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iTunes: Time to right the syncing ship

By Jason Snell
April 10, 2012 09:43 AM ET

Macworld - When Apple introduced iTunes in 2001, it served one purpose: As a music jukebox app. Later that year, it added its most important feature: The ability to sync tracks with the just-introduced iPod. Originally, you could just drag tracks onto your iPod and they'd copy over. iTunes had automatic music-sync features that were rudimentary, but they did the job.

That was a long time ago. These days, iTunes is simultaneously Apple's most important and problematic product. It's a music and video player. It's a store, the gateway to buying music, videos, ringtones, and iOS apps. And of course, it's a syncing system, connecting to Apple devices from iPhone to iPod to Apple TV.

Apple has packed almost everything involving media (and app) management, purchase, and playback into this single app. It's bursting at the seams. It's a complete mess. And it's time for an overhaul.

I use iTunes every day to listen to music on my Mac at work, and it works just fine. It's not perfect, but it's good. My issues are not with the core feature of iTunes, the music player. My issues are with all the other junk that has been grafted on since then.

iTunes syncs the media and apps on all your iOS devices, and I haven't found it to be either flexible or reliable. I can't tell you how many times I've had to delete everything and re-sync music, or videos, or apps because iTunes got confused about whether it had synced to that particular device before.

Syncing nightmares

Recently I connected my wife's iPad to our Mac at home to add some videos for my kids to watch. The iPad had never been synced with the Mac before, because it was using iCloud and the App Store. The moment I plugged it in, iTunes attempted to sync its own parallel collection of apps to this iPad, which I didn't want. When I tried to turn off this feature, it offered me a decision I'd never seen before: To delete all the apps on the iPad, or keep them and stop syncing. The second option was exactly what I wanted to do. So I chose it, and watched as iTunes proceded to delete all the apps on the iPad anyway.

Given that all apps are available in the cloud these days, I'm not sure why iTunes is aggressively trying to sync apps with devices. In fact, given Apple's aggressive moves with iTunes Match and iTunes in the Cloud, even Apple seems to realize that syncing media with a Mac or PC running iTunes is kind of a mess.

Originally published on www.macworld.com. Click here to read the original story.
Reprinted with permission from Macworld.com. Story copyright 2012 Mac Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.
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