One of Apple’s most eagerly awaited new cloud storage features, iTunes Match, debuted yesterday. For the last six months or so Amazon, Google, and Apple have all competed to offer music lovers new ways to access their music libraries while away from the desktop.
I wanted to try out iTunes Match as soon as it was available because unlike Amazon or Google’s cloud music lockers, iTunes Match promised to give me access to my music without burdening me with the tedious process of uploading each individual tracks.
Aside from the $24.99/year fee, here are the minimum requirements to run iTunes Match:
OS X Lion 10.7 or later
Windows Vista or later
iTunes 10.5.1 or later
iOS 5 or later on iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S iPod touch (3rd and 4th generation), iPad, or iPad 2.
Fortunately the process of getting iTunes Match went a lot smoother than it did when I tried to upgrade to iOS 5. I purchased the service through iTunes on my iMac. Although it took over ten hours for all of my music to upload, I was able to start listening to music on my iPad via iTunes Match after only about two hours. I have more than 70 GB of music, so smaller libraries may upload more quickly.
If a song was available in iTunes, it was “matched” but if it wasn’t then it was simply “uploaded,” so the speed of the process relates to how many songs need to be matched versus uploaded.
Not every song in my iTunes library was eligible to be matched or uploaded. According to Apple, “songs containing DRM (Digital Rights Management) will not be matched or uploaded to iCloud unless your computer is authorized for playback of that content.” Apple also won’t match songs files that are too big, or upload files whose sound quality is below a a bitrate of 96 kbps.
Oddly, but fortunately most of the files that iTunes now lists as “not eligible” still wound up being available for me to play. The lion’s share of these titles comprise older CDs that I had read into iTunes, but that do not have a digital compliment. Presumably, the more of old CDs one has read into iTunes, the more common this message will be.
After subscribing and uploading the music, the iTunes Match library is available by tapping the “More” tab in the lower left. Find iTunes Match under shared. The library will bear the name of the user’s Apple ID that it is associated with.
The interface is clean and uncluttered, allowing users to display their music by artists, albums, playlists, and even podcasts.
All of the songs that I played sounded good — were they upgraded, as Apple says — to “256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality” — my ears couldn’t tell, but I haven’t encountered any technical difficulties using iTunes Match so far.
iTunes Match will run in the background, and displays the artwork from the album you are listening to on the lock screen. Remember that iTunes needs to be running on the user’s desktop to be accessible from a remote location. (Remember this before you power off your computer next time you leave on vacation.) Most importantly, iTunes Match requires a Wi-Fi or 3G connection to work, and does not support off-line caching the way that popular subscription radio services such as Spotify or Slacker Radio do.
The appeal of iTunes Match for me was that I wouldn’t have to designate any of my iPad’s 16 GB to store music. The vast majority of my music was matched and available to me. For just over $2.00 per month, iTunes Match is a great deal for any music lover with an outsized MP3 collection and limited mobile storage.