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Can’t remove iTunes Match tracks in iOS 6
By Jesse Hollington | 09.28.12

Q: I wonder if you can shed some light on my issue or maybe explain if I am missing the point altogether. I have been happily using iTunes Match on my iPhone for some time. I have over 22,000 songs in iTunes Match so the ability to pick and choose a few albums on the fly without filling my iPhone is great. Once I have listened to a batch of albums for a while I simply swipe to remove and pick another batch.

Since the iOS 6 update I no longer have the ability to remove individual albums or songs. The only option I can see is to remove the entire contents and start again. I have done some digging around on the web and a few people are saying if my iPhone is running low on space, Apple will decide what to remove based on popular tracks and unplayed tracks? This to me is not only useless as a service but very costly, I really hope you can explain a way around this or am I missing the point?

- Nick

A: Unfortunately, you are correct that this is how iTunes Match now works in iOS 6. In line with Apple’s general philosophy of trying to simplify things, it seems that the new approach to iTunes Match is to avoid the need micro-manage the content on iOS devices. In addition to removing the ability to manually delete specific tracks and albums from your device, the iCloud status indicators that were previously displayed beside each track have also been removed, so there is no longer even a visual indication of which tracks are stored locally and which ones are merely available in the cloud.

This actually led some to incorrectly assume that iTunes Match had moved to a streaming model in iOS 6, playing all non-local tracks from the cloud rather than downloading them in the background. In reality, only the status indicator has been removed for tracks, such that the user has no easy way to determine at a glance what is actually stored on the device. When you’re using your device in Airplane Mode or otherwise outside of network coverage, however, you’ll find that any recently played tracks are still available on your device regardless of whether you specifically downloaded them manually or simply listened to them from the cloud.

The design philosophy here appears to be that your iPhone should act as if your entire music library is available to it at all times while trying to minimize data transfers and manage your storage space behind the scenes. What you’ve heard is correct that iOS is supposed to intelligently remove tracks if space is required for something else. It’s best to think of your local iTunes Match music as more of a “cache” than an offline library, and in that sense it’s the same in principle as the browser cache in Safari, or the caching performed by many other apps for storing content locally for faster and/or repeated access.

Further, since iOS 6 still actually downloads any tracks you listen to, the only common reasons to pre-download albums or playlists manually is if you plan to regularly use your device without network coverage or are on a very limited data plan and only want to use iTunes Match over a Wi-Fi connection to save on potential data charges. When playing iCloud-based tracks on your device within Wi-Fi or cellular coverage, your iPhone will act like it’s streaming tracks by beginning playback almost immediately, however it will actually download them in the background and store them on your device for the next time you choose to play them again.

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