Google’s music match in U.S.: Better deal than Apple, Amazon?

Google (s goog) announced a music matching service in the U.S. through its Google Play store on Tuesday, following the launch of a similar service in Europe in October. With it, consumers will no longer need to upload their digital music collection to Google’s(a goog) servers for storage or streaming playback. Apple(s aapl) and Amazon(s amzn) already have similar services, making Google the last big consumer platform to offer music matching. But Google’s service is free and supports high quality files.

The service will likely appeal to Android smartphone and tablet owners as Google’s music app is native to the devices. Although I use Android, I recently upgraded to a paid Amazon MP3 account for these functions, partially because Google didn’t offer a music matching service and I didn’t want to upload thousands of digital audio files. Perhaps my decision was too hasty, because Google’s service supports higher quality files for streaming:

“Our new music matching feature gets your songs into your online music library on Google Play much faster. We’ll scan your collection and quickly rebuild it in the cloud – all for free. And we’ll stream your music back to you at up to 320 kbps.”

A quick check of Amazon’s bitrate for MP3 files streamed from the cloud shows these are “high quality 256 kbps” files. It’s not likely I’ll notice a vast difference, but I’m paying $25 a year to Amazon for lesser sound quality. That fee allows me to store up to 25,000 250,000 music files; Google allows 20,000 files on its servers at no charge. Apple too, charges $25 for its iTunes Match service, making Google’s music match the only free game in town for now.