Photo: Dan Frommer, Business Insider
After a slight delay, Apple took the wraps off its cloud-based music service, iTunes Match, last night.After a few problems, I have the product working (mostly) as advertised. Overall, I think it’s good, but I don’t think it’s going to appeal to the majority of iTunes users, and it won’t slow the ascent of products like Spotify and MOG.
Unlike rivals, iTunes Match doesn’t offer unlimited music for a monthly fee, or streaming of your songs for free. Instead, it takes the music you’ve already gathered through the years — legally, or illegally — and it stores it remotely on Apple’s servers. The songs then appear in the music app on your iPhone, or iPad. You download the tunes to your gadget to hear them. You can listen to the song as it downloads, because it’s a progressive download.
Apple is charging $25 per year for iTunes Match. At $2 per month, I think it’s worth it, but I have 10,000 songs and I wanted access to all of those songs at all times. If you’re happy just loading up your iPhone with a handful of songs at a time from iTunes, then skip iTunes Match.
Before diving in further, I should note that iTunes Match had a bumpy launch last night. iTunes was freezing on me repeatedly as I tried to use it. I had iTunes Match running for 12 hours and it still hadn’t scanned and matched my entire music collection.
I’m not alone. Peter Kafka at All Things D said, “I spent several hours futzing with the service last night, and found it balky. But I’m guessing that, just like its iCloud launch last month, Apple will work out many of the kinks over the next couple days.”
Putting that aside, I had 70% of my music uploaded to Apple’s cloud service, so I have a pretty good feel for how it works.
While I’m happy with iTunes Match overall, I see two big problems, and one small one: It is backwards looking, it locks you into Apple, and sharing through iTunes is still terrible.
Streaming services like MOG and Spotify deliver all the newest music for $10 a month on your mobile phone. For $2 a month with iTunes Match you’re only hearing the old music you’ve enjoyed. If you’re interested in hearing the latest music, then you’re better off with MOG or Spotify.
Those same streaming services work across a number of gadgets/platforms: iPhones, Android phones, Windows Phones, Android tablets, Facebook, Kindle, and the web.
iTunes Match only works on Apple devices, and iTunes. Well, iTunes with a hitch. I’ve used iTunes on more than 5 computers, and Apple told me to deauthorize one of those computers. I have no idea how I’m going to do that since I’ve ditched two old Macs.
Anyway, if you’re happy being locked into Apple’s world, then this is no big deal. And if you buy less than 10 albums a year, then you probably don’t need MOG or Spotify.
I wish Apple had made Ping a better service. I still can’t tweet or share songs I’m listening to on Facebook through Apple. At least not easily. Music can be, and should be, social.
That small quibble aside, I like the look and feel of the Music app on my iPhone. I hate the user interfaces on Spotify and MOG. It’s a real pain to create a collection of albums and songs I like. I prefer iTunes, which lets me scroll through all my music.
With iTunes Match I’m listening to a bunch of songs I haven’t heard in a long time, which has been fun. And makes it well worth the price of admission.
The final verdict on iTunes Match: If you have a big collection of songs, it’s worth $25 to have it on Apple’s servers, allowing you to access them from anywhere.
Worried about missing the newest music? I would recommend using iTunes Match with the free Spotify desktop application. Spotify offers a free-with-ads streaming service for the desktop, for now. If you want to sample new albums, you could use that. If you really like an album, then you can buy it on iTunes and have it on your phone.
For a complete look at how iTunes Match works, and doesn’t we’ve put together a shot by shot gallery of it.
First, install the latest version of iTunes. I had to do a manual install, a general software update didn't work
Our second attempt worked much better, but after 12 hours we still didn't have all of our music in Apple's system
We did have enough of our music uploaded to test it on the phone. You can listen to the songs with clouds next to them. No cloud, you can't listen. (We're not sure why some stuff doesn't have clouds.)
Pretty simple, right? You can listen to all of your music any time, provided you have an internet connection.
What if I want to set it up on my work computer's iTunes? I'm out of luck because I've used too many Apple computers in my life. This is really lame.
What do you think? Have you test iTunes Match? Happy with it? Hate it? Let us know in the comments. If you have questions for me, drop in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.
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