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iTunes Match Cost vs. the Competition

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Apple just announced iCloud, a new online service that provides easy access to all the music users have purchased through iTunes for free. Apple has also announced a service called iTunes Match, which will match the music you have ripped or purchased from other stores and add a high quality version to your iCloud library without the need to upload. iTunes Match will cost $25 a year for matching and access to your files, so we decided to see how iTunes Match compares to the competition like Amazon, Google Music, DropBox and SugarSync.

iClous Music cost comparison

In some ways Apple’s new service does best the primary competitors Google and Amazon, as Josh Smith reported. However, looking at it purely as a back-up and streaming service for your music, iCloud needs a closer look.

Apple’s Comparison is Incomplete

As the chart above shows, the annual cost of Apple’s service for 20,000 songs is still $25, beating Amazon by about $175. When it comes to the 5,000 song comparison vs. Amazon, Apple conveniently leaves off the current deals on storage. We don’t know the cost of Google Music because it is still in beta to make a full comparison yet. It is very likely that Google has intentionally kept pricing information quiet so as not to tip their hand to competing services.

Another problem with Apple’s comparison is they don’t compare iCloud and iTunes Match to other services with similar functionality, like DropBox and SugarSync.

DropBox

DropBox gives you 2GB of storage, and for $.99 you can get an app called BoxyTunes that will stream all of your music for you. The combination matches the functionality of Apple’s service with one exception – you will have to upload your music while Apple just checks your library an automatically populates your account with the songs it finds. With DropBox, if you need to add storage, then 50GB is $9.99/month or $99/year. That is four times the cost of Apple’s annual service fee and half that of Amazon’s. DropBox has the added benefit of being able to get even more storage if you need it for a cost. They also offer free upgrades if you recommend others who sign up.

SugarSync

SugarSync also has a free level that it offers 5GB of storage, more than twice that of DropBox and Amazon’s free service. For many people, 5GB will be more than enough. If you do need more, then you can upgrade to 30GB for $40/year. This is $15 more than iTunes Match and much less than Amazon and DropBox. You don’t have to get an extra paid app, as the music streaming is built into the free SugarSync iOS app. Even higher levels of storage are also available and like DropBox you can earn added storage if you get friends sign up.

Problems with iTunes Match

iTunes Match

Remember that Apple’s service is only going to charge the $24.99/year if you want to match your current music collection which has non-iTunes songs. If all of your music came from iTunes in the first place, then it will be available to you without payment. iTunes Match is only for those who have a library of music that comes from sources other than iTunes – like ripping CDs or songs you bought from Amazon.

What Apple doesn’t mention is that you can get 20GB of storage from Amazon for the cost of just one Amazon Music album per year. In some cases that can be as little as $5. If you bought the latest Lady Gaga album when they offered their promotion, then you got 20GB for only $.99. So, $50/year price tag in the Apple chart above is disingenuous on the part of Apple.

Recommendation

If you are an Apple only user, iTunes Match is a great option. Only $25 adds some pretty good functionality and won’t hurt too many wallets. If you use more than just an iOS device (you have an iPad and an Android phone) then using something like SugarSync might actually be a better option since it works well, offers plenty of storage for a decent price, and is mobile OS agnostic with good apps for almost every mobile device out there.

Amazon’s Cloud Drive is also compelling, but the music streaming service from Amazon works through the mobile web as there is no iOS app yet. You can buy music from Amazon and import it easily into iTunes for easy syncing to your iOS devices. The Apple service will still offer some benefits because you could then get it from their servers without even having to upload it, like you do with Google Music. Right now Google’s service is the best option for pure backup since it is free.

If you want the seamless iCloud experience, you’ll need to pay the $25 iTunes Match fee and purchase your music through iTunes. If you use iOS only devices and purchase most of your music through iTunes, then you probably already decided to purchase iTunes Match for your ripped music.

Kevin loves notebooks, tablets, gadgets and photography. He grew up with computers starting out on a Vic 20 and Commodore 64. The first computer he owned himself was an 8086 Compaq Deskpro. His foray into tablet computing began when he bought a Samsung Q1 Ultra. The smartphone market opened up for him with his Palm Treo 600.

9 Comments

  1. Michael Anderson

    06/07/2011 at 1:01 pm

    Kevin – citing Amazon’s costs the way you did is a bit disingenuous. Amazon is playing games here – they have already acknowledged losing literally millions of dollars on the Lady Gaga deal, which made them look rather incompetent in their inability to deliver a simple MP3 album, and cost them even more in support fees and so on than I think they even know yet.
     
    For me the big thing is that it isn’t a streaming solution – so you still need to download and use up local storage.  I had really been hoping for a sort of hybrid solution.
     
    The other one worth mentioning is mSpot Music.  5GB free, PC/Mac uploader, and a very nice Android app.  I have found the upload process *much* faster than Google, the client more friendly than either Google or Amazon, the sound better than Amazon, and the decent Slacker-like Radio that pulls recommendations based on your library and listening is a nice touch.
     
    Sadly I think we have all woken up and realized that we still are lacking a total solution …

    • Kevin Purcell

      06/07/2011 at 7:20 pm

      Thanks for your comments Michael. Not sure how I was being disingenuous. The fact is Amazon’s service is free for those who buy an album. So effectively the cost is whatever you pay for an album whether the album is $.99 or $19.99. I got access for $4.99. Not trying to be combative. I just didn’t understand how the way I presented the facts was inaccurate or misleading. Again, thanks!

      • Michael Anderson

        06/07/2011 at 7:51 pm

        You’re right – “disingenuous” is not the right word as it implies intent to mislead on your part, which I agree was not there. 

        Amazon, however is in an interesting position.  If they were a foreign company, for example, they would have been accused of ‘dumping’ the Lady Gaga album … in the same way Samsung was accused of dumping memory chips back in the 80′s and 90′s.

        But I stand by my point – Amazon is ‘dumping’ and using other anti-competitive tools in order to gain market share.  If Apple sold Lady Gaga for $0.99 at a known loss they would have had the DoJ on them so fast their heads would have spun. 

        Not that it matters to anyone who has gained access, but the reality is that Amazon has priced their service at $20 for 20GB and higher for more storage, and is knowingly ‘taking a loss’ by dumping the service to the market at a loss.  Essentially you got access for $20/year, with $15.01 subsidized by Amazon for the first year (in obvious hope of buying market share).

        A fair comparison is based on the renewal price, as the Amazon deal is one-year only, with full-price renewal.  Why should Apple compare a fairly priced, ‘not getting us in trouble with DoJ’ price with a bait & switch loss-leader price?

      • Michael Anderson

        06/07/2011 at 7:51 pm

        You’re right – “disingenuous” is not the right word as it implies intent to mislead on your part, which I agree was not there. 

        Amazon, however is in an interesting position.  If they were a foreign company, for example, they would have been accused of ‘dumping’ the Lady Gaga album … in the same way Samsung was accused of dumping memory chips back in the 80′s and 90′s.

        But I stand by my point – Amazon is ‘dumping’ and using other anti-competitive tools in order to gain market share.  If Apple sold Lady Gaga for $0.99 at a known loss they would have had the DoJ on them so fast their heads would have spun. 

        Not that it matters to anyone who has gained access, but the reality is that Amazon has priced their service at $20 for 20GB and higher for more storage, and is knowingly ‘taking a loss’ by dumping the service to the market at a loss.  Essentially you got access for $20/year, with $15.01 subsidized by Amazon for the first year (in obvious hope of buying market share).

        A fair comparison is based on the renewal price, as the Amazon deal is one-year only, with full-price renewal.  Why should Apple compare a fairly priced, ‘not getting us in trouble with DoJ’ price with a bait & switch loss-leader price?

  2. James Boley

    06/07/2011 at 1:40 pm

    What’s to stop music pirates downloading albums at low bitrates, paying Apple $24 and then getting high-bitrate replacements for music they haven’t even purchased?

    • Michael Anderson

      06/07/2011 at 2:56 pm

      Sadly … not a thing.  And I am sure that was a big part of the negotiations with labels …

      • Boymeetsworld

        06/07/2011 at 4:35 pm

        and will the song title, album, genre etc, automatically be updated to ur music library?

  3. S-jones

    06/13/2011 at 4:14 pm

    A user can actually get up to 16GB of free storage space on Dropbox via referrals. I currently have 10.25GB that I have not ever paid a dime for :)

  4. Pingback: 4 Reasons to Stream Music with TappIn Instead of iTunes Match

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