Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 7.7 (Updated)
With the impending worldwide release of the iPhone 3G, Apple also released iTunes 7.7 early this morning to provide support for the iPhone 3G and accompanying iPhone and iPod touch v2.0 firmware.
In addition to this, however, iTunes 7.7 also offers a few additional features that may be of interest to our readers.
Downloading the Update
To update iTunes, either download the new version directly from Apple’s web site at http://www.apple.com/itunes/download, or choose the “Check for Updates” option in your existing version of iTunes, which will trigger the Apple Software Update application and scan for new Apple software.
The download itself is approximately 60 MB for Windows users, and 48 MB for Mac users. Unlike previous iTunes updates, there is no corresponding QuickTime update this time around.
Unlike previous versions, which would normally perform an update on your library database at start up, iTunes 7.7 starts up right away, suggesting that little or no structural changes have been made to the iTunes database.
Users who have previously purchased iPod Games will notice an “Applications” item in the source list which replaces the previous “iPod Games” heading, indicating that Apple has taken the approach of consolidating their iPod Games offerings into the large “Applications” category which will no doubt include the iPhone and iPod touch applications coming very soon to the iTunes App Store.
Selecting this item will present a listing of all of your current iPod Games in a simple grid listing and any other iPhone or iPod touch applications that you may download:
The instructions page for your iPod Games are still available simply by double-clicking on the iPod Game’s icon in the application listing. It is unclear whether iPhone and iPod touch applications will come with similar pages from their respective developers to provide more detailed information on each application, but thus far none of the applications we tested had any additional info screens available (double-clicking on these apps does nothing).
You may also note that the “iPod Games” option has been replaced with “Applications” in iTunes General Preferences. While this option will not show up unless you actually have some iPod or iPhone applications in your iTunes library, as with other source list items, you can still turn it off if you’d rather not see it in your listing.
Note that the Applications section also includes a “Get More Applications” link at the bottom-right corner, which will also bring you directly to the iTunes App Store page.
Using your iPhone or iPod touch as an iTunes Remote (Updated)
iTunes 7.7 now also offers a feature hidden away on the iTunes Advanced Preferences tab: “Look for iPhone & iPod touch Remotes”
This feature is enabled by default, and presumably works hand-in-hand with the new “Remote” application which can be found for free on the iTunes Store for iPhone and iPod touch v2.0 devices:
Note that as with all iPhone and iPod touch applications, v2.0 of the iPhone/iPod touch firmware is required to support this app. We will have more information on this later after the iPhone v2.0 firmware has arrived and we have had time to try it out.
UPDATE: The Remote Application for the iPhone and iPod touch works both with iTunes 7.7 and the Apple TV v2.1. The option noted above must be enabled (it is on by default), and the “Remote” application downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store and installed on your iPhone and iPod touch. You must also be connected to the same network over Wi-Fi as your iTunes computer or Apple TV.
Once you have everything set up, running the “Remote” app will basically “pair” your iPhone or iPod remote with your iTunes library in much the same way as your Apple TV pairs with iTunes. You will be shown a four-digit code on your device which must be entered on the corresponding host device (iTunes or Apple TV):
In iTunes, you should see your iPhone or iPod touch appear under the “Devices” section, but with the remote control app icon, instead of the normal device icon:
Select your device from the iTunes devices listing, and you will be prompted to enter the four-digit code that is displayed on the iPhone or iPod touch screen:
Click OK and you will receive confirmation that the devices have been paired successfully, and your device should show you a listing of your iTunes or Apple TV playlists. The browser interface on the iPhone itself works in much the same way as the iPhone’s own “iPod” app, and you can play any type of video or audio content on your iTunes computer or Apple TV using the iPhone or iPod touch as a remote control.
Further, you can search through your entire iTunes library right from the remote control app.
As an additional interesting feature, tapping the “Settings” button on the top-left corner of any track listing will bring you to the configuration screen for the Remote application and your iTunes library. Specifically interesting is that you can toggle on or off various AirTunes remote speakers from this screen:
The procedure for pairing a remote with the Apple TV is somewhat similar. More information and pictures can be found in our Apple TV Software 2.1 Article.
A few other minor changes have also appeared in iTunes 7.7. In addition to the preferences changes we already noted above, the iTunes Preferences “Store” tab contains a new option to “Automatically Check for Available Downloads”
The Parental Ratings Preferences in iTunes now include an option to restrict the purchase of iPod Games based on their rating:
The rating options on this screen are 4+, 9+, 12+ and 17+. Note that as with other parental controls in iTunes itself, these will only prevent the purchase of blocked content from the iTunes Store, and not any content that is already in your iTunes library.
Right-clicking on an iPhone in your iTunes Source list now bring up two additional options on the context menu to force a Backup or Restore of your iPhone:
Google Contact Sync
As part of Apple’s Mac OS X 10.5.3 update, synchronization of your Google Contacts with your iPhone was added to the iTunes sync options. At this point, Windows users were left out, as this feature came as a Mac OS X update, rather than an iTunes update. However, as of iTunes 7.7, Google Contact sync has also been brought to Windows users.
To sync your Google contacts on Windows, simply choose the appropriate option from the drop-down list of synchronization sources for your contacts:
Unfortunately, no synchronization of Google Calendar is yet available, so Windows users are limited to synchronization with Outlook, and Mac users to synchronization with iCal. iPhone v2.0, of course will bring Exchange and MobileMe synchronization as well, however.
What hasn’t changed: Manual Mode for iPhone (Updated)
Last January, iTunes 7.6 and the iPhone v1.1.3 firmware brought a much-awaited Manual Management feature for the iPhone, allowing media content to be loaded onto the iPhone via drag-and-drop, in the same way this is done for the traditional iPod devices and the iPod touch. Unfortunately, it seems that Apple only half-implemented this feature: Enabling Manual Mode for the iPhone would allow you to manually manage the content on your primary computer, but this “Manual” setting did not travel with the iPhone to other iTunes libraries. This meant that you could still only access and manage your content from a single iTunes computer, with the only benefit being that you did not have to automatically sync.
Unfortunately, iTunes 7.7 does not appear to have changed this behaviour—manual mode still works the same as before. However, it should be noted that since the problem appears to be the lack of the “Manual” setting being applied to the iPhone device itself, it’s entirely possible that it’s the responsibility of the iPhone firmware to address this and not necessarily iTunes. Hopefully the iPhone v2.0 update will fix this issue and manual mode on the iPhone will work in the same manner as it does for Apple’s iPod devices.
UPDATE: Now that iPhone v2.0 is available, it would appear that the Manual Mode behaviour for the iPhone has not changed from that of previous versions. An iPhone configured for manual management can still only be managed on a single computer.
iPhone v2.0 (Updated)
Some of the remaining features in iTunes 7.7 are no doubt hidden away in anticipation of an iPhone or iPod touch v2.0 device being connected. For example, at this point there are no settings visible to sync Applications to the iPhone, nor any references to Exchange or MobileMe support. These only appear when a compatible (ie, v2.0) iPhone or iPod touch device is connected:
The Applications tab works pretty much as you would expect from other types of content such as Ringtones and iPod Games (for traditional iPod models). You simply choose to select ALL compatible applications, or choose specific selected applications to install/sync onto your iPhone or iPod touch.
One other minor addition is a reference to “MobileMe” which now appears at the top of the “Info” tab, providing the user with an opportunity to set up a MobileMe account.
This appears to persist even after MobileMe has been configured on the iPhone or iPod touch, however this may simply be a result of the MobileMe service not yet being fully operational.
As with most new software releases, Apple lists iTunes 7.7 as also including “bug fixes to improve stability and performance.” Other than those changes noted above, no significant bug fixes were noted in iTunes 7.7, however our testing platforms have not traditionally had any performance problems with either the Mac or Windows versions of iTunes. If any readers have noticed that iTunes 7.7 has fixed any other problems with iTunes 7.6 or other previous versions, we would certainly like to hear from you, either in our comments section below, or in our iTunes Discussion Forum.
Update or wait?
For iTunes users who do not own an iPhone or iPod touch, there seems to be little reason to update to this newest version of iTunes, which has very obviously been released solely for the purpose of providing new features related to the iTunes App Store and the new firmware releases for these devices.
iPhone and iPod touch users who plan to use the new v2.0 firmware, however, or any existing iTunes users purchasing a new iPhone 3G will be required to update to this version, as it is now the mandatory minimum requirement for these devices and firmware versions.
For most other users, however, this is offers almost nothing in terms of significant new features. On the other hand, the good news is that from our testing thus far, iTunes 7.7 doesn’t appear to have broken anything significantly compared to previous versions. Although each user’s mileage may vary, this seems to be a relatively safe and minor upgrade, with little reason to recommend for or against it for the average iTunes user.
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