The news about iTunes being canceled has firstly shocked a lot of Apple and even Windows users. However, after a careful look, it becomes obvious that we saw this happening a long time ago.
iTunes is not to blame here, though. Some people start using the cancellation of iTunes as a valid argument to prove that the platform was terrible all along. However, it’s not the case. All iTunes issues are much more complicated than just technical issues.
However, we won’t delve too much into software development and marketing details, and instead, we will focus on user experiences. Let’s take a look at everything there was to appreciate and dislike about old iTunes and see whether the new solution answers these concerns.
P.S. For Windows PCs, the latest version of iTunes is not going anywhere. Even Mac users can choose to ignore the upgrade. Before you decide, let’s take a look at iTunes’ current state and see whether it’s still worth being nostalgic about.
The data is not deleted
Even though iTunes will not exist in the same form that it did before. All your playlists and purchases are saved entirely. That’s precisely why the platform’s functionality is distributed between three standalone apps: Music, Podcasts, and TV.
Already from the first look, it’s evident that splitting one big piece of functionality should, by default, simplify the platform. That’s the primary reason for this whole deal.
Cause of death #1 – iTunes has grown too big
Over 18 years of its existence, the service has always been growing as users’ demands have been developing with each passing year. The first big update has been the synchronization with the iPad and the addition of the store.
Then, the synchronization with Mac followed. A bit later, we saw the connection to social media – now we are able to share playlists and albums. Last but not least, the elaborate customization and personalization settings. Smart playlists with complex conditions, sorting filters.
With the addition of podcasts and TV, iTunes has indeed become huge. It has become a place where almost every media content can be either bought or rented. The problem is, users started getting lost in all this functionality and data.
The evolution of iTunes
Apple TV, for instance, has always been a disappointment. No accurate filters, cluttered settings, and most importantly, finding rented content became a quest. A lot of times, users cannot find their purchases and ended up forgetting about them altogether. Talk about letting money go down the drain.
Cause of death #2 – Betting on new users
Experienced Apple users misunderstand the gravity of the situation. If you have been using iTunes from its conception, you were gradually getting used to each new feature, familiarizing yourself with functionality. Of course, 18 years is enough to learn something as complex as iTunes functionality (although it’s slowly catching up to the level of difficulty of rocket science).
Now, however, Apple is betting on new users, trying to make the experience more pleasant for them. Dividing one big platform into small easy-to-understand services is the most intuitive step in this direction.
Cause #3 – Monolithic apps are losing to microservices
The reason why we say that iTunes functionality’s issues are not the only reason why the platform was reformed. We also need to take a closer look at global software development trends. If you analyze the actions of other global corporations, Apple’s decision suddenly becomes much clearer.
So, let’s take a look at how the changes in iTunes correspond to modern trends in software development and why it’s a positive thing.
- Microservices architecture becomes much more popular than a typical monolithic approach. It’s better to have small services that do smaller tasks but do them better, than one big platform with multiple purposes but cluttered interface and bugs. Even though iTunes-substitutes aren’t 100% microservices by their architecture, the basic principle is fully conserved.
- Netflix, Uber, Payoneer, and other prominent software providers have already transferred their services to microservices. Even if the update wasn’t that visible as in iTunes case, the general tendency is quite clear. The trend of splitting platforms up will surely continue. Apple, with its history of being one of the most innovative companies, evidently did not stay behind.
Cause #4 – The changes in music
Streaming was threatening to put an end to the iTunes business model. Users are slowly losing interest in the idea of buying a track to fully own it when they can pay the same amount of money for a monthly fee on a streaming platform. The only difference is, instead of one song, they have the entire plethora of available albums and genres.
As Apple stopped betting on iPod, the perfect iTunes’ business model became much less perfect
The core purpose of iTunes – creating and managing your music library – no longer seems relevant. By splitting the service into three parts, Apple made it easier to introduce innovations and business models. Could be, we are entering the new era of music – we just haven’t been notified what it is yet.
Still, the chances are that these new services will be a net step to some big change in the music market. The entire split idea might be done with a goal to introduce a significant change later on.
Are the new apps living up to the expectations?
Let’s take a look at each of the new services and analyze what features they have inherited from the new platform, and what unique features have been added. Having that said, it’s just a beta version so far – we likely see additional functionality in the official release.
This service looks pretty much like a small version of iTunes. The only difference, it has been stripped down to essential features, leaving out the cluttered interface and multi-layered menus.
This is a new home for your tracks
Here you’ll find all of your iTunes playlists, music videos, subscriptions, and ripped tracks. The app is connected to the iTunes Store and has a built-in CD ripper. The list of supported conversion formats remained unchanged – it’s MP3, WAV, Apple Lossless, AAC, AIFF, and others.
You can see personalized recommendations on the ‘For You’ page, or look into popular music in the ‘Browse’ category. Radio and Apple stations can also be found on the main menu. The Genius features remained unchanged, too.
Visually, the app is no different from its music sibling. The only difference is that instead f music playlists, it manages podcast subscriptions and downloads. Now, it has been somewhat a pain in the neck to manage podcasts in the original iTunes. Subscriptions were getting lost; finding a downloaded track required some detective skills, too.
Podcasts have finally gotten some order
Now, it has all been fixed.
The main pages include ‘Listen Now’ with filters like ‘Recently Played’ and ‘Up Next.’ On the browser page, you can look through editors picks of all podcasts’ categories. The platform currently hosts 700 000 shows, and all podcasts that you’ve been following on iTunes will also be supported in the app.
We didn’t like that the Top Charts are not category-specific so far. You can see what’s trending on the platform, but finding a new podcast from this panel is difficult.
However, there is one substantial upgrade coming as well. Apple applied machine learning algorithms to its search. Now the app understands what’s been said on the show, and converts this into keywords. If you forgot the name of the episode, you can google a couple of words; the software will analyze the content, and get back to you with the name of the track. All of this barely takes 10 seconds.
This is where iTunes’ changes come to life. In the one-in-all platform, renting and buying video content was always a risk. Every one in a while, the program managed to hide your rented file somewhere, and it was impossible to find.
Apple TV might become great again
Now TV streaming is synchronized both with your TV and Mac, and mobile devices as well. Similarly to the original software, the main pages are Watch Now, TV Shows, Movies, Library, Kids, Sports, and Search.
The content is finally sorted well right on the main page. Now you don’t just see random titles, but they are broken down on categories. The search has gotten much more flexible, too, with a bunch of new filters by genre and groups.
iTunes still lives on
iTunes alternatives, so far, have surprised us only with positive changes. They took what iTunes had to offer and turned into smaller but simpler user experiences. However, if you are already used to the original functionality, you can choose not to upgrade your Mac to these new services.
For one thing, switching between three apps all the time can be annoying. Considering that they all have similar interfaces, you could confuse applications. Also, the apps are not yet synchronized with each other. While device-to-device connections work correctly, the apps are so far completely standalone.
So, we’d say, holding on to iTunes is yet worth it. Take your time and wait for the official release to come. It’s best to see the bigger picture before you decide whether to switch to new services or pass.