Christmas arrived early for me this year, and it came in the form of iTunes Match for Canada. There has been a lot of speculation about when the rest of the non-US world would get it, and I’m really glad it’s here.
So what is it, and why would you get it? My iTunes music library is over 10,000 tracks, and I’ve bought into the Apple ecosystem for about several years now first because of the iPod and now the iPhone. What iTunes Match primarily does is take the master library from your computer and put it in the “cloud”, where you can then retrieve all your playlists, tracks, and associated personal data such as rankings and classifications.
For the longest time, users who had more than one computer, have had to jump through loops to keep their iTunes libraries in sync (not without hacks that sometimes break). With iTunes Match, that big problem is solved – since your master music library is no longer on any computer – it’s in the cloud.
The way it works is like this: after the initial loading of your music library into the cloud, every device (whether it be a computer or iPad, or iPhone) that has iTunes Match turned on – get’s a copy of the library on the device. And each device copy is kept in sync automatically with the master. Make a change on one – like creating or editing a playlist – and that change appears on all the devices. Now you may be wondering about the size of your library being transferred to a smaller device. Not to worry, as only the information about your library is synced; music tracks are only downloaded from the cloud when you want to listen to them.
Apple does one very smart thing with their cloud music service that Google Music and Amazon’s Cloud Drive don’t – providing a efficient and quick way to get your Music Library into the cloud. Google Music and Amazon Cloud Drive require you to upload all your music into their services. This can be very very time-consuming if you have a large library of files, and takes up alot of data bandwidth.
The way iTunes Match sets up your library in the cloud, is by examining your library, and matching your audio tracks with all of Apple’s music. If it finds a match, it doesn’t upload the track from your computer, it can just serve the track directly. Even better, all the matched music is served in DRM-free, 256 kbps AAC quality. Out of my library of over 10,000 tracks, iTunes Match correctly identified over 9,000. The remaining tracks it couldn’t match were uploaded to iTunes Match. This resulted in me getting my iTunes library into the cloud really fast.
Apple’s done one other smart thing with their implementation of iTunes Match on devices: automatically managing your music library on devices that don’t have enough space. When you play tracks on a device – like for example a 16 gb iPod touch, but your Music Library is 80gb, iTunes Match lets you download the tracks you want to listen to, and as you get close to running out of space, it will automatically remove music from the device that you’ve least listened to. Don’t worry, any music it removes is still in the cloud, and simply selecting a track to start playing it, re-downloads it to your device.
+ Very fast and efficient matching of tracks, even with large libraries
+ A single library in the cloud – synced across all your devices – computers and mobile devices
+ Smart space management means you never have to worry about running out of space again
+ Music that you play is delivered in very high quality AAC 256 kbps format
Could be better
– Uploading of tracks not matched is constrained by the demand on Apple’s servers and your own bandwidth. My uploading is pretty slow.
Who’s it for?
Anyone who has more than one computer and one iOS device, or wants to upgrade their music library to a higher quality encoding