Is Apple’s iOS Limping Behind Android in the Cloud Music Dogfight?

May 19, 2011
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Google recently debuted Music Beta and has an official Android player app for using the service on Android devices. It does not run on iOS devices.

Amazon launched its Cloud Drive music service in mid-April this year, and currently has two music-playing and music-shopping Android apps to go with it: Amazon Cloud Player for Android and Amazon MP3 App for Android. Neither Amazon’s MP3 Store nor Cloud Player supports the iPad and the iPhone.

These make one wonder where on earth–or up above the clouds–is that other key player in digital music? Where’s Apple and its iOS?

It seems that the Google and Amazon cloud-music playing apps for Android are keeping out iOS and its spawn (e.g., iPads and iPhones). One very strong reason for that is Flash support. Google Music Beta, for instance, uses Flash to play music, but for quite some time, Apple and iOS seem to have developed allergies to Flash. For some time, iOS-strapped users were never able to use Amazon Cloud Player on an iPod Touch, iPad, or iPhone, although some users report variable degrees of success in using Safari.

Rumor mills have been grinding fast lately about the possibility that Apple may soon catch up with Google and Amazon on cloud music storage service, aptly named iCloud.

While the rumor remains a rumor and while iPhone/iPad users hang on strongly to hopes of Apple’s own cloud music storage service, whom can a user of an iOS-run device turn to for the meantime? Tuaw.com, “The Unofficial Apple Weblog,” suggests the iOS app called BoxyTunes and the file storage service of Dropbox.

BoxyTunes looks for MP3, MP4, WAV, AIFF, AAC, M4A, and CAF music files inside your Dropbox folders and streams them to your iOS device if you tell it to. It pretty much does most of what Amazon’s and Google’s cloud music players can do, except the ability to shop for and buy music. Dropbox is just for file storage. And, if ever Music Beta does find the heart to open its doors to iOS, Charlie Sorrel of Wired.com believes BoxyTunes just may have an edge over Music Beta: Dropbox helps you prevent potential duplicates by creating MD5 hashes of files you upload and comparing those with the MD5 hashes of files already on the server. Syncing your local music files with your cloud folders on Dropbox is just as easy: just point Dropbox to the local folder where you keep your music, and whenever you add or remove anything in there, the changes are automatically mirrored in the cloud folder.

The price for BoxyTunes’ latest version, 1.4, has been slashed down from 2 US dollars to 99 cents. It is available on iTunes App Store. A free version and a paid version exists for the iPhone, while only a paid version exists for the iPad. Your device must run at least iOS 4.0 so that you can use BoxyTunes. You will also need a Dropbox account. If you don’t have one, you can open a free, 2-gigabyte account via BoxyTunes itself or via dropbox.com.

Having seen BoxyTunes’ potential, do you think the app’s 50% price cut has something to do with keeping Music Beta’s and Cloud Drive’s music-playing Android apps at bay in the cloud-music-playing scene? Why or why not?

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