I was an early adopter of iTunes, and have been grateful for the way my iPod has made long plane journeys slightly less hellish.
But iTunes was developed in the 1990s, and was launched in 2000. It's old and increasingly clunky to use.
So I have given up on iTunes, and I'm never going back. I've switched to Google Music — and it's way better.
iTunes now is better than it used to be, back when it launched. But even so, iTunes today still looks and feels like a product that would have sprung naturally from Microsoft's Office/Windows environment. It arranges your songs in a sortable spreadsheet, and if any of them are mislabelled even slightly they can get out of order. Even Bono once told Steve Jobs that he thought iTunes looked like a spreadsheet.
If you have ever been forced by iTunes to go through your music collection, deleting or renaming hundreds of duplicate songs, you'll know how tedious the iTunes experience can become for someone who has more than a few hundred songs in their collection — which is to say, everyone. This is one of iTunes' lasting contributions to the history of music: It made pop bureaucratic.
The recent US antitrust trial, in which lawyers are arguing that Apple hurt consumers by forcing them to only listen to iTunes songs on their iPods (and not songs from competing companies that might have offered them cheaper), has reminded me of just how bad an experience using iTunes has been.
You might remember the first time you ever used iTunes. Wasn't it strange, the way you had to hook up your iPod to your computer, then open iTunes, and you could only change the songs on the iPod via iTunes? The setup is basically the same to this day, except that you can at last drag songs from other non-Apple sources into iTunes. It's still weird though. It goes against the Jony Ive/Steve Jobs mantra of good design: Products should just work.
iTunes doesn't just work. iTunes makes you do the work.
If you have a large music collection, with songs from Apple, Amazon, your own CD collection, and MP3s that were downloaded during the glory days of Napster when all music was free (not me personally, obviously!), then you'll be familiar with the ritual of carefully editing playlists and deleting songs that can't fit onto your iPhone or iPod, ahead of your commute or flight.
I reached the end of my patience with iTunes last week — after 14 years as a loyal customer — when I wanted to watch the 1998 sci-fi movie "Dark City." It's a flawed but beautiful B-movie with a stellar cast (William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly). I bought it on iTunes and then, out of curiosity, looked it up on Google Music, which is Google's cloud-based competitor to iTunes.
It was cheaper on Google Music. So I felt ripped off.
You can use Google Music on any device, any computer, any tablet or any phone, on any platform. It's easier to use, visually more pleasing, and there's no confusion as to where your songs are (On your phone? On iTunes? On iCloud?) Google Music makes it easy for you to keep everything in the cloud, or download everything onto a device, or do it one by one. You get to choose.
One great thing about it is that Google Music works with iTunes. So if you're an Apple fan and the idea of leaving Apple's carefully curated environment scares you, do not fear: You can use them together, separately or on their own. I actually use iTunes on my Mac to store "my" songs that I buy from iTunes, but I use Google Music to play them.
And as I'm buying more music from Google Music now than from iTunes, I'm also downloading the Google songs into my iTunes folder.
Google Music is also beautiful to look at. It does NOT look like a spreadsheet. Instead, it looks a bit like your own record collection as if it were displayed in its own online music store — which it basically is.
It's one of those rare apps that works equally well on desktop as on your phone. The desktop part is extremely important — there is no scrolling and searching, the way you have to do with iTunes. The songs are just where you expect them to be. Google Music actually feels like it was something designed by Apple.
Google Music isn't perfect, of course. It's a Google/Android product, which means that while it gets all the big things right is gets some of the small things wrong. The settings give you a bunch of options that let you either download your music onto your device (say for a plane journey) or play them in the cloud, and there are about three too many buttons controlling all that.
But overall, the future of iTunes is limited on my Mac. I'll let iTunes store my music, but I'm not going to let iTunes control my music. I'm going to put myself back in charge of my little pop music bureaucracy with Google Music.
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