Tech review: iTunes 11 makes strides toward simplicity
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Friday, December 07, 2012
12/07/12 at 4:41 AM
Probably the most frustrating thing about owning an iPhone or iPad is having to deal with iTunes.
Seemingly eons ago iTunes was a peppy and useful way to organize music, get it on your iPod, and even listen to it if you didn't mind hanging around your desk.
But the years haven't been kind, as iTunes kept bloating up and adding more features until it became a shambling monstrosity that took an eternity to get anything done.
Finally responding to criticism, Apple Inc. has launched iTunes 11. The update seems to be done with an eye toward making things simpler and more streamlined. I took it for a spin to see how well it worked.
The most striking thing about iTunes 11 is the complete disappearance of the row of tabs and options on the left. Instead, it defaults to a full-screen view of your library, with tabs on the top for navigation between media types.
After a few minutes, I found that I didn't miss the left bar of options at all, as iTunes Store access has been integrated into each screen of the library, playlists can be opened by pressing a new playlist button, and the never-used quasi-social network Ping - admit it, you forgot it existed too - is gone.
What's left are colorful panes representing each album, TV series or other bits of media groupings. You can still view music by artist or song title, and clicking each pane brings up album information and the ability to buy more music by the artist or related artists.
Speaking of which, a single button on the right instantly swaps between views of your library and views of the iTunes store. Navigation is similar for both, as dedicated buttons on the top let you go from category to category.
Apple has added a new wrinkle to playing music with the "up next" feature. When you're playing shuffled music, it will show you which songs are scheduled to be played next, and you can add, delete and re-order songs on the fly.
Integration with iCloud has been beefed up with the ability to instantly access your purchases on any Apple device you own, so if you're deeply entrenched within Apple's ecosystem you'll find this a godsend.
Everything seems to operate smoothly and a little faster than before, and the new organizational system is logical and charming. But syncing was always the main point of pain, and while things have improved on that front, it's still the most aggravating function.
Plug in your iDevice, and a small button will materialize on iTunes. You can click it to manage your device, but it's easy to click the arrow on the right of the button to make that button disappear. The only way to make it reappear is to unplug the device and plug it back in again. I have no idea why this option is available.
The management screens look and behave much like the management screens of the recent past, with top tabs allowing you to cycle through various functions.
This is all fine, but once again plugging in your device instantly starts a lengthy backup process. And heaven help you if you've got the Genius playlist generator enabled, as you'll get loads of Genius results every time you plug in your phone.
I have several thousand songs, and the first time I plugged in my iPhone iTunes took eight minutes to deliver me 2,000 Genius results. Curious, I decided to sync again immediately after the process was finished. Somehow I got 1,000 more Genius results to load.
Granted the syncing process seems a little faster, but it's still inordinately time-consuming. If you've got everything connected to Wi-Fi, I'd strongly suggest enabling automatic syncing when you charge your phone for the night.
On the bright side, the latest version of iTunes is the first one in quite a while that feels like a genuine improvement rather than a deepening quagmire. But Apple still has plenty of room for improvement.
Pros: Streamlined interface,
charming and easy to use, improved
Cons: Syncing still lengthy, still
Original Print Headline: Apple seeks simplicity with iTunes 11 upgrade
Robert Evatt 918-581-8447
A screen grab of iTunes 11.