While Amazon was once just a shopping destination, it's added a number of streaming services in recent years for movies, TV shows, and music. Launched in October 2016, Amazon Music Unlimited is its competitor to Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora (separate from Amazon Prime Music, which is included with a Prime subscription, whereas Music Unlimited is not). What does AMU give you that other music streamers do not?
Looks polished and is easy to use: Amazon has clearly spent a lot of time on the visual aesthetic of the app, with liberal use of subtle gradients, partial transparency, slick animation, and dark palettes that lend a premium feel. While tastes are ultimately subjective, it's one of the nicest looking music apps we've encountered, and the experience scales smoothly from a large tablet down to an iPhone SE.
And the interface has some function to go along with the form. When a song is playing, you can swipe left and right on the bottom of the screen to change tracks, and the icon changes to let you see what you're about to do. Or you can tap on the Alexa button in the corner and ask Amazon's virtual assistant to play something for you, removing the need to even know how to navigate the app.
Unusual and interesting features: There's an Offline Recommendations option, which automatically downloads recommended music to your phone or tablet (and you can separately tell the app to only download or stream over a Wi-Fi connection, if you're concerned about data charges). It's a cool trick that we haven't seen elsewhere.
If you have a lot of storage available on your mobile device, you can also set your cache size to "unlimited," and you won't run out of space because it will always leave 10 percent of your storage free, trimming the cache as necessary.
Last but not least, you can freely and easily edit any playlist. With one of the songs open on your screen, tap the button that's second to the right (it looks kind of like a flag), tap Edit, and swipe individual songs up and down with a fingertip, or remove them altogether. Spotify also lets you do this, but Apple Music does not (though the latter does at least let you randomly shuffle song order).
Discounted for Prime members: If you have a Prime subscription, Prime Music gets you access to "over two million songs," which is pretty nice since it comes at no added cost. If you upgrade to Music Unlimited, you get "tens of millions of songs" (roughly in Spotify and Apple Music territory) at $8 a month instead of $10, or you can pre-pay a year for $79, which works out to $6.58 a month. And there's a family plan for $15 a month or $149 a year for Prime members, the latter of which works out to $12.42 a month. If that's enough, you can also pay just $4 a month if you're willing to limit the stream to one designated Echo device.
These are the most aggressive prices you'll see in this space, and you get the standard 30-day free trial to decide what will work best for you, if anything.
Widely available: In addition to Android and iOS phones and tablets, you can set up Music Unlimited on any of Amazon's popular Echo and Fire TV devices, enabling you to give commands to Alexa to play whatever tracks, artists, and albums are available without having to open the app first. Sonos and Bose SoundTouch systems are also supported, as are the major web browsers. However, you won't yet find the company's music services on third-party streaming boxes like the Roku or Apple TV.
Could use a few more audio settings: Amazon Music doesn't give you sound presets or an equalizer, so you get what you get, which is disappointing. You can at least choose from four different stream quality settings, which is more than Apple Music will do for you. But if you need to tweak your treble or bass, you're out of luck.
If you're fine with the narrow audio adjustment options that the app gives you, Amazon Music Unlimited is a very economical choice with a large library made more accessible than the competition, thanks to Alexa integration.