I recently received an email from a reader asking whether to use Amazon’s new MP3 store or Apple iTunes for purchasing DRM-Free songs. We have used both services and we’ve got to say that they both have some up and downsides. Both Amazon and iTunes offer downloads of individual songs and albums in a DRM-Free 265kbps file format. Amazon uses the widely popular MP3 format, while iTunes Plus uses AAC. Excluding the iPod which uses AAC, the majority of Digital Audio Players (DAP) on the market have primarily been MP3 decoders. Despite this, just about all the new DAPs hitting the market today including the Microsoft Zune, Creative Zen, SanDisk Sanza, and Sony Walkman now support (DRM-Free) AAC. Finally, both stores also have a selection of over two million un-protected songs!
As for prices, iTunes charged $1.29 per song until two days ago, when they dropped the price to the standard $.99. Amazon’s rate is $.99 per song, however over half the songs in their collection are available for 10-cents less. If you are one of those people who constantly purchases popular songs, items in Amazon’s Top 100 list will always cost just $.89! Also if you are an iPod owner and find a song for cheaper on Amazon than iTunes, go ahead and purchase it. Amazon’s MP3 files are 100% compatible on your iPod and can even be added into your iTunes Library.
At the moment one thing that Amazon’s store does lack is a desktop client to organize and purchase music. Despite this, we found Amazon’s online store to be just as easy to browse as iTunes. Also as Web 2.0 apps are beginning to become desktop replacements, there’s no true need for a desktop browser. In addition, once songs are downloaded to your computer using Amazon’s download tool, the files can be automatically added to either Windows Media Player or Apple iTunes. Apple does have the upper edge on this topic since browsing, purchasing, managing, and syncing songs with iPods can all be done in one place. Both Windows and Macintosh users should have the same experience using either of the two services on their computer.
So our conclusion? We would recommend giving Amazon MP3 a shot since they offer plenty of albums at the same quality for a bit cheaper. At this point, only a few weeks after launch, there’s no chance that Amazon’s store will grab a piece of Apple’s market share. However if enough people start to switch over soon, competitive prices may even drive Apple to lower prices on iTunes in the future. From our tests, we didn’t seem to find any problems with Amazon just yet, however if any of you have found a bug or ran into problems let everyone know!