Apple, Amazon and Google all have services that let you access your music in the cloud. Files can be scanned from your personal library and will then be matched with the same song in the cloud. If a song isn't available in the catalog, however, you will be able to upload it from your personal library. Apple's iTunes Match, Amazon's Cloud Player and Google's Play Music each have their advantages and disadvantages. Now the big question: which one of these services is right for you?
|iTunes Match||Amazon Cloud Player||Google Play Music|
|Free option||N/A||250 songs, scan & match, purchases do not count against total||50,000 songs, scan & match, purchases do not count against total|
|Paid option||$24.99/yr, £21.99/yr (UK), AU$34.99/yr, scan & match, purchases do not count against total||$24.99/yr, £21.99/yr (UK), scan & match, purchases do not count against total||N/A|
|Max capacity||25,000 songs||250,000 songs||50,000 songs|
|Recognized formats||MP3, AIFF, WAV, MPEG-4, AAC||MP3, AAC, WMA (Windows only), OGG, WAV, ALAC (Mac OS only), AIFF and FLAC||MP3, AAC, WMA (Windows only), OGG, ALAC (Mac OS only), FLAC|
|Matching format||256kbps AAC||256kbps MP3||320kbps MP3|
|Maximum file size||200MB or 2 hours||100MB||300MB|
|Mobile platforms||iOS||Android, FireOS, iOS||Android, iOS|
|Hardware support||Mac/PC through iTunes, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Apple TV||iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Kindle Fire, Android devices, Mac/PC, Fire TV, Roku, Sonos, Samsung Smart TVs, select vehicles from BMW, Ford, Mini||Android smartphones and tablets, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Chromecast, Android TV, Sonos|
|Requirements||iTunes account||Amazon account||Google account|
|Max device support||10||10||10|
|Catalog size*||43,000,000 songs||30,000,000 songs||30,000,000 songs|
|Perks||Unlimited ad-free streaming from iTunes Radio||None||None|
Apple's iTunes Match service is really for people who want to stay in Apple's walled garden. Android users need not apply. Other than the lack of outside support, the one big downside to iTunes Match is there is no Web player. While iTunes is a great program, it can be a pain to have to download it on a friend's computer to stream music. The service only supports streaming on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV or through iTunes on your computer. It also doesn't support OGG, WMA and FLAC music files. You must instead convert those files to MP3, AAC or WAV/AIFF in order for them to be matched.
The big advantage to using iTunes Match over the competition is the company's massive catalog, which is home to more than 43 million songs. The added perk of unlimited ad-free streaming from iTunes Radios only sweetens the deal and the fact that it's fully integrated into the iTunes software is another benefit.
Amazon Cloud Player
Amazon lets you try out its Cloud Player service by offering space for 250 songs for free. If you opt to pay the $25 yearly fee, you can upload a whopping 250,000 songs, which is more than 10 times storage of iTunes Match for the same price. It's clear that the sheer size of the storage offered by Amazon is the biggest draw, but it's not the only benefit. As you can see in the chart above, your music will be accessible virtually everywhere. Amazon also supports the most audio formats.
One major downside is that matched songs will be provided as a 256kbps MP3, which is arguably a more lossy format than Apple's 256kbps AAC or Google Play's 320kbps MP3. Songs that have been upgraded to this 256kbps MP3 format are not automatically synchronized back to your computer. The process of manually downloading them from the cloud can be time consuming and more often than not leads to duplicated tracks in your library.
Google Play Music
Google recentlyfrom 20,000 all the way up to 50,000. The best part? It's completely free. These songs can then be streamed on the Web, from your Android or iOS device, on a Chromecast or a Sonos speaker. There isn't a native desktop app, however, which may annoy some users. Aside from the obvious benefit of getting more storage than Apple without having to pay a dime, Google Play Music also matches music at a higher quality, supports the largest file size -- 300MB -- and can match songs from more audio formats.
All three services will match lower quality files with a higher audio quality version. They also don't count songs that you have bought from their respective stores against your storage limit.
For a lot of people, Google is the best option. The mobile app isn't perfect, but you can't beat the free price tag. If your music library is huge, Amazon's Cloud Player could be worth checking out. If you like that Apple ecosystem or have purchased most of your music from iTunes, there's really no reason to shy away from it.
This article is on music storage services. For information on music streaming services (Spotify, Google Play All Access, Beats Music, etc...),.