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iTunes 11 - Quick Look

Apple delayed the release of iTunes 11, due to 'wanting to get it right' before they released it. Origianlly shown at the iPhone 5 launch this fall, they had a scheduled release date of October, but ended up pushing it until November. Late November -- 11/29/12, in fact. 

Now that I've finally had some time to play around with it, I can say it's certainly a welcome change. My initial thoughts are that it appears more modern, performs quicker, and has fine visual nuances that are pleasing to the senses. Specifically the Album view -- it's similar to making an Album cover look like a CD booklet w/ matching colors. It's the small things like this that set Apple apart from the competition. 

iTunes 11 Album View

iTunes 11 Album View

Beyond these new visual features, iTunes 11 also features some enhancements such as 'Up Next', where you can quickly queue songs to the 'Up next list' and also make them immediately 'play next'. I've long wished for a way to quickly make a playlist on the fly w/o having to make a formal Playlist. 

The Mini Player is new, too. It's smaller, but adds more controls. You can access it next to the iTunes playback bar, next to the full-screen button. This is handy to get access to your tunes when you don't need or want the full iTunes player up and running. 

Redeeming gift cards is easier too -- it can use your Mac's camera to read the barcode, so the days of entering those little codes are gone, at least for some of us. 

So far, I've only had time to play around with the new iTunes 11, but so far I like it. As with any new revision, I'm sure there will be bugs -- it's par for the course, especially when you get several million people w/ different scenarios testing. I'd keep an eye out for a new quick release in the coming weeks -- even though Apple said they waited until they got it right, it's probably not right yet. 

Sadly, I may not end up using the new iTunes very often.

Here's why:

  1. Spotify. I use Spotify for streaming my music. My personal library has gigabytes of music, but guess what -- Spotify has Millions and Millions of songs. 8 times out of 10, I can think of a song and it's on Spotify. If Apple had this ability (I'm not talking about iTunes Match -- I have that too, but that's just for streaming your own personal library), then it would once again be the de facto standard for me. 
  2. iCloud. Now that Apple has iCloud, I rarely have a need to connect any of my iOS devices to my Mac. I just don't. I keep it all on iCloud backup -- and hope for the best.
  3. Podcasts. I used to sync podcasts to my iTunes daily, but with the app store, I no longer have to do that extra step. I prefer Stitcher, but find myself using Downcast more often, because it features a 'skip ahead' ability so i can setup an interval to skip ahead -- required for commercial skipping. 

All in all, the new iTunes 11 looks great, but I have a feeling this is just a beginning of changes to come for iTunes.

CNet had a nice overview of what is GONE in the new iTunes 11, so if you seem confused about your favorite option -- check this out.

Holiday Gift - Apple TV - Under $100

Thinkmac present noreflect

If you have been looking for an inexpensive gift for the Apple lover, check out the second gen Apple TV. Not only is it the size of a hockey puck, but it operates in total silence. With the Apple TV  it opens up a world of viewing right onto your big screen TV. Besides renting and buying movies and TV shows on the iTunes store, you can play all of your music & videos from your iTunes library, play whatever you have on iCloud - including your photo stream from your iOS devices, and the coolest of all is it supports AirPlay. With AirPlay you can push video and music content to your Apple TV from your iOS device. On the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, it can also MIRROR what you see on your iOS screen. Great for some big screen Angry Birds action.

AppleTV2

Best of all -- it's under $99.

You will need an HDMI cable, and you can pick up a high quality one of those  at Monoprice.com for under $5.

 

Product: Apple TV (second gen)

Price$95 on Amazon

 

iTunes Match - First Thoughts

Itunes match

Now that iTunes Match is available  (the $24.99/yr) digital locker offered to iTunes users, you may be wondering how it all works -- before you spend the cash. Ars has a great article, but here is my experience.

My 8,000 songs just finished matching and uploading, and so far so good. iTunes matched over 6,000 of these, and then uploaded the remainders that it couldn't match to it's iTunes catalog. I let it run overnight and by this evening it was complete. Now I have access via iCloud to all of the music that was on my iMac (my full library) on my Macbook Air, iPhone, Apple TV, and iPad.  Performance is fine on my Macbook Air with the music starting in under 3 seconds. On my iPhone, it typically takes between 5-10 seconds - which I think is much too long. If you start on a playlist, it's almost seamless, but the initial start of the first song is the one that takes the longest - frustratingly long. Petty, but when you get used to instantaneous playing (Spotify, RDIO, etc) you get spoiled.

Ars Technica has a great article worth checking out:

iTunes Match: your questions answered