Rumors have been abound for months now that Apple is looking to get into the online music locker game, and given they recently took over the domain name for iCloud then it’s looking fairly certain the Cupertino outfit is planning something in the cloud space. Add the fact we still don’t know what their infamous new data center has been built for and all signs point to something big.
It makes sense after all. iTunes is already the largest distributer of music on the planet, and buyers have been crying out for a better syncing solution that iTunes and a sync cable ever since the iPhone came along, so why not give it to them? We already know Apple is working with music companies to navigate out the usual licensing merry-go-round.
With all the excitement and speculation about an Apple music locker though, are we forgetting about the alternatives that are already out there?
Alternatives such as Google’s recently announced (and sort of released. Ish.) Music Beta and mSpot already offer what many are hoping Apple will perfect when they finally get around to joining in the online music storage fun. So what exactly are the alternatives? Here’s a rundown of just a few that allow users to upload their own music to some form of cloud storage and offer playback to iOS devices over the internet.
Google Music Beta
The new kid on the block, Google Music Beta offers cloud storage for 20,000 songs for the princely sum of absolutely nothing. Nada, zip and indeed, zilch.
While Music Beta (catchy name, no?) is free, it’s worth remembering that it’s currently in beta status which, as with all things Google, could mean instability and almost certainly zero support.
As with most of the solutions on offer, Google’s foray into the online music locker space involves downloading a client app to your computer that goes off and uploads your entire collection to their servers. Once there playback can be commenced using either the surprisingly impressive web page or Android app. Google Music Beta is also one of the few apps designed specifically for Google’s Honeycomb tablets. Offline playback is also available on the Android platform.
When it comes to streaming to iOS devices though, you’re stuck with using the web interface which although not idea, does work. Multitasking is even possible when playing back music using Mobile Safari. Unfortunately the lack of an app for iOS does mean there is no way to play your music while offline.
Not bad for free.
mSpot has been around since its original beta was released way back in May 2010 and offers wireless syncing of all your music, to all your devices.
Sporting apps for both Android and iPhone, mSpot offers 5GB of storage for free which doesn’t come anywhere near the 20,000 songs offered by Google’s solution. A $3.99 per month plan is available should you wish though, with your money buying you 40GB of storage – enough for approximately 32,000 tracks.
mSpot works in much the same way as all other music locker services – tracks are uploaded to the mSpot servers by their free Mac or Windows applications for streaming (and offline playback) later.
mSpot does tout its technology as being particularly smart when it comes to spotty data connections, with the company claiming music will not stop playing when data connections aren’t as solid as they should be. We’ve not tested this ourselves though, so take that with a pinch of salt until you try it for yourself.
Perhaps the most intriguing approach to cloud storage of music is BoxyTunes.
Using the storage offered by Dropbox as a place to keep all your music, BoxyTunes is, in its simplest form, a player for your Dropbox account.
Priced at $0.99, the iPhone/iPad app offers simple playback features without doing anything too fancy. Yes you could use the free Dropbox app to playback your music files, but BoxyTunes just works….better.
So to answer my own question, yes, we are forgetting about the competition. Of course, if Apple comes out with its own take on the music locker there’s no telling where it will leave the other companies already playing in the space.
Our money’s on Apple though, especially with the power of iTunes behind it.