both of these areas are scrollable, so you can view long lists of albums, tracks or playlists. The web-based app works in either portrait or landscape mode.
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Simple controls run along the bottom of the web page. You can play, pause, or skip/rewind tracks with touch buttons or enable random and repeat playback. The currently playing song appears, along with a progress meter for scrubbing or skipping around the song. Unlike a native music application however, you scrub through the song by dragging the progress button. Instead, you have to tap on the meter to jump to a specific point in the song.
Creating a new playlist is simple, as is adding songs or whole albums to an existing playlist. There’s also a link at the top right to buy the MP3 album from Amazon, but that seems silly to me: If you already own the song or album and have it stored on Amazon’s servers, why would you need a link to the album in Amazon’s MP store? The only benefit I can see is for people looking to see additional artist or album information, although this could be handy for those that own just a few tracks and want to complete an album.
For all intents and purposes, outside of the track scrubbing, the Amazon Cloud Player site on iPad simulates a basic music application reasonably well. The music quality sounds no different from when I stream my tunes on a desktop browser, and thanks to iOS multitasking, I can use other apps on my iPad while streaming music over the web. I have noticed that the service runs best if it retains the focus, however. When using another app, the music tends to stop after a song or two. A quick return to the web page nudges the stream to start up right away: something I hope is addressed in the future.
In contrast to the service in a desktop browser or the native Amazon MP3 app for Android, there’s no function to either upload music or download music for local storage in the iPad web version. I’ll stick to using iTunes for that as needed, but for now, I’m happy to enjoy my Amazon stored music on the iPad. And although in 2007, I felt very “locked in” to Apple’s hardware when it came to music and media, thanks to Amazon, I feel I have some real options today.