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Hey Apple, iTunes Sucks. Fix it, please.

What the hell happened to iTunes? It’s gone from the most capable digital storage and catalog application to a bloated flea market of personal media. iTunes 11 is difficult to navigate and fraught with flaws. Fixing iTunes should be a top priority for Apple. If it’s not, and they allow this mess to continue, it might prove to be their wounded Achille’s heel, that brings Apple to its knees.

I don’t believe I’m overstating the importance of iTunes and the dire consequences of its failings. If you know the history of Apple and the second coming of Steve Jobs, you know the pivotal role iTunes played in Apple’s early 21st century resurrection and success. iTunes is the cornerstone of Apple’s success in mobile electronics. iTunes made the iPod, iPhone, and iPad functional– and wildly popular. In a post I wrote two years ago, I called iTunes “Apple’s 8 Year Head Start.”
 
I’ve been using iTunes since it was called SoundJam. SoundJam was a Mac OS application designed to work with MP3 players that came to market before the first iPod. It was built by two former Apple employees, Jeff Robbin and Bill Kincaid. Robbin and Kincaid published SoundJam with Casady & Greene. When Apple purchased SoundJam in 2000, Kincaid and Robbin rejoined Apple along with their collaborator Dave Heller. According to Wikipedia, Robbin is still Apple’s lead iTunes developer. Apple released the original iTunes in January 2001. The iTunes software and its iTunes Store portal have been free since their debut.
 
iTunes once managed audio files. Now it’s tasked with managing and selling any salable digital media.

The most damning criticism I can make of iTunes is that it has come to resemble Microsoft software products. It has long been in need of a complete rethink and overhaul. Yet, Apple continues to add on capabilities and conduits that have bloated the software into an unmanageable mess.

According to Apple, iTunes works best when files are kept locally on the host computer. In other words, if you’re trying to play music, or sync your iDevice by a direct connection, it’s best to have all your media stored on your computer’s hard drive. But the real-world nature of digital media makes this a poor solution. In my case, I choose to keep my iTunes Media (entertainment media and mobile applications) on an AirPort Extreme Base Station connected via ethernet to my home network. That way, files may be accessed from any of the 3 computers in my home.
 
It makes no sense to duplicate those files across all my devices, occupying disk space on the 3 computers, 2 iPhones, and iPad. Yet, the networked solution works poorly. We use one iTunes account to purchase, rent, and download media (and apps from the Mac App store). It’s seemingly impossible to sync the one library across all devices. What’s more, Apple TV requires access to a computer with an open iTunes application to access media from a home iTunes library. Why can’t I just point Apple TV– or any playback application- to my one iTunes Media folder? Of course, I can access my media via the “cloud” with the iMatch (that requires a $25 annual subscription). But that has proved to be far less than perfect.
 
Other iTunes anomalies include: duplicate files, lost album art, the dreaded rainbow ball, (recently) CD access failure– both importing music and burning CDs. The most annoying problem is disappearing music and odd playback malfunctions. iMatch does not recognize literally thousands of files from audio files ripped from CDs and music purchased on iTunes. Certain tracks have been curiously truncated.
 
My first suggestion to Apple regarding iTunes would be to retire it and start over. iTunes should be reconfigured as at least 4 applications. The individual applications would focus on one main task or function:

  1. Library – one that syncs, and clearly separates media categories
  2. Shop – that adopts the Apple Store– less is more– aesthetic
  3. Mobile Device Sync – manufacturer and OS agnostic (I know, revolutionary)
  4. Playback – that works the same on computers, iDevices, Apple TV

 
These should be connected applications, not one catchall solution. Individual software teams should focus on optimizing their specific, separate products, making them the best Apple experiences possible.

 

  • rimbauda

    iTunes resembles the worst of Microsoft software products, like RealPlayer and MusicMatch Jukebox, in that it jams up your computer. What I really dislike is bad programming, like stopping ALL app updates if ONE needs a response. How annoying to come back after leaving iTunes to do its updates and find it is still waiting for an OK on only the second update.

  • Terry Clark

    The iPad, iPod and iPhone rely on iTunes for user management of so many things, a crippled and lame iTunes means a crippled and lame product, regardless of how elegant the hardware is. It reminds me of the days of Mac OS 8.5 and the several failed Operating Systems Apple tried to develop (think Copeland and Taligent) before they broke down, relented and hired Steve Jobs back and licensed the NeXT OS to develop into OS-X. Sadly, there is no way to bring Steve back now and Apple has never had a good history of developing great software under pressure without the insightful, fanatical and draconian dictates of Mr. Jobs to motivate them.

    • Carl Bruno

      Well said Terry!

  • Daryl Shuttleworth

    I sent the following via the official Apple Feedback page (apple.com/feedback):

    The FEEDBACK TYPE of this report could easily be categorized as ENHANCEMENT REQUEST, BUG REPORT, DESIGN/EASE OF USE, EFFICIENCY/ WORKFLOW, SOFTWARE/ HARDWARE COMPATIBILITY or CONFIGURABILITY. I have chosen
    CONNECTIVITY/INTEROPERABILITY for the FEEDBACK TYPE because an ALL
    OF THE ABOVE option was not offered. Perhaps that option could be
    added?

    But, rest assured, ALL OF THE ABOVE applies to the FEEDBACK TYPE I
    will be submitting to you today.

    I have the up to date versions of iTunes 11.1.4.62 for Windows 7
    and iOS7 for the iPod Touch (5G – 64GB) installed.

    Please excuse the hyperbole that follows, but I need to entertain
    myself while I waste another hour reporting to Apple what Apple
    should KNOW without me telling them what is happening with their
    software/hardware.

    Let’s start at the source of the problem: iTunes 11.1.4.62. It
    does not work. It has become a shadow of its former proud lean and
    mean syncing self. It has become a bloated meth-selling Walter
    Whiteesque mess of counter intutitive options, unreliable /
    inconsistent results and failed promises. It is the Frankenstein’s
    monster of software. Please show some respect to the monster you
    created and fix the problems below (these are just a few):

    Case 1: SYNCING (and this is basic functionality. If syncing does
    not work, then the iPod is useless. And since iTunes is the only
    way I can SYNC the iPod, then iTunes is useless). ITunes does not
    reliably SYNC. It does not matter WHAT options I select, what
    SUMMARY options I do to get the songs to go from the LIBRARY to
    the iPod, it does not work. SOME songs are synced, but not all.
    Results are varied. Pick a number between one and ten, and iTunes
    will give you 17. FIX the syncing issues. Fix them, please.

    Case 2. REMOVING MUSIC. I just now removed all music from the
    device. iTunes says I still have 190 songs installed on the iPod,
    but the bulk of my 3448 songs are supposed to be gone. The sync
    takes longer than it should (10 minutes), but it does complete the
    task. When I check my iPod – NOTHING has been removed. NOTHING.
    Clicking on Settings>General>About tells me I have 3445
    songs installed. Hmm. BROKEN.

    Case 3. ITunes Store. Buying a song from the iTunes Store means I
    want the song on my device. When I have SYNC MUSIC >ENTIRE
    MUSIC LIBRARY enabled, this denotes I want ALL the MUSIC in my
    iTunes library on my iPod device. Yet, when I check SELECTED
    PLAYLISTS, ARTISTS, GENRES, SONGS I notice that the song I just
    purchased is NOT SELECTED. WTF? I purchased the song when SYNC
    ENTIRE MUSIC LIBRARY was enabled. Why wasn’t that song selected?

    I could go on for hours… I really could. I could provide you
    with screenshots that show the amount of songs listed on the
    device differing from the iTunes library by HUNDREDS.

    And now, as I type this, iTunes reports that the iPod does not
    have enough diskspace to sync correctly. This, after I removed ALL
    SONGS (which didn’t work).

    Please, for the love of all that is holy, fix the problems.

  • Jill

    the one thing that is true with a Windows PC laptop, you cannot extend the multisurface of of Apple itunes. I try to move the itunes screen over to my TV via hdmi in “Extended” mode, and will not work with pc. I just drag my Youtube page over to screen and works perfect. So does any other official website like Netflix, GooglePlay, Vudu, etc. Itunes I don’t think is compatible with Windows software. From now on, I will buy movies through Google Play! What is nice now, I can surf the web on 1 computer and watch movies through 2nd screen aka my TV ^_^ Apple TV is for the birds lol

  • Michelle

    iTunes sucks because when renting a movie my account had a certain amount after renting movie it was obviously lowered but I was left with no purchase. It did not show that I rented the movie and did not appear in the download manager either. So I was charged for nothing and when trying to receive help the idiots in support kept asking the same questions they wanted a purchase order number. HELLO I SAID IT DID NOT GIVE ME ANYTHING. It showed no proof that I bought anything just the missing money.

  • gherson

    iTunes has worked so poorly for long, i’m just amazed.
    Without a period of working well, went from a state of refusing to start, requiring a low level fix, to now refusing to play its iTunes U videos 95% of the time, without even an error message, just a spinning blue circle.
    i think i’ll put together an alternative, shouldn’t be hard…

  • Mike

    I’ll just say this, iTunes really does suck! It is no longer user friendly, and it seems with each update the product becomes less usable. This is my last iPhone, my next phone will be an Andriod!

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