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iTunes Match – a year in review

Monty Picon

Last week Macworld marked the first birthday of iTunes Match with a review of how it is has fared. It’s worth a read because, whilst the service has a number of strengths, there are several areas that it falls down on. I signed up to iTunes Match myself when it launched in the UK earlier this year, and I broadly agree with the points made.

iTunes Match is a service which offers several features:

  1. An online backup of your entire music library, that can be easily restored using iTunes on your desktop computer
  2. Synchronisation of your music library between multiple computers and Apple devices
  3. Being able to access all of your music on an iOS device via the internet, even if it doesn’t have enough storage to hold your entire library
  4. Storage of all the music you have purchased from the iTunes Store
  5. The ability to replace your existing music files with high-quality AAC versions

At least, that’s what it aims to do, but as Macworld states it can be a bit flaky at times, and was down completely earlier this week. There’s also a long-standing bug which means that when iTunes Match is enabled on an iOS device, playing songs does not update smart playlists (like the Recently Played playlist), which causes problems with apps like Melo which send data to last.fm. And replacing your music files with high quality versions is not exactly intuitive, as I found out a few months back.

The other big problem with iTunes Match is the 25,000 song limit. I’m nowhere near hitting this but it will put some people off, and there’s no ‘premium tier’ that you can buy for extra storage.

But on the whole I feel iTunes Match is worthwhile; the synchronisation feature are really useful, and I’m happy to pay for an off-site backup of my music that I can access easily. My music is also backed up using Time Machine, and to my iPhone, but having yet another copy gives me peace of mind.

Still, there’s room for improvement. Apple has always had teething problems with its cloud services and sadly iTunes Match isn’t the exception.

4 Comments

  1. I’ve been really happy with iTunes Match. At the very least, it helped me update a lot of old mp3s that I bought from eMusic before they started shafting customers bad. Also some CDs that I have which are scratched. I have the disc, can’t play or rip it properly, but i was able to make a bad quality rip and then get the tracks from iTunes Match. One day the record companies will realize how antiquated their system is…

  2. Teething problems, you say? Virtually all Apple’s cloud services are still mediocre – not terrible, but way below best of class. Their hardware and their software are world class, often world leading, but cloud services? – good ideas but poor execution.

  3. I purchased iTunes Match earlier this year and have been pretty happy with it, especially when I changed to a better mobile operator, meaning fewer download problems on the go.
    However, I have to say that Apple really has crippled iTunes Match with the release of ios6. Unfortunately my 7 year-old daughter accidentally ‘upgraded’ my phone to ios6. Now I find that it is no longer possible to either download individual tracks (only entire albums) or even start listening to tracks before they have completely downloaded. One great feature of iTunes Match under ios5 was the ability to pick and choose specific tracks to download to the iPhone. iTunes Match with ios6 looks like eating up my monthly 3G data limit so I’ll likely be ditching Match before it renews. A shame, because for a while it was working eally well for me.

  4. I signed up for iTunes Match about a month ago and have mixed feelings about it. My overall goal was to upgrade my old songs ripped with WinAmp way back in the day. Could re-rip the CDs obviously. But over the years and after several moves I had no idea if (a) I still have the CD or (b) which box in would be hidden in. iTunes Match seemed like the perfect solution.

    As anyone who has used it, when starting, there are three steps. Scanning your library, matching your tracks, and finally uploading tracks that didn’t match. Initially iTunes Match just didn’t work for me. Would hang at step two or three before finally aborting with incomprehensible error codes.

    After around 17 tries it finally worked. It matched all but 3200 songs in my library and I was able to upgrade a couple of thousand tracks. So in a sense, my overall goal was achieved. But I should say that I have now disabled iTunes Match and have ensured it will not auto-renew next year. The software is still a bit buggy and I’m left wondering if they shouldn’t have spent a bit more time polishing it.

    The biggest annoyance was the dreaded “only match 7 tracks out of 10 even though you sell the album in the iTunes Store”. That one really clubbed my kneecaps as I didn’t want to upgrade 7 out of the 10 tracks and have some as 256kbps AAC and some still as crappy 128kbps mp3.

    And I also found that with iTunes Match enabled, album art would sometimes disappear. And playcounts would be all over the place. Albums that I know I listened to suddenly had their playcounts reset to 0. Over the years I’ve carefully crafted various smart playlists that handle tracks based on their playcounts and last time played. So that was the icing on the cake for me and I just said, “ok that’s quite enough, time to turn this shit off”.

    Blimey, this could have been a blog post of its own ;-)