iTunes Match launched yesterday, two weeks after the deadline Apple set in their Let’s Talk iPhone event in early October.
Available via iTunes 10.5.1, you can purchase the Match service for an annual Subscription of $24.99.
Once purchased, iTunes Match will take you through a three-step process.
First, the service will review the music in your library and match your music with songs from the iTunes store and upload artwork and any remaining songs that couldn’t be found in the iTunes music store.
The entire process will take up to several hours depending on the size of your music collection. The match doesn’t lock you out of iTunes so you can use it normal or click stop if you need to interrupt the process for some reason.
After iTunes Match is complete, you will have your entire library — even songs you didn’t purchase through iTunes, available on any Apple device with the flip of a switch. We gave you a preview of this already before the service was released and found it integrates nicely with iOS devices.
To enable iTunes Match, you need to enable it on your iOS 5 device by navigating to Settings >> Music and tap iTunes Match and Show All Music On.
Once enabled, your entire music library will populate in the Music app. The songs not already on your device will be displayed with a cloud icon.
When you tap on a song stored in iCloud, it will download that track and start playing it similar to how buying new music through iTunes works.
As mentioned earlier, not all music is eligible for iTunes Match. Although the service is V1, I was surprised by the large number of albums iTunes Match couldn’t match or upload displaying the music with a cloud with a slash through it. I haven’t yet determined the why these songs are ineligible for Match however I did notice it was uploading songs that I know are in the iTunes Store, but were uploaded instead of matched.
I assume this might be due to contract issues between Apple and the labels. However for me, the end user, it’s a bit of a let down since these songs won’t be upgraded to the higher iTunes quality standard advertised by the service announcement.
I ran into additional issues where songs were displaying exclamation marks indicating the song couldn’t be found. The iCloud icon had that same exclamation mark, and the songs were not matched up. Funky…?
Another disadvantage of iTunes Match is the lack of streaming, something that Google Music beta offers. That said, iTunes Match makes it convenient to download what isn’t on your device and delete tracks when done with them. To delete a song, swipe across it on your iOS device and it will just delete the local file while leaving the Cloud copy intact.
Despite the minor downfalls and frustrations, iTunes Match did work for the majority of my music and offers a unique opportunity to upgrade the quality of a collection including art work while at the same time protecting it in the cloud. At just $24.99 a year or $0.07 cents a day, not a bad deal for iOS users.