Watch your back, iTunes: Amazon's now in the game of selling digital music to iOS users. The retail giant has optimized its store to let owners of iPhones and iPod touches browse and purchase from its 22-million song catalog.
To sidestep Apple's rules about taking 30 percent of purchases, though, Amazon's store isn't available via a native app, but rather in a Web interface that iOS users can access via Safari at www.amazon.com/mp3. The interface is optimized for Apple's handheld devices, complete with a black-and-orange aesthetic that is strangely reminiscent of iOS's Music app.
That optimization also lets Amazon offer common touch controls, like the ability to quickly swipe through carousels of songs and albums, much as you can in iOS's iTunes Store app. Tapping on a play button next to a song plays a 30 second preview, which plays in the background as you browse (though if you do anything to cause the browser to load a new page, you'll cut off the song). As on the iTunes Store, tapping once on the price of a song or album will turn it into a Buy button that you must tap again, at which point you'll be prompted to enter your Amazon credentials.
"And then what?" you're probably wondering. Unlike the iTunes Store, Amazon has no direct access to your iOS device's Music library. Amazon sidesteps again here, loading your purchases directly into your Amazon Cloud Player, which you can access via the Web or the company's Cloud Player app. And because you purchased that music from Amazon, it doesn't count against your Cloud Player storage limit.
Amazon's been careful to provide most of the features you'd expect from a store, including autocomplete options in the search field, bestseller lists, personalized recommendations, and customer ratings. One thing I did find lacking from my browsing experience was the ability to seamlessly preview all songs on an album.
The ability to purchase music directly from your iOS device has clearly been a missing part of Amazon's digital music strategy--with it in place, the company's Cloud Player offerings become even more attractive to iOS users looking to comparison shop, or simply to get their music from someplace that isn't iTunes.