Media store wars: iTunes vs Amazon vs Google Play

Updated. Google now activates one million Android devices per day and has 400 million devices in the wild, but its media store efforts have lagged. Compared to Apple’s iTunes(s aapl) and Amazon’s(s amzn) various storefronts, Google Play has played second fiddle.
Yesterday at its Google I/O event, the company announced more content options, so I decided to compare Google Play against the two incumbents. So how does Google now fare, considering it introduced the Nexus 7; an Android 4.1 tablet that’s optimized for Google Play?
I did a similar analysis in October, only then it was to see how Samsung fared against Apple and Amazon, and decided to take the same approach here with Google. Here’s what I found when looking at the most popular movies, TV shows, music albums, starting first with music.

Amazon sounds cheaper while Google Play has some dead air

Album iTunes Amazon Google Play
Living Things $11.99 $4.99 NA
Overexposed (Deluxe) $12.99 $4.99 $12.49
MMG Presents: Self Made V.2 $12.99 $11.99 NA
Believe (Deluxe) $14.99 $12.99 $14.49
PTX, Vol 1. $5.99 NA NA
Welcome to the Fishbowl $11.99 $11.99 $11.99
Write Me Back (Deluxe) $11.99 $11.99 $11.99
Rock of Ages $12.99 $9.49 $9.49
Days Go By $10.99 $10.99 $10.99
If You Were a Movie… $4.99 $4.99 NA

Amazon offers the most “bang for buck” here, although prices can vary by the day. Just this morning, a George Harrison album on my wish list, for example, dropped from $9.99 to $2.99 and I bought it. In terms of the top 10 — again, using iTunes as a baseline — Amazon has 9 of 10 while Google is batting .600 with four strikes. Of course, this is just a narrow view; when casually browsing all three stores for music that I like, they’re generally equal although Google is still either missing a few.

Google at the movies isn’t bad

Movie iTunes Rent/Buy Amazon Rent/Buy Google Play Rent/Buy
21 Jump Street $4.99/$17.99 $4.99/$14.99 (SD only) $3.99/$12.99
Wrath of the Titans $4.99/$19.99 $4.99/$14.99 (SD only) $3.99/NA
Mirror Mirror $4.99/$19.99 $4.99/$14.99 (SD only) $3.99/$14.99
Project X $4.99/$19.99 $4.99/$14.99 (SD only) $3.99/NA
Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows $4.99/$19.99 $4.99/$14.99 (SD only) $3.99/NA
Wanderlust $4.99/$19.99 $4.99/$14.99 (SD only) $3.99/$14.99
Safe House $4.99/$19.99 $4.99/$14.99 (SD only) $3.99/$14.99
Act of Valor $4.99/$19.99 $4.99/$14.99 (SD only) $3.99/$14.99
A Thousand Words $4.99/$19.99 $4.99/$14.99 (SD only) $3.99/NA
Big Miracle $4.99/$19.99 $4.99/$14.99 (SD only) $3.99/$14.99

Google fares a little better here although it still lacks the breadth of content provided by iTunes and Amazon when looking at the current top 10. But like Amazon, Google Play offers lower prices than those found in the iTunes store. When the family wants to watch a movie, I’ve turned to iTunes in the past — mainly because we have an Apple TV. For my own consumption on a tablet or phone, however, I’ve been fine with Google Play. Amazon doesn’t support movie playback on any phones or tablets save its own Kindle Fire, so I rarely look there. Update: The original comparison showed Amazon with SD movie rental pricing, which was incorrect as pointed out by readers. The current table shows the HD movie rentals.

Don’t look for recent TV shows on Google

TV Show iTunes Amazon Google Play
Pretty Little Liars $2.99 $2.99 NA
Real Housewives of Orange County $2.99 $2.99 NA
Keeping up with the Kardashians $2.99 NA NA
Dance Moms $2.99 $2.99 NA
The Legend of Korra (ep. 12) $2.99 $2.99 NA
Workaholics $2.99 $2.99 NA
The Legend of Korra (ep. 11) $2.99 $2.99 NA
Dallas $2.99 $2.99 NA
Real Housewives of NYC $2.99 $2.99 $1.99 (SD only)
The Batchelorette $2.99 $1.99 (SD only) NA

If you want to watch current HD episodes of TV shows, Google store isn’t playing. The company announced TV show support yesterday, but it’s like looking through an old Netflix catalog as current hot shows aren’t there. Even Amazon falls a little short: When looking for the most recent episodes of popular shows on iTunes, Amazon lacked one and had another in standard definition only.

Magazines are magazines are magazines

Google also added magazine support in Google Play this week and rather than be methodical about the comparison, I spent about 20 minutes browsing the digital newsstands. The main reason why is because the top magazines were available among all three at the same price. Checking the breadth of titles showed the same: Google is at least on even par with Amazon and Apple here. The experience of reading magazines may vary by device — small tablets and phones vs the 9.7-inch iPad, for example — but there’s little differentiation in content here.


Apple’s iTunes Store and Amazon’s market are a close one and two while Google is still playing catch up. Yes, the company has improved digital media offerings in Google Play of late, but there’s still work to be done. I recently said that consumers aren’t buying products anymore; they’re investing in platforms instead. Android as a platform may be the best seller, but Google needs to keep negotiating content deals to strengthen its ecosystem and give consumers a reason to shop in Google Play instead of Amazon or iTunes.