So I finally took the plunge and purchased iTunes Match. I’ve been a little hesitant to get in on this, but after trying to go with truly streaming/subscription services like Spotify and Rdio, and not finding them to be exactly what I wanted, I figured it was time.
First, iTunes Match is NOT Spotify or Rdio. It doesn’t give you access to anything/everything in the iTunes catalog, unless you’ve already purchased it. That’s a key difference. With the subscription services you are essentially paying to access any music they have available, and it’s ever changing. Sometimes things go away, many times items are added. But in the end, once you cancel, that music is no longer available to you. You never purchased it. With iTunes Match, it’s almost the opposite thinking. They are essentially giving you the ability to access all your purchased music (whether from iTunes, Amazon, Walmart, etc) that you have on your computer within iTunes. If you decide to cancel your iTunes Match subscription ($24.99/year), you don’t lose the music, you only lose the ability to access it anywhere at anytime from iCloud.
To put it simply, iTunes Match scans your iTunes library and matches songs you have to songs they offer. It doesn’t matter if you’ve bought it from iTunes or Amazon, ripped it from some CD you had as a kid, or got it in college from Napster way back when. If it finds a match, you’re set. You don’t have to upload anything or really go any further. What’s even better, if your copy is of lesser quality than the iTunes one, you can get the upgraded version. Forever. And let’s face it, some of those mp3′s from back in the day were pretty bad sounding. But what happens if there isn’t a match? That’s where the standard upload comes in. Anything that isn’t found in iTunes but you have in your iTunes library on your computer is then available to be uploaded to their servers and then becomes part of YOUR iTunes Match in iCloud. It is treated just like the matched songs are from this point on.
So how does it ACTUALLY work?
To put it mildly, it has plenty of bugs and issues. It does actually work, in the sense that it does scan your library and match songs to iTunes. But it’s not very fast, sometimes can’t find matches that it really should (as I have seen them in iTunes), and takes forever to upload tracks it doesn’t match. Secondly, using iTunes Match on the iPhone/iPad isn’t the greatest. Once I turned it on issue after issue arose. Then when I turned it off…well, even more issues came about…such as ghost tracks. I was never able to actually remove these track names (the songs were gone) and I had to actually restore my iPhone. Let’s just say it was not a pleasant experience. Issues continued with iTunes Match constantly restarting the scan of the entire library, even after it had added “everything” to iCloud. I say, “everything”, as for some reason I had plenty of tracks it found to be ineligible. Which I found very odd and to be honest, messy.
Another downside, one that I knew going in, is the lack of TRUE streaming to iOS devices. Right now if I use iTunes Match on iPad, I have access to every song I have on my Mac at home, via iCloud. Regardless if I’m at home, a friends house, at work. Anywhere I have an Internet connection. But I’m limited to only downloading these songs. I can’t simply just stream them over the Internet to my device. Meaning that after I download them they’re taking up space on the device itself. This is the same for iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. If you’re on another Mac/PC, streaming is available by clicking the track name instead of the download cloud, and the same is true of the Apple TV (as it doesn’t really have storage). This is a big issue with iTunes Match, and one that I’ve heard is being addressed in the upcoming iOS 6 release…we will have to see, I truly hope so, but they need to overhaul the entire thing in my opinion.
iTunes Match sounds great in theory. But so far in the real world application of it, I’ve been very disappointed…and I don’t say that often when it comes to Apple products and services (MobileMe, Podcasts App). If you’re on the fence about iTunes Match, let me just say this…do the research. Really read about other people and their results before you dive in. For me…I’m going to keep looking for the service that fits my needs best, and so far Google, iTunes, Rdio, and Spotify, just have not done it for me. I’ll continue to purchase music through iTunes, as it works just fine for that…but as far as iTunes Match is concerned, it will be a long while and take a large group of people telling me how much it’s improved to push me to give it another shot.
On a side note, Amazon Cloud Player has just received a big update, with the same “matching” abilities of iTunes Match, at the same price. I may give it a shot, if so, I’ll be sure to review my findings!