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Friday, September 18, 2015

Android Auto Scores Over A Million Songs Via Amazon Music And Prime Music [App Review]

In today's music streaming landscape, Amazon Music is probably one of the heavyweights. And now the service is coming to your car's dashboard via Android Auto. The integration comes amidst a myriad of other music streaming apps which are already Android Auto compatible.

But Amazon Music is a little different, especially if you are an Amazon Prime member. And who isn't these days. Prime membership has a bunch of perks like free two-day shipping on most products sold on Amazon, free streaming of select movies and TV shows, and access to over a million songs and hundreds of playlists via Prime Music.

My full review of Amazon Music with Android Auto screenshots and even a comparison to Apple Music is below.

Amazon Music with Prime Music (Android App)

The free Amazon Music app for Android allows users to stream their entire music library from the cloud or locally from their device. This includes songs and albums they have purchased from Amazon. But the best sweetener comes if you are an Amazon Prime member ($99 per year).

With Amazon Prime you automatically get access to Prime Music which features over a million songs. You can stream the entire catalog ad-free. And it is completely unlimited. You can skip through as many tracks as you want and even download any of them to your device.

The download feature comes in handy if you are on a limited data plan with your carrier. Streaming music can rack up the megabytes quite quickly. The alternative is to download your favorite tunes locally to your device while on a wifi connection.

The app gives you a list of recommended stations based on popular artists. You can either stream based on artist or browse through the playlists created by Amazon based on moods or genres.

The Now Playing screen has the option of displaying lyrics of the song currently being played. Lyrics scroll automatically with the song. Amazon calls this feature X-Ray Lyrics. Very neat!

Amazon Cloud Music Storage

A few years ago, Amazon offered server-based music storage for your music library, regardless of where you downloaded the music from. There were a few restrictions though. For example, you couldn't backup lossless audio files like FLAC, files that were more than 100MB each, and the most important one - non-DRM files from iTunes.

But it was still a good option to get into Amazon Cloud Drive at the time. You got 5GB of free storage for all types of files (not only music) which could be easily upgraded to 20GB by simply purchasing an MP3 format music album from Amazon. And all the music you purchase would not count against your cloud storage.

To backup your entire music music library, all you had to do was sign up for the $20 per year plan which gave you unlimited storage for all your music. After Amazon announced Prime Music though, this offer was pulled.

The current offer for non-Prime members is free import of up to 250 songs including music purchased from iTunes or import of up to 250,000 songs for $24.99 a year.

Amazon Music in Android Auto

When you launch the Amazon Music app, you will be asked to sign in to your Amazon account. Whether you have Prime or not, you should sign in because your Amazon Music purchases can be accessed from there. If you don't have an Amazon account, you can sign up for one through the app.

Amazon also allows you to sign up for a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime. You can try out Prime Music for free in that span. Details are here.

Once logged in, you can connect to your Android Auto head unit or dashboard and launch Android Auto. Click on the Audio tab (look like headphones) in the Android Auto menu bar along the bottom. The music/audio apps are arranged alphabetically in this list. Find and tap on Amazon Music to launch the app.

The first screen you'll see when you launch the app is this...

From here you can choose to stream music only by recommended playlists or stations. There is no access to a list of artists or songs and there's a reason for that. Remember the six tap limit in Android Auto? The limitation would definitely interfere with a long list of artists or songs.

The top level menu can be found by tapping the browse button (three horizontal lines). Here you will see things like Recently Played, Prime Stations, Playlists, Shuffle My Library and Shuffle My Offline Songs. All those options are self-explanatory.

The Now Playing screen of Amazon Music in Android Auto looks like this...

Notice the like and dislike buttons when streaming music using Stations. These buttons are not available when streaming music from your offline library, purchased songs or Amazon Cloud Drive or playlists.

When listening to a playlist, you will see a Browse button which will show you the entire playlist. You can choose to play any song from the playlist by simply tapping on it. No like/dislike buttons are available here.

The Amazon Music app works quite well in Android Auto. Skipping through songs was a breeze, without any delay (I used it on wifi as well as AT&T's 4G/LTE network). I don't have any immediate issues to report except for maybe the outdated songs.

Prime Music vs. Apple Music

When it comes to new music releases, Prime Music falls way behind the likes of Apple Music. Although a few new albums are added to Prime, many of them aren't unlike Apple Music where every song in the catalog becomes instantly available for streaming and download.

To listen to the latest releases via Amazon Music you will need to head to the store and purchase individual songs or albums separately. But I found Prime Music to have good mainstream artist collections and even though the songs might be dated a little (for example, the top Prime playlists includes songs from 2014) it's not that bad.

You have to also consider the cost when trying to compare Prime Music to Apple Music. An Apple Music subscription costs $9.99 a month whereas Prime averages out to $8.25 per month. But no one's going to sign up for Amazon Prime solely for the free music streaming. At $8.25 per month you get much more than just music. It's more like the music is a freebie thrown in with the other perks.

If you are already an Amazon Prime member, you ought to try our Prime Music. And definitely if you use Android Auto.

Ford SYNC Applink and Amazon Music

If you navigate to settings in the Amazon Music app, you will see an option for Ford SYNC Applink. The option allows you to control music playback in the app using voice controls in your Ford vehicle. I thought this was worth a mention.

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