Apple Releases iTunes Match — First Look Review

iTunes Match for Music

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.

itunes match in iTunes 10.5.1

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.

itunes match 3 step process

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.

enable itunes match on ios

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.

ios icloud itunes match music 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.

itunes match not eligible for icloud music

itunes match not eligible for icloud music

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…?

itunes match exlamation mark not matched

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.



  1. inferno

    “…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”

    I had quite a few of these as well. Apple says this is normal for “songs that are larger than 200MB or songs encoded at 96 Kbps or less” and “if the song contains DRM, was purchased using a different Apple ID, and could not be matched.” That was true for some of my ineligible songs, but not all; still haven’t figured out why some won’t work.

    I also haven’t fully figured out how playlists work once your iOS device is Match enabled. It looks like all of my playlists are sent to my phone, but some of them contain songs that are greyed out. Not just “in the cloud with the click to download” button, but completely greyed out. Obviously they’re unavailable, but why?

    • Josh Windisch

      Well that does explain some things then, I actually had a different Apple ID a long time ago when I got some of those albums. I wonder if there’s a way I can ‘unlock’ them or something and then have it match, or attempt to use match under the other ID? I don’t even know if that’s possible but I might give it a try.

      • inferno

        Ah, same here; some of my tunes were purchased on my wife’s account. Authorize the account under the store menu, then re run the Tunes match (also under “store”). Worked for me. :)

  2. Len Bradley

    It would be better if ITunes scanned your library first, told you what was eligible for iTunes Match. And then you can decide if you want this service.

    • Josh Windisch

      That would be nice. No doubt there will be some dissatisfied people out there.

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