The online music locker space is heating up big time, now that Amazon has thrown down the gauntlet and launched its own service as an “external hard drive” of sorts, which requires no licensing from the record labels, at least as far as Amazon is concerned. Apple and Google are still sitting on the sidelines, but plenty of other ways already exist to store your music in the cloud, such as DropBox, a great, all-purpose “external hard drive” in its own right.
DropTunes — the work of one John Mills, who is not officially affiliated with Dropbox — transforms Dropbox into a cloud-based music service. It’s not perfect — especially if you plan on accessing your music from portable devices — but if what you’re after is a simple way to upload your music to the cloud so that you can stream it to multiple computers, DropTunes works great. Bonus: Because it sits on top of Dropbox, which allows private folder sharing, you can use DropTunes to play music from your friend’s Dropbox accounts, too, should they decide to share some music with you.
As mentioned, DropTunes relies entirely on Dropbox for uploading and managing files — a big help for this cloud-based music app, given that the DropBox service makes it ridiculously easy to upload stuff in general, music included. Once you have the free Dropbox helper app installed (Mac, Windows or Linux), all you have to do is copy a music folder into your local Dropbox folder, and it automatically syncs to the cloud, from which DropTunes can play it back.This takes a while, but that’s not a dealbreaker, because you can leave it running all night, or in the background as you take care of other tasks.
DropTunes works best with MP3s, although you’re not out of luck if you also have songs in the M4A, OGG or WAV formats, so feel free to upload those as well.
Playing DropTunes on Desktop or Laptop
In our testing, DropTunes worked great for playing back music on both Mac and Windows computers, using Chrome, FireFox and Safari browsers. Although it occasionally took a few seconds for the initial song to load, songs played smoothly back-to-back after that. (We used Chrome, FireFox and Safari.)
However, there’s one big catch: DropTunes only plays back songs by the folder, so forget about playlists, “shuffle all,” and other niceties. At least Dropbox makes it easy to rearrange your music on the server side, so if you want, you can create “playlists” by moving or copying music between folders.
Two more wrinkles: You can’t just click the Play button, but rather need to click the “Play” text next to the first song in a folder to make it play; and in order to play supported non-MP3 formats (M4A, OGG and WAV), you’ll need to click over to the HTML5 version of the web app using the easy-to-find link near the top of the page and use Chrome or Safari.
Smartphones, Other Hardware
DropTunes technically works as a music player with the iPhone and any other smartphone or tablet that can handle HTML5 music streaming — just direct your phone to droptun.es/html once you’ve logged in, and all of the music in your Dropbox will be sitting there, waiting to play. If you bookmark that URL on your home screen (see screenshot), DropTunes will feel sort of like a native app and you won’t have to click the “try in HTML5 mode” every time to switch from the Flash version.
So far, DropTunes is not specifically supported by any other hardware (Apple TV, Roku, Boxee, Sonos, etc.), although anything with a browser that supports HTML5 is worth a shot.
Storage vs. Price
DropTunes plays music files you keep synced with Dropbox within a simple, intuitive interface.