Earlier today, Apple finally released iTunes Match, about one month later than the service was originally expected. Now that it is here, consider this our first look at Apple’s highly-anticipated new product.
Say Hello To iTunes Match
Describing iTunes Match is a lot like describing a jet flying in the sky. You know it is there because of its contrail, but you can’t actually see it.
The basic premise of iTunes Match is that iTunes collects information about each song on your computer and sends it to Apple for further processing. If there is a better version of a song in iCloud, Apple will replace your copy with the better song version. If a better version doesn’t exist, Apple will upload your song to your iCloud account. From here, you’re able to download and install your songs onto any iDevice, whether it is the iPhone/iPod touch or iPad. Each song is available in 256 Kbps AAC file format.
As Apple states:
Here’s how it works: iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to iCloud for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 20 million songs in the iTunes Store, chances are, your music is already in iCloud. And for the few songs that aren’t, iTunes has to upload only what it can’t match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch. Once your music is in iCloud, you can stream and store it to any of your devices. Even better, all the music iTunes matches plays back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.
For this, Apple charges $24.99/year, which allows you to store up to 25,000 songs on Apple’s iCloud servers. However, songs purchased via iTunes don’t count against this limit.
Finally, understand that iTunes Match only works with songs. In other words, it excludes audiobook, ringtones, iTunes LPs, and iTunes Extras.
Where It Works
Currently, iTunes Match will work on up to five computers authorized to use your iTunes account, plus five iOS devices. You are also able to attach up to two Apple TVs.
In order to begin using iTunes Match, you must first upgrade iTunes to Version 10.5.1. You may do so by selecting iTunes > Check For Updates…from the iTunes toolbar. You can also download the update at http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/.
Once iTunes Version 10.5.1 is installed, choose “Turn on iTunes Match” from the Store menu. On this page, select “subscribe for $24.99.” Keep in mind this is a yearly fee. As such, Apple will keep charging you for the service on a yearly basis unless you tell them otherwise.
Once purchased, iTunes Match will begin scanning your iTunes library looking for matches. During this time, which can take a while depending on the size of your music library, you may continue using iTunes. However, for iTunes Match to work, iTunes must remain open. If you do exit iTunes before the process finishes, select “iTunes Match” from the left side of iTunes. From there, restart the process.
Once iTunes Match has completed its work, Apple will automatically replace your songs (where applicable) with those from iCloud. As you add more music to iTunes, you should occasionally select Store > Update iTunes Match to keep your iCloud account current.
On your Mac or PC, that’s it. The real fun, naturally, happens on your iDevices.
On iOS Devices
Enabling iTunes Match on your iPhone or iPad is a quick process. Simply click Settings > Music > turn iTunes Match on.
At this location is also the option to Show All Music. When this is on, you see every song and album available to you via iTunes Match. Our advice is to turn this on, at least in the beginning. If you don’t, you won’t be able to download new songs to your iDevice.
Keep in mind there may be some lag time between the time iTunes Match is started and when each song actually shows up in the Music app on your iDevice.
A Cloud icon to the right of each song denotes that the song is available via iCloud. To download a song or album, simply tap or the Cloud or the song name. You can also select the Download All button at the bottom of the screen in Album view. Remember that songs can’t actually be played from iCloud. As such, a song won’t play until it is downloaded completely.
Two final points
First, to add a new computer, log into iTunes using the same iTunes account you used when signing up for iTunes Match. Next, select Store > Turn On iTunes Match. From there, select “Add This Computer.”
Finally, to see which iDevices are using an iTunes Match account, go Account and then select “iTunes In The Cloud” from the iTunes application on your Mac or PC. From here, you can remove existing iDevices from the list, if applicable.
Is iTunes Match Worth Buying?
No matter what Apple would have charged for iTunes Match, some would have complained. However, I feel $24.99/year is reasonable and even more so considering the rest of iCloud is absolutely free. In the end, the service just works. As such, it comes highly recommended. Buy it today in iTunes!