Store music in Google Docs, play it on your iPhone

A new app called Cloud Music uses Google Docs to offer a quick-and-dirty music locker service, but it can't compare with full-fledged music lockers like MP3Tunes.

Google Docs is primarily designed to give you online access to Microsoft Office and other types of documents via a Web browser, but technically, you can store just about any type of file in the Docs database. A new iPhone app called Cloud Music, which debuted in the App Store on Monday, takes advantage of this flexibility to deliver a quick-and-dirty music locker service.

First, you have to register with Google and use your Web browser to upload some music files into Google Docs. The service offers up to 1GB of storage for free, with a maximum file size of 250MB, but you can add storage pretty cheaply--for instance, 20GB will cost you only $5 per year.

Then you can go to the App store and download Cloud Music for $1.99. The first time you log in, it'll ask you to enter your Google ID and password. Then you'll be able to browse through the music files, download them to a playlist, and begin to play.

Screenshot of Cloud Music playing Pavement's "We Are Underused."
Cloud Music was able to play this Pavement song I stored in Google Docs, but I wasn't able to get it to recognize the associated album cover art. Screenshot by Matt Rosoff/CNET

It's a promising idea, but I tested the app this morning, and it doesn't really compare to MP3Tunes or other full-fledged music locker services . For instance, Cloud Music advertises support for MP3, MP4, and WAV files. But if you use iTunes to rip your CDs, the resulting files probably have an m4a file extension. Technically these files are identical to MP4 files, except for the Apple-specific file extension. But in my tests, Cloud Music wouldn't play any of my files ending in m4a.

Also, you can't stream files from Docs to your phone--you have to download each one to a local cache within the Cloud Music app, then play them. Clear the cache, and you have to redownload. Finally, while Cloud Music claims to support album art, I couldn't figure out how to upload entire music folders to Google Docs--it only seems to let you upload individual files--and when I uploaded JPEGs of the album art, Cloud Music didn't recognize them.

In addition, I encountered some random playback errors--for instance, the app claimed to have downloaded files from Radiohead's "In Rainbows" to my playlist, but when I went to play them, nothing happened.

I could see Cloud Music being useful in very select circumstances--for instance, if you've got some finished mixes on a computer at a recording studio, and you want to get them to your iPhone immediately, without having to fiddle with flash drives or CD-Rs and then running home to sync your phone with your home computer. But $1.99 is expensive for an app that doesn't do very much very well. For day-to-day use, I'd stick with services and apps that were designed for this purpose.

 

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