iTunes Match and streaming in iOS 6 | iLounge Article


iTunes Match and streaming in iOS 6

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Q: What I want from iTunes Match, and what was possible in iOS 5 is to enable the feature to show all my music in the cloud and download what I want to listen to and then disable show all my music and just use and see the music which is on my iPhone. I don’t want to stream because of my data plan and some “blank spots” in my 3G. What was Apple thinking when they created this “new feature”? The whole world has the same access to internet as Apple does in San Francisco,  and they should let the people stream?

- Dave, in a comment on Can’t remove iTunes Match tracks in iOS 6

A: There appears to be a lot of confusion about the streaming versus downloading aspects of iTunes Match. This seems to be partially due to cosmetic changes that Apple made to the Music app user interface in iOS 6 along with some erroneous reports that have been circulating on the Internet dating back to the early iOS 6 betas suggesting that Apple was moving to a predominantly streaming approach.

The bottom line, however, is that little has actually changed in iOS 6, and iTunes Match and the iOS Music app continues to basically work as it did before when it comes to playing back content. In short, iTunes Match does not “stream” music in the sense that most services define “streaming.”. The iOS Music app always downloads music, regardless of whether you do specifically or simply listen to it.

When you begin playing a track on an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, the device will check to see if it already has that track stored locally. If so, the local copy is used; otherwise iTunes Match begins downloading the track from iCloud, beginning playback as soon as enough of the track has been downloaded to ensure an uninterrupted experience—usually within a second or two.

The practical upshot of this is that once you’ve listened to any track once, it remains on your device, so bandwidth usage is not really a crucial concern. Listening to a track once will cause it to be downloaded to your device and that locally stored copy will be used the next time you play the track back. In fact, simply listening to one of your favourite albums or playlists once through will have the same effect as downloading it manually—each of those tracks will be downloaded and stored on your device as they are played, and will remain on your device for the next time you listen to that playlist.

The option also still remains in iOS 6 to pre-download entire playlists or albums, however. The only major difference in this regard from iOS 5 is that individual tracks can no longer be specifically downloaded on-demand. Simply playing an individual track will download and retain a local copy of it, however, and most users pre-downloading content are likely working from albums or playlists anyway in much the same way as they would have when syncing music from iTunes.

Keep in mind, however, that iOS considers your iTunes Match music to be volatile in the sense that it will start purging content should you be running low on space on the device. In this case, manually downloaded content appears to take priority over automatically downloaded content, and iOS tries to purge tracks on a first-in-first-out basis, meaning the least recently-downloaded tracks will be removed first.

Note also that if you are on a limited cellular data plan, you can easily turn OFF downloading of iTunes Match content via your cellular data connection by going to the Music options in the Settings app and toggling off the Use Cellular Data option.

When no valid data connection is available for iTunes Match—either because you are out of coverage entirely or you have the Use Cellular Data option disabled and are not on a Wi-Fi connection—any tracks that are not stored locally on your device will appear greyed out, indicating that they are not available for playback. In iOS 5 attempting to select one of these tracks would present an error message indicating that the track is not available for playback without an appropriate data connection; in iOS 6 these tracks simply cannot be selected at all and will be silently skipped over during playback. The upshot is that you won’t risk inadvertently playing back these tracks and using up cellular data bandwidth, although you still have the option of temporarily toggling Use Cellular Data back on if you find that there’s a specific track that you really want to listen to and can’t wait until you get back onto a Wi-Fi connection.


In addition, the Show All Music option remains available under the Music settings as it did in iOS 5, and toggling this option OFF will have the same effect as before—music not already downloaded onto your device will be hidden entirely. Again, however, this includes both music you’ve specifically downloaded (by playlist or album), as well as any tracks that you’ve simply listened to from the cloud.

The only major change in iOS 6 is the inability to easily delete music that you no longer want on your device. iOS 6 is supposed to handle this for you if it needs the space for something else, although in our own testing this appears to not yet be fully polished; we have seen out of space errors pop up when attempting to download large apps or videos on a constrained device and only somewhat later does iOS decide to purge iTunes Match content to make room for the new content. This seems to be based somewhat on the actual available space on the device, as opposed to the size of a new item that you are attempting to download; in other words, an iPhone with under 1GB of free space will be more likely to purge iTunes Match content automatically, as opposed to attempting to download a 4GB video on a device that only has 2GB free. This also seems to be more of an issue when actually downloading new content as opposed to filling space more gradually, such as when taking photos or recording video.

Users who are desperate for space still have the option of erasing their entire iTunes Match library from the Settings app under General, Usage, but this will of course require re-downloading any content that you still want on your device—not a particularly convenient option if you’re travelling and away from an inexpensive data connection such as a Wi-Fi network.

It is also worth noting that the iPad Music app still seems to support the ability to delete entire albums in the same manner as in iOS 5, by simply tapping and holding on the album artwork in grid view and then tapping on the “X” that appears in the top left corner (thanks to IanB for pointing this out in the comments on Can’t remove iTunes Match tracks in iOS 6). It is unclear, however, whether this is a deliberate iPad specific feature or simply a case of Apple forgetting to remove it from the iPad version of iOS 6; the inability to remove items on the iPhone and iPod touch would seem to suggest the latter.

In summary, however, iTunes Match in iOS 6 continues to work in much the same way as it did in iOS 5 when it comes to downloading tracks. The only major changes in iOS 6 are the inability to now manually download individual tracks, the loss of the iCloud status indicators beside each track, and the ability to manually remove downloaded music. Other than this, the iOS 6 Music app continues to download tracks to local storage and play them back from there as it did in the past, minimizing bandwidth usage as much as possible and providing users with even more accessible options to disable the use of the feature of a cellular data connection.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the traditional way of synchronizing music—over a USB or Wi-Fi connection with an iTunes library—remains an option, even in iOS 6. iTunes synchronization provides a much greater deal of control in terms of managing the content stored on your device than iTunes Match ever has, and may still be a better option for users who are constrained by low storage capacity and/or cellular bandwidth.


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iTunes Match has been a real bust for me. I can’t get it to go beyond step one: “Gathering information about your iTunes Library”. The grey progress bar will get to the very end, and then start over again. I’ll let it sit for hours, and on the weekend, for days, and still no progress. Very frustrating!

Posted by Michael Smith in Toronto on October 10, 2012 at 9:06 PM (CDT)


I’ve enjoyed the (nearly) first year of iTunes Match. It was great, but no longer being able to manage the content on my devices has killed it for me. I hope Apple will change their minds about this. Otherwise it’s back to iTunes syncing for me.

Posted by Charles in Toronto on October 12, 2012 at 11:39 AM (CDT)


Best explanation of ITM in iOS 6 I’ve read so far.  One major issue remains for me, however.  In the past, I recall being able to drag hundreds of songs from my computer’s itunes library to my iphone through a usb connection.  This way I could keep a core library on my phone, and add/substract using ITM.  This was a great convenience.  With iOS 6, if I try to drag songs over I get an error if ITM is enabled on my phone.  If I turn off the phone’s ITM, drag over the music, and then turn ITM back on, it deletes all of the local music from the phone.  As a partial remedy, I can set up a playlist in ITM, but if it contains, say, a 1000 songs, downloading all will take the better part of a day.  How can I conveniently get a core library on my phone while keeping ITM enabled?

Posted by gm in Toronto on October 13, 2012 at 11:15 PM (CDT)


I think I have about the maximum of tracks allowed by Apple in my icloud, but what I’m still most disappointed with is that when I download songs on my Iphone it still fails to update the number of times the track is played, one of the main selection criteria in my playlists

Posted by dihansse in Toronto on October 15, 2012 at 5:06 PM (CDT)


I upgraded to iOS 6 on my 3rd-gen iPad. Ugh. It lags, is choppy, and there’s pixelation where there was none before. Even the font, as I’m typing this, is smaller and harder to read. What a mess.

Posted by techtaurus in Toronto on October 18, 2012 at 12:58 PM (CDT)


What an incredibly frustrating experience iCloud is for me. Several months ago, I downloaded my music library to iCloud in the belief that while on vacation, I could gain access to my music on either the iPhone or pad. I therefore did not bother to sync either device with my library. I was therefore puzzled by the fact that most of the music was greyed out when I tried to access my music from an airport. I quickly discovered that it only appeared when I was connected to wifi. Because I am travelling outside of my home country, I cannot use data roaming due to the extortionate expense.  I came across this blog which gives the most accurate information that I have found on the Internet. I spent an entire afternoon playing tracks for my iPhone while connected to to wifi.  However, I made the terrible mistake of turning off the music match feature believing that it would enable me to access only the downloaded tracks. To my dismay, all the music that I had selected was gone and everything was greyed out agin with the exception of one track.  When I get home, I am going back to the old sync method and will gladly hit the delete button for my iCloud account.

Posted by Graham Hall in Toronto on February 2, 2013 at 12:42 AM (CST)


I upgraded to iOS 6 on my 3rd-gen iPad. Ugh. It lags, is choppy, and there’s pixelation where there was none before

Posted by Edward in Toronto on March 12, 2013 at 1:19 PM (CDT)

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