iTunes Match Review - Matchmaker or Deal Breaker?

11/26/2011 by Jason Atwood (he/him)
A review of the new iTunes Match service offering cloud computing.

The Match Made in Cupertino

iTunes Match is a new service from Apple that allows for storing and playing your iTunes music in the cloud. The match part of the service makes it easier since instead of uploading all your CD ripped music, iTunes will just match it against the 18,000,000 songs in iTunes Music Store. This feature was announced back in the summer and finally released this month to the masses so I went ahead and reviewed it to ask the big question, is it worth it?


Setting It Up

The first thing to know is that it isn't free. iTunes Match costs $24.95 per year as an ongoing subscription but like most things in iTunes, it is an easy click away for purchasing. Once purchased, iTunes goes to work matching all of the songs in the your iTunes library against their online catalog. For my 9,000 songs that took an hour or two, but I wasn't really paying much attention to the process.


After the matching, iTunes will then upload anything it can't match and make it available as part of iTunes Match. The length of this process depends on how much music you have "ripped". I had about 2,000 or so songs that needed to be upload and that too took a few hours.


The last and most important part of set up is to go to each of your iOS devices such as an iPod, iPhone, Apple TV and enable those devices for iTunes Match. Once you do that all your music will be available via iTunes on your device, although only some of it will be local. More on that later.


The Great, The Bad & The Missing

The best thing about iTunes Match is that it works very well. Your music is available and you can start listening to an album that isn't local as it will start to stream it and than go from song to song streaming and downloading them to your device. You get the best of both worlds, as you can stream your music and have it local if you want to listen to it offline later. iTunes Match is smart enough to clean up older and unlistened to music off your devices to spare the space.


The bad of iTunes Match starts and ends at the price. While it isn't a lot of money, it always feels weird to pay for something you already paid for once. My guess is that in the future the $24.95 will drop down and go away as Apple realizes that the stickiness of the product is worth more than the small amount of money.


The biggest missing feature that I have run into so far is the played count. In normal iTunes, every time you listen to a song (or view a video) it keeps track of how many times you listened to it and the last time you did. In my testing, nothing I listened to via iTunes Match made it back to my iTunes in terms of the last time I listened. This isn't the biggest missing feature, but one of the best parts of "owning" the music. For those of you have have over 25,000 songs you will need to break up your library in order for iTunes Match to work.


Is It Worth It?

The cost can be thought of in a couple of ways. The first is that if you were using iTunes Match you might not need other cloud music streaming services that cost $5-15 a month. That alone could make it worth it. The second value would be in rediscovering all your music which might prevent you from buying more. Maybe.


In the end, iTunes Match is a great feature and for now is worth the cost. It will be interesting to come back to it after six months or so to see where Amazon and Google have gone with their cloud music services and if the cost still is worth it.