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Using iTunes Match: One User’s Experience

For more than two years now I have not had a complete desktop or computer so my behaviour when saving and storing files has changed radically in recent months. Not having a large capacity desktop with hardly any limitations when it comes to saving photos or music files means that you have to think twice about saving something and above all, be more selective .

In future posts I will comment on some of the utilities and alternatives that I have used to be able to make the life of a “normal” person who has a huge library of music and photos but only 128Gb of space on his hard drive. But in this entry we will focus, for the moment, on iTunes Match .

Using iTunes Match: One User’s Experience
Using iTunes Match: One User’s Experience

I’ve liked the idea of Spotify for a long time, it’s a versatile system, much cheaper than buying music and it works on almost any device. So a priori, if you just want to forget about any local files and live completely in the cloud, can be a great alternative .

In my case two key factors make Spotify not a valid alternative: the customer and his or her license. On the one hand I have nothing against Spotify clients, but I’ve always been a fan of iTunes and even more so of your iOS client, it’s simple and effective and I don’t need it anymore . On the other hand if you decide to use Spotify in exchange for stopping paying for music (either digital or physical) the day you stop paying for the service (or simply decide to close it) you will lose all your music.

The idea of iTunes Match didn’t convince me either, a fear that was unfounded, especially due to the criticism I had read about the system and its problems when importing music into it.

So, like everything these days, ask my cool Twitter followers their opinion: iTunes Match, yes or no? Surprisingly, a large number said yes, so they encouraged me to try it out.

iTunes Match, first steps

The first thing that draws attention to the system is its simplicity , like many things in Apple this has its good and bad parts.

  • The good one. You pay 24.95 euros and within a couple of hours your audio library is in the “cloud” and accessible from any iOS or Mac device.
  • The bad one. Sometimes the lack of information makes the system a real headache. Messages that don’t show up, music that disappears, how do I access iTunes Match? and a whole host of other situations that aren’t shown or explained at all.

But let’s back up a bit, what do you have to do to activate iTunes Match?

  • It all starts in your main library, iTunes. As you may have noticed, the program has a section with that name right above the iTunes Store access.
  • Once we click on this button we will be shown a brief summary of the system and an option to buy it as if it were an iOS application.
  • After purchasing such an “upgrade”, our iTunes library will be studied by the program itself to generate an XML file with all the content of the upgrade.
  • This file will be uploaded to Apple’s servers and it will compare in your system the coincidences so that in a few minutes we can have thousands of songs accessible without any upload or download to the cloud.
  • What if iTunes doesn’t have those songs? The system will upload the songs to the cloud without taking up extra space or paying extra for it.

Impressions on iTunes Match, an interesting service

The truth is that in general I’m really happy with the service , and except for some specific problem, the truth is that it seems to me one of the most interesting options right now in the market when it comes to stop synchronizing your iOS devices and at the same time access from any computer. However, there are some details to comment:

  • Although the initial upload and comparison with the data was really fast, around one hour, the subsequent upload of unfound files was quite “painful”, taking a total of almost 48 hours to upload just 500 songs.
  • The success rate is really good, in my case most of my music is relatively commercial so I took it for granted that it wouldn’t be a problem, although I was afraid of some specific collections digitized in the stone age and hand-scraped by me. Another joy, those songs (many of them with wrong names or incomplete) were found at first time and synchronized without any problem.
  • After a general review of the library, the vast majority of the songs were found or uploaded to the cloud. In some specific cases duplicates were found that were not uploaded and in others the songs were not added because of “unsuitable” content.
  • Although the library and its lists are now accessible from any of my devices without any problem, the covers of my discs have suffered a little more (I am very meticulous with this issue) and many of them have been lost during the transition. The funny thing is that they display well in iOS during playback, but not in iTunes. Really strange and I haven’t found any solution so far.

Using iTunes Match from another Mac or from iOS devices

The main reason I now use this service is to be able to access a huge collection of music from my MacBook Air with a tiny hard drive, but the big reason is iOS6 . Until now, iTunes Match on iOS computers was a service halfway between cloud and local.

Due to some strange limitation that we don’t know, the system downloaded the music locally and then played it, and only the AppleTV had that pure streaming function.

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The system aims to be completely transparent and except for a slight delay of seconds in the jump of the songs, there is no visual difference between a library in iTunes Match and a local one except for all the GB we will save (especially important if you have a computer with only 16GB of capacity).

Playback over 3G is correct and the system is able to download a certain amount of information during file playback so we may lose our computer’s signal for a limited time without being affected. The file loading speed is identical if we use Wifi or 3G.

The case of iTunes Match on the Mac is very similar, again trying to give a sense of unification and transparency in which there is no difference between a local library or in iCloud.

The conclusions, in my case, are very positive . In exchange for “only” 25 euros a year I don’t have to buy a 64GB iPhone or a MacBook Air with a larger hard drive. In addition, all my computers synchronize automatically without the need to lose time and the service, except for small failures, works very well.

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