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Final Impressions of iTunes Match (Before I Unsubscribe)

One of the decisions I had to make before purchasing an iPad mini was how much storage I wanted this time around. My iPad 2 has the base 16 GB of on-board storage, and while that can easily fit all of my apps, I’ve had trouble keeping even my relatively tiny 13 GB music library on it. One thing that I thought could solve that size limitation was iTunes Match, which I’ve been using for the last year (first impressions be here).

iTunes Match costs $25/year (well, $28/year in magical Canadian dollars) and takes all the music in your iTunes library – regardless of where it was bought – and makes it available across all of your iOS and OS X devices. At first glance, the service looks fantastic: you never have to worry about syncing, and rating a song on one device will update the rating across all devices.

So instead of storing all of my music on my iPad 2, I’ve simply downloaded tracks à la carte. By default, iTunes Match shows all of my music – both on the device and in the cloud – inside of the Music app. Local music plays immediately, while cloud music takes a few seconds to buffer, before the streaming and downloading process begins. iTunes Match has helped me deal with my iPad 2’s space limitations by automatically deleting tracks I haven’t listened to in a while.

This has worked relatively well over the past year of use, but I’ve decided that I won’t be renewing my iTunes Match subscription. The actual music playing portion has been consistent, but I’ve had issues with album art showing up properly, and I’m really irritated by the lack of lyrics (see this Macworld article on iTunes Match for more evidence of this). I’ve embedded most of my iTunes songs with lyrics using Get Lyrical, and I find it ridiculous that iTunes Match simply doesn’t bother to sync that data across. It’s for this reason that my iPhone 4S simply syncs wirelessly with my Mac for music, and I’ve used iTunes Match solely on my iPad.

I’m also finding that iOS 6 makes it a little more difficult to discern which tracks are on-device, and which ones still need to be downloaded. iOS 5 used to show a cloud symbol beside tracks that needed to be downloaded, but iOS 6 shows only one cloud icon along the top of the iPad’s screen (which disappears only when the entire album has been downloaded). Granted, there is still a switch in Settings -> Music that lets you toggle between showing local music or all music (incl. iTunes Match tracks), but the point is that iOS 6 gives me less information than I had before, and hasn’t done anything to make iTunes Match easier to use.

It’s for all of the above reasons that I’m not going to bother with iTunes Match in its current state, and I’ll simply sync my entire music library to my pending 32GB iPad mini.

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