Q: I am thinking of signing up for iTunes Match. I am still investigating what I am up against before I sign up for it. I have been reading many forums and I couldn’t find the definite answer on the following questions and hope you can help. If I am traveling out of the country, there is no way for me to listen to my collections on the plane. Can I turn off iTunes Match and sync my music to my iPhone like what I had before?
A: To answer your first question, while iTunes Match makes your entire music library available in the cloud, it also allows you to specifically download individual tracks, or entire artists, albums or playlists for listening offline, such as when you’re on an airplane or otherwise out of coverage. Once iTunes Match is enabled, any track stored in the cloud will have a Download button beside it, and you can find a “Download All” button at the bottom of an album, artist, or playlist to download ALL of the tracks in that particular category.
Further, iTunes Match on an iOS device automatically downloads anything you’ve listened to and caches it for offline use, so if you go out of coverage while listening to a song, not only can you continue listening to that song, but it will remain available on your device and can be listened to again. This automatically downloaded copy is be kept on your device as long as sufficient space is available; if your iPhone is low on space, however, these will be automatically purged to make more room for other content such as photos, videos, app data, or even iTunes Match tracks that you’ve specifically downloaded manually.
When you are in Airplane Mode, or otherwise out of coverage, your iPhone will automatically hide any iTunes Match tracks that are not stored locally on the device. You can also do this manually by going into the Music section of your Settings app and turning OFF the “Show All Music” option.
Note that a “Use Cellular Data” option is also available here that will allow you to choose whether you want to stream iTunes Match tracks over your cellular data connection or only over Wi-Fi. When this option is disabled, being away from a Wi-Fi network will have the same effect as having Airplane Mode on as far as iTunes Match is concerned. This can be particularly useful if you are on a limited data plan, or are travelling to another country and want to avoid excess roaming charges.
So basically, if you’re going to be travelling out of data coverage, simply use the options above to download any songs, artists, albums, or playlists before you leave data coverage, and then double-check that everything you want is on your device by switching off the “Show All Music” option. See Travelling with iTunes Match for more information.
Note that if you want to sync your music from iTunes directly, you can still do this by turning off iTunes Match and doing exactly what you did before. However, there is definitely more of an advantage of leaving iTunes Match on, since you can easily change your stored tracks anywhere that you happen to have a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection rather than having to reconnect to your main iTunes library.