Apple Music 1 Month Later – I don’t love it

iPhone6-3Up-AppleMusic-Features-PR-PRINT

Apple recently stated that they had over 11 million users doing the 3 month trial for Apple Music. I’m one of those 11 million folks. I wasn’t sold on the concept of Apple Music, but I wanted to give it a fare shot before I did my review. I wanted to try it for at least a month before deciding if it’s a good fit for me or not.

Let’s start with how I enjoyed music before Apple Music

Listeningtomusic

I used to buy singles (45’s as a kid). If you don’t know what a 45 is then you are probably more likely to be a candidate for Apple Music 🙂 As I got older and had more money I continued buying vinyl in the form of LPs. I then moved to 8-track, then to cassettes, then CD’s and finally to digital downloads. Whenever a new song/album comes out that I like, I buy it on iTunes. But I definitely don’t spend $9.99 a month on new music. I pretty much have all the music that I’ve ever wanted and in many cases I bought that music multiple times just to get it on the newer formats. When it comes to hearing new music I rely on Pandora Radio. It gives me a nice mix of stuff I already have/like and new musicI actually have a paid account at $3.99/month just not to hear the ads and to be able to skip more songs if I want. Even with the Pandora account it’s rare that I spend $10 on music in a month unless a new album comes out that I want. I have a Spotify account too, but it’s the free one. I never could bring myself to pay for it because I already have all the music I would be listening to regularly. Also thanks to iTunes Match I access to ALL of my music on all of my devices. Now that you know a little about my music needs, let’s get to Apple Music.

What’s Apple Music?

real-apple-music

Apple Music is Apple’s new music subscription service that allows you to listen to just about every song on the iTunes Store for one price. $9.99/month. You can listen to any song, album, artist anytime you want as much as you want with no limits. You an even add songs to playlists and make them available OFFLINE so that you can listen to them on your devices when you don’t have an internet connection. Apple Music also includes currated playlists so tha you can listen to playlists put together by others. Lastly there’s Beats 1 radio. This 24/7 radio station has a real DJ and it’s the latest, hottest tracks playing anytime you want to listen.

Who is Apple Music for?

iPhone6-AppleMusic-ForYou-PR-PRINT

In my opinion Apple Music is for people that don’t have a huge investment in their own music. It’s for people that listen to music often and want to always be able to listen to what’s new from a variety of artists. If you’re the kind of person that LOVES music and always want to listen to either a lot of music or new/different music that you don’t own then you’ll likely love Apple Music.

I’m just not that guy

Apple Music is ok. It’s just not for me. Sure I like new music, but not enough to justify the monthly cost. Like I said, if I hear something new that I want, I just buy it and rarely does it cost me more than a few bucks a month.

The interface leaves little to be desired

Why is this so complicated? Simple Thumbs up or down would be more Apple like.
Why is this so complicated? Simple Thumbs up or down would be more Apple like.

One thing I’ve always loved about Apple products is that there was a certain elegance about them. The Apple Music internace wasn’t as strait forward as I had hoped. I’m used to it now, but it just seemed a little weird at first. The For You tab contains the curated playlists based on the artists you said you liked during the setup. These playlists are usually good, just not long enough for me. This means that I either have to add the songs to an existing playlist (which in most cases I already own these songs) or I have to combine them together to get playlist that’s long enough for my drive/commute. The New tab is where you would discover new music. Radio is where you’d listen to Beats 1 or your own radio stations, Connect is Apples new attempt at connecting you with your favorite artists. Playlists is where your playlists are stored and My Music is of course my music. Since I listen to music mostly on my iPhone these days the interface is a little tighter and sometimes there’s a lot going on on the screen at the same time. Also since you can now mix Apple Music tracks in playlists with the songs you own it’s not real obvious which tracks are yours and which ones are rented.

Goodbye iTunes Radio and Good Riddance

iPhone6-AppleMusic-Radio-PR-PRINT

When iTunes Radio first hit the scene I was really excited to try it. I was already an iTunes Match customer and that meant that I could enjoy iTunes Radio ad free. I was hoping that I would be able to cancel my Pandora Radio account and just use iTunes Radio. However, iTunes Radio was a disaster. So much so that I ended up going back to Pandora. If I added a station based on an artist it would rarely play songs from that artist. If I added a station based on a song, I would NEVER hear that song again. I would find myself skipping several (unrelated – not even close to what I would want to hear) songs in a row just to get to one that I’d want to listen to. It was just weird the way it worked. Apple quietly changed iTunes Radio to Radio in Apple Music. At first I just avoided this option figuring that it was the same old iTunes Radio that I hated. However, one day I decided to listen to one of my stations just to see if it had improved and I was pleasantly surprised to notice that I wasn’t skipping songs. It was playing songs that I actually wanted to hear. After doing a little digging online I found that lots of former iTunes Radio users were complaining that their stations were now gone in Apple Music. Sure enough I noticed the same thing. There is a Recent Station feature but it only lists a few of the ones that I had created and only the ones based on a single artist/song. The old iTunes Radio allowed you to build a station based on multiple artists. That feature is now gone. You can only build a station based on a single song or single artist. I’ll gladly forgive them for that since it now actually creates stations that I’d listen to. Sadly Apple still as the cumbersome “Star” button that when you tap it it gives you a choice of “Play more like this” or “Play less like this”. Why can’t we simply have a separate thumbs up and thumbs down button? The NEW and IMPROVED Radio is by far my favorite Apple Music feature.

The Bottom Line

Is Apple Music worth it? The answer to that question will definitely depend on you and where you are with your purchased music and how much new music you like to listen to each month. Is it worth it to me? At this point I would say that I probably would not continue with Apple Music if it were just me. At $9.99/month I’d actually be spending more than I do now. However, what will likely make me keep it after the trial is the very smart thing that Apple did by creating a “Family Plan”. At $14.99 not only can I enjoy Apple Music, but so can 5 of my family members. I can add my two daughters and my sister for example and then it becomes a no brainer. My daughters are in their 20’s and listen to new music all the time. The new Apple Music Radio is now good enough that I’ve suspended my subscription to Pandora Radio saving $3.99/month. So while I don’t love Apple Music, I can justify it with the family option.

itunes-mac

On a side note: iTunes on the desktop is long overdue for a complete rewrite. Every time they add something new to iTunes it becomes that much more of a pain in the ass to use. If you look at iOS you can see that Apple has separated out many functions into separate apps. You have the Music app for music, the iTunes app to buy/rent new content, the Podcasts app for Podcasts, the iBooks app for books, and the Videos App for movies and TV shows. Yet on the desktop the Mac/PC version tries to do everything in one Application. Since we rarely connect our devices up to our computers anymore to sync, there is a less of a need to have this all in one approach. Apple kept the Mac App Store separate and there’s no reason now not to separate out the iOS App Store and many of the other things that iTunes does now. They could then focus on building a killer Music app that would be the showcase for Apple Music. By the way, stop hidding the sidebar. We actually like it and use it!

Apple Watch Review

apple-Watch-apps

Many of my followers told me that when they saw that I was getting an Apple Watch that they “can’t wait to read your review.” Well here it is… At 3:00 AM ET on April 10th my alarm went off so that I could roll over and place my order for my Apple Watch. I was able to get into the site by 3:05 AM and I placed my order for a 42mm Silver Sport Watch. The Silver Sport only comes bundled with a White Band, Blue Band, Pink Band or Green Band. I’m really not fond of any of those colors, but wanted the Silver watch. Therefore I ordered an extra Black sport band (it’s still on backorder). By 3:10 AM I had rolled over and went back to sleep. Because I got my order in fast enough I was lucky to be in one the first shipments. I got my Apple Watch via UPS at about 2:45pm on April 24th. I had already done some research, read other reviews and watched the videos on Apple’s site. Therefore I knew a lot about the Apple Watch before I broke the seal on the box. I knew that the setup process included a fairly long sync process to sync the Apple Watch Apps from my iPhone. The process took about 10 minutes from start to finish. Of course your mileage will vary based on the number of Apple Watch compatible Apps that you have on your iPhone. Right after I got it setup I recorded this video to give a quick video overview of some of the features:

After A Full Day Of Use…

The video above was only after having just setup the Apple Watch. It just so happened that I was traveling on a business trip Friday evening. I got the watch setup in time to head out to the airport and make my flight. The first real world use I got (besides simply seeing the time at a glance – yes it is a watch) was to use the Uber App to summon a car to pick me up and take me to the airport. The next real world use was using the Delta boarding pass that I had received the day before on my iPhone in Passbook. Any of your Passbook passes automatically appear on your Apple Watch. I used it both at the TSA checkpoint and to board the plane at the gate. No problems. I landed and got a notification from the Hertz iPhone app to let me know what stall my rental car was in. I drove to my hotel, checked in and crashed for the night.

Battery Life… The next day (Saturday) I woke up and after showering I put my Apple Watch on. While you’re supposed to be able to shower in the Apple Watch I’m just not ready to take any chances at this point. I’ve seen the video where someone submerged an Apple Watch under water for 15 minutes and it still worked. Apple says it’s not water proof and I’m not ready to push it. I put the watch on at about 9:45am and went on about my day. When I got to my seminar I used the timer app on the Apple Watch to remind me 10 minutes before my end time. The great thing about the Apple Watch timer is that it will give you a taptic response when it goes off. This way I can feel it even if I don’t hear it. I used the Apple Watch as much as I wanted throughout the day and at 9:42pm (about 12 hours later) my battery indicator showed that I had 47% battery left. This was good. I would only be up for a few more hours at the most and this meant that I can easily use the Apple Watch with a single charge each day. As a matter of fact as I write this post on Sunday night and having started earlier today at around 8:30 AM I still have 36% battery life at 12:22AM (Monday morning).

AppleWatch_battery_life

On Sunday I got up a bit earlier and went on a morning walk along the river. I like the Activity monitor and I was looking forward to the Apple Watch replacing my Nike+ Fuelband and it does so nicely. The Apple Watch allows you to track your overall activity/calorie burn, standing for at least one minute every hour for 12 hours throughout the day and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise throughout the day.

AppleWatch-activity

What about the Apps?

Reportedly there were at least 3,000 apps available on April 24th for Apple Watch. I know that I was seeing updates on a daily basis. I have 71 Apple Watch Apps myself.

Requesting an Uber ride from my wrist rocks!
Requesting an Uber ride from my wrist rocks!
After a couple of days of use I have found some apps to be more useful than others and of course some work better than others. Some are simply useless in their current form while others I couldn’t imagine not having. The best ones I’ve seen so far are: FlightTrack, Uber, Keynote (I remote controlled my slide presentation on Sunday via my Apple Watch), Calcbot, Deliveries, Shazam and Weather Live.

Mobiata made a great Apple Watch App - FlightTrack 5
Mobiata made a great Apple Watch App – FlightTrack 5
These Apps are Apps on my iPhone, but work well enough on Apple Watch that I don’t have to pull out my iPhone to use them or see the data that they present. On the other hand there are some embarrassing ones too. The two Apps that have given me the worst experiences so far are the Delta Airlines App and the Marriott App. With the Fly Delta App you’re supposed to be able to see information about your flight before you take off and during the flight the status and count down til you land. The problem is that the app takes forever to load. I mean like minutes! My flight attendant noticed that I had an Apple Watch and asked how I liked it? She seemed really interested in it. I decided to start with the Delta App since we were on a Delta plane. We waited, waited and waited and finally she had to go and work the flight. It did eventually launch and displayed the remain flight time.

Hey Delta! 2-3 minutes to load your App? Not worth it.
Hey Delta! 2-3 minutes to load your App? Not worth it.
However, the remaining flight time never updated throughout the flight. This App is seriously broken. The problem with the Marriott App is Marriott’s obsession with making you sign-in with your password every time you want to use the App. This was an annoyance on the iPhone (not having a “keep me signed in option”), it’s a deal breaker on the Apple Watch. If I have to pull out my iPhone to sign in, then I might as well continue to use the App on my iPhone.

NOTE: I noticed today that once I opened the Delta app on my iPhone the Apple Watch app opened right away. Like the Marriott app, that defeats the purpose of the Watch app. This needs to be fixed. 

AppleWatch-Marriott
This is unacceptable! The minute you tell me I have to take out my iPhone, your app has failed.
I imagine that the apps will get better now that developers actually can get Apple Watches to test with. I expect this market to continue to grow.

The Built-in Apps are Good

As you might expect the built-in apps are generally better, more stable than the 3rd party Apps. I’m sure Apple’s engineers had complete access to the hardware to play. I really like the Messages App, Passbook, Weather,  the Phone app, and the Timer (I used the timer as a presentation timer on Saturday and really appreciated the tap on my wrist letting me know I only had 10 more minutes left).

It’s all about “Glances”

I’m finding that while you can have up to 20 Apps with “Glances” that fewer “Glances” are better. By the time you have to swipe left or right 10 times to find the Glance you want you could have just as easily found and opened the App itself. Today I removed all but the few glances that I will use the most. By the way a “glance” is when you swipe up from the bottom to get to things like battery life, current stock price of your favorite stock, current weather etc. When you swipe up you see the last glance you used. To switch to a different glance you either swipe left or right to navigate them. Having too many will defeat the convenience of glances.

Apple Pay is the Killer App

One of the things I was looking forward to with Apple Watch is actually Apple Pay. The idea of not only not having to take out my wallet at the register, but not having to take out my iPhone 6 Plus is very appealing. I’m happy to report that Apple Pay rocks on Apple Watch and is definitely the fastest way to pay for things. See it in action in this short video I made:

The Bottom Line

Every time I mention Apple Watch I always have at least one person questioning why anyone would need it? Apple Watch is an extension of your iPhone on your wrist. There isn’t anything that you can do on Apple Watch that you couldn’t do on your iPhone. I remember the same arguments that surfaced when the iPad was released. There was nothing that you could do on iPad that you couldn’t do on your laptop. If you’re in that mindset then you’re right Apple Watch is probably not for you. For me it’s about seeing information at a “glance” and not having to always pull out my iPhone 6 Plus. The same way the iPhone allowed me to do things without always having to pull out my MacBook Pro. If the Apple Watch did nothing but displayed the time, weather, date, another time zone of my choosing, gave me my Passbook passes and Apple Pay it would have already been all that I wanted. However, the Apple Watch offers so much more. For a 1.0 product the hardware seems solid. I would like to see more watch faces as it seems like the iPod nano had more watch faces than the Apple Watch, but I’m sure that will happen in time with software updates. Once the 3rd party apps are refined a bit, Apple will have another healthy new product line on their hands. I’m happy with my purchase and look forward to continued updates, apps and other 3rd party accessories.



iTunes Radio Review

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I was one of the ones anxiously awaiting the arrival of iTunes Radio. Before iTunes Radio I was a paid user of Pandora Radio. While Pandora does offer streaming Internet radio for free, I paid to avoid hearing ads. I like Pandora, but the beauty of iTunes Radio is that it would integrate right into iOS 7,  iTunes on Mac/PC, and Apple TV. Like Pandora you create stations from your favorite artists, songs, genres, etc. iTunes Radio will sync all your stations to all your devices automatically via iCloud. The interface is pretty clean and consistent for the most part.

Getting Started

create_new_station

It was really easy to get started. Launch iTunes Radio on an iOS device or go to in iTunes and tap/click the + sign to add a new station. Key in an artist, song, genre, etc. and you’re done. You can add additional artists, songs, etc. if you like. I also LOVE the ability to add artists that I NEVER want to hear! (Justin Bieber). I don’t know if there is a limit on the number of stations you can add, but I was able to add in several with no problem.

 

Music Playback and Repeats

The audio quality is excellent and I’ve used it both on WiFi at home and 4G on the road and in my car with no problems or skips. I did have one problem station that I ended up deleting and recreating. It actually got stuck playing the same 3 songs in a row over and over again. Once I got my stations sorted out with favorite artists and artists to never hear from, I have been using it every day. I have noticed that it does play a lot of the same songs repeatedly, especially when starting out at the beginning of my day. It seems that only after I’ve listened for a while (at least 3 songs) do I start to hear new songs. Luckily the songs it repeats are ones I really like.

 

Skipping Tracks and Thumbs Down

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You can skip up to 6 tracks per hour per station. This is similar to Pandora. Due to the licensing restrictions from the music industry you can’t just keep skipping songs until you hear the one you want. One of the odd interface things in iTunes Radio is that at first glance there doesn’t appear to be a way to thumbs down or tell it that you never want to hear a particular song again. You CAN do it! However, it’s oddly hidden under the Star icon. At first glance I figured the Star was to mark songs that I like (thumbs up). It wasn’t until I tapped on it on my iPhone and discovered that it’s actually a menu that contains the choices “Play more like this”, Never Play this Song” and “Add to iTunes Wishlist”

Your stations can also be shared with your friends and family or on social media. You can also turn on/off explicit lyrics.

 

Costs and The Bottom Line

Like Pandora Radio, iTunes Radio is FREE with Ads. However, if you are an iTunes Match ($25/year) customer (and I am) then you won’t hear ads on the devices that you have set up for iTunes Match! This works out to be a cost savings for me ($3.99/month) since I already had iTunes Match  and was able to stop my Pandora Radio subscription. If you hear a song you like and want to buy it there’s a button in the upper right corner that lists the price. Just tap it and buy the song. Also each station keeps a “recent” history so that you can go back through and see which songs have played and buy them if you like.

While I like the potential of iTunes Radio and how it’s integrated into all my devices, it will take a little more time to see if the music really works itself out. I have used Pandora Radio for over a year and with the thumbs up and thumbs downs that I’ve done over the past year, I could listen to Pandora for hours on end and hear music that I liked. It will take time to train all my iTunes Radio stations the same way.

As far as improvements go, I’d love the ability to restrict a station to only songs from a particular artist. I’m sure this is probably against the licensing agreements, but it would be nice.

If you’ve upgraded to the latest iTunes (and you’re running on a newer Mac/PC OS – Lion or above on Mac) you’ll have iTunes Radio right in your Music section. If you’ve upgraded your iOS devices/Apple TV you can check out iTunes Radio right in the Music App or main menu.

Review: iTunes Match Finally Delivers What I’ve Been Wanting

I've been an iTunes user since day one (and even SoundJam before that). I've been an iPod user since day one too. I have a decent sized *music collection (6,649 songs) with a mix of tunes ripped from my CDs, purchased from the iTunes store and purchased/downloaded from other sources such as Amazon.com. While Apple has always done a good job in allowing me to sync my music/playlists to any number of iDevices, for some reason the company never saw fit to allow automatic syncing of music between multiple computers. I've complained about this on my blog in the past as well as going with 3rd party work arounds. 

 

The NEW iTunes Match Solves My Problems

In addition to iOS 5, iCloud and iTunes 10.5, Apple rolled out a new service called iTunes Match. iTunes Match is a paid service ($24.99/Year) and the idea behind it is that once you sign up (via iTunes 5) your music collection will be analyzed and "matched" with the music currently available on the iTunes store, whether you originally bought the music from the store or not. Tracks that are matched are then available to up to 10 of your devices (Macs, PCs, iDevices running iOS 5, or Apple TVs) via the cloud.

This also includes your playlists! Tracks that were not matched (in other words songs you have that aren't on the iTunes store) are then UPLOADED from your library to the iTunes cloud (iCloud). This means that ALL of your music is now available in the cloud no matter where you obtained it originally. 

 

Problems this solves for me

Once it did the initial "match" on my dedicated iTunes media server (a dedicated iMac running iTunes 24/7). I then went to my MacBook Pro and deleted all the music from that library. Once I deleted all the songs and playlists, I turned on iTunes Match on that computer as well. After a few moments ALL of my Playlists appeared on the MacBook Pro that are on the iMac. Any song/playlist that I want to listen to can now be streamed via the cloud. Also any music/playlists that I actually want to be physically on the drive say for offline listening can be downloaded with a single click. As long as my MacBook Pro has an internet connection I have access to ALL of my music at all times. Those times that I don't have access to the internet I can still enjoy the music that I've downloaded. 

On my iPhone, iPod touch and iPad – we know that these devices have limited storage. Therefore carrying around a large music collection means giving up something else. Once I turned on iTunes Match on these devices the music that was stored on them was immediately wiped and just like on my MacBook Pro, after a few moments I had access to ALL of my Playlists and All of my songs. The difference here is that any song you play is not only streamed initially but also stored so that it won't have to stream a second time. And yes you can proactively download any song(s) playlists that you know you'll want to be stored on the device for offline listening.

 

The Bottom Line

The benefits of iTunes Match are clear! I have access to ALL of my Music on any of my devices at all times (with an internet connection). I now use less space on my iDevices because I don't have them loaded up with music that "I may want to listen to someday". The other advantage is QUALITY! Some of my original CD Rips were at a lower bitrate. With iTunes Match you get everything at Unprotected AAC, 256Kbps (iTunes Plus) Quality. The other slick feature is that now it doesn't matter where I make organizational changes or new purchases. If I change a playlist on my MacBook Pro it's updated everywhere. If I buy a new song and add it to a playlist on my iPad, it's updated and available everywhere. This is one of those services that's worth every penny to me!

You couple iTunes Match with the new iTunes WiFi Sync for iOS (iPod touch in the car) and I'm completely in music heaven! I pull into my garage and it connects to the WiFi in my home and syncs the iPod with the latest changes. 

Now let's get iTunes Match for video/movies!

*Note: If you have more than 25,000 songs in your library that you did NOT get from the iTunes store then you exceed the limit of iTunes Match. iTunes Match only works for songs, not audiobooks, videos, ringtones, podcasts, etc.

Ever hear someone say “I should have backed up my Music!”?

 

I have had both friends and family members lose data over the years due to crashed hard drives. In almost all those cases they didn't have a current backup or a backup of any kind. In the case of my sister we were able to at least get her music back using a 3rd party App that allowed me to recover it from her iPod. Although Apple has allowed us to freely re-download our iOS Apps as many times as needed, iTunes music content was always a one-time download. Of course in some cases pleading your case to Apple directly would get you a special one-time re-download of all your purchased content curtesy of a caring human being at AppleCare. If this has ever happened to you, you'll be happy to know that you can now get it all back!

 

iTunes in iCloud

Yesterday Apple turned on a few of the iCloud (beta) features that allow you to grab any of your purchased Apps, Music and iBooks on any of your iOS devices. If you grab the iTunes 10.3 beta you'll be able to do the same on your Mac or PC too. Since Apple keeps a history of all your purchased music, it should all be there and available for download.

 

What Else Is New?

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, iOS 5, iCloud and more…

A lot of things were shown off yesterday and it will take a little time to make sense of some of it. While iOS 5 doesn't give me all the things I wanted from my wishlist, here are the things that got my attention and that I'm most excited about.

Watch the entire Apple/Steve Jobs Keynote here.

The New Apple TV: New Users Might Love It, Old Users Might Hate It

I've been a fan of Apple's "hobby" Apple TV since day one! I've got more than a couple of them around the house. 🙂 When Apple had their annual iPod event this past September it was rumored that we might see a smaller, more affordable Apple TV and the rumors were true. Apple introduced a much smaller and more more affordable Apple TV. This new box is sooooooo tiny. It's also less than half the price of the model it replaces. As we know, that's rare for Apple products. When the announcement happened I was traveling on business, so I had to rely on various web reports during my breaks to follow the news. The one thing I kept trying to figure out from the scattered reports was, "what did this new one offer that my existing one didn't?" After all we're used to new technology having more bells and whistles to make you want to upgrade. I kept seeing the reports on size, price and Apple's new TV show rental prices as well as Netflix and AirPlay streaming, but that was it. Yes, that was it! This new Apple TV seems to take away as many features much as it adds. Now don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan of Apple TV and I think they will sell more NEW Apple TVs than ever before at the new price point, it's just that I'm not compelled to run out and replace the rest of my existing ones. Let me tell you why…

 

What you get

Like I said, it's SMALL and it runs much cooler than the previous model. One of my Apple TV's is located in a cabinet (this is the one that the new one replaces for me) and I often wonder if the heat build up will fry it? So I'm pleased to see the new one take up less space and run cooler. You also get the new shinny silver aluminum remote. I didn't even take mine out of the box because my Harmony One Remote works just fine with this new model too. On the back you'll find an HDMI port, Optical Audio, Ethernet (there is also built-in 802.11n WiFi) and a USB service port. There is one LED indicator on the front and the power supply is built-in so there is just a power cord and that's it. Nice!

Once you have it setup this is where you'll find the biggest differences from the old to the new. 

 

Out with the OLD Apple TV

The original Apple TV with current interface above

 

The New Apple TV is all about Streaming!

There is no user accessible internal storage. Rumor has it that there is 8GB of flash memory, but I imagine that it's reserved for buffering streaming content. So unlike the previous models there is no way to store TV shows, movies, podcasts or music on the device itself. You'll either have to stream it live from the internet or a Mac/PC on your network (see AirPlay below).

 

In with the NEW Apple TV

The NEW 2010 Apple TV above

 

As a matter of fact Apple has made it clear that it's all about streaming in the new menu structure. YOUR content is now buried under "Computers" instead of being mixed in with the other media choices like TV shows, Movies, etc. Also since there is no storage, there is no requirement to "Sync" with a computer. Unlike the previous model, this new one relies on iTunes Home Sharing if you want to stream your content to the device from your computer. So as long as you are logged in with your Apple ID on your computer and your Apple TV, your content will appear under the Computers section. This is not the end of the world, it will just take some getting used to for previous Apple TV owners. New Apple TV users won't think twice about it.

It seems so un-Apple like to not see any imagery from your library on this screen above

Once you drill down into your computer you will then see your content stream by as usual.

 

 

Rent vs. Buy

Renting makes sense and that's what the 2010 Apple TV is all about. There is NO option to "Buy" content directly from your Apple TV. This will be another thing that existing users would have to adjust to. You can rent movies and TV shows (currently only from ABC, ABC Family, Fox, Disney Channel and BBC America). TV shows are only $0.99 to rent the HD versions as opposed to buying them for $1.99 for the Standard Def version or $2.99 for the HD version. I really really like this model because the only reason I ever bought TV shows in the past was because there was no option to rent them. I usually only watch them one time after buying them and only buy them because I forgot to TiVo them. As far as movies go, I also rent 99% of the time and this has not really changed on Apple TV. The only thing you can't do is BUY a movie (or any other content) on Apple TV. You can still buy iTunes content on your computer and stream it, but not directly from the Apple TV itself. While many would argue that if it's (a movie) good enough to buy, you probably want the Blu-ray version anyway. Nonetheless, I'm still surprised that Apple doesn't at least allow a "Buy" option of any media they sell and have that content download on your computer instead. Clearly this is possible via Home Sharing since both devices are tied to the same account. So why have to get up go over to the computer to buy something and then go back to the Apple TV just to watch it or listen to it? This would be especially useful for things like music and music videos. By the way, there is no option to access the iTunes store from a Music perspective at all on the new Apple TV. You can only access the music sitting on your computer. 

Continue reading “The New Apple TV: New Users Might Love It, Old Users Might Hate It”

iTunes 9.2: Why can’t we sync playlists yet?

It was Wednesday afternoon last week and I was packing to head out on a business trip. This usually involves syncing my iDevices so I have the latest tunes, Apps, movies, etc. that I want to take with me on the road. All of this syncing works great between devices, except when those devices happen to be computers! My main music library is on a shared family iMac in a central part of the house. It has music on it from each family member according to their tastes in music. As you might imagine I really don't want to bring a bunch of music with me that I have no interest in listening too. This isn't a problem on an iPod, because you simply sync only the playlists you want to take with you and only those songs will go onto the device. 

So why does Apple exclude computers from all this syncing "magic"?

I have iTunes 9.2 on my MacBook Pro. I have iTunes 9.2 on my iMac. Both Macs are authorized on the same iTunes account and therefore can legally play the same songs. However, when it comes time for me to get songs from the iMac onto the MacBook Pro it's a very MANUAL process. iTunes 9 introduced Home Sharing. However, Home Sharing is essentially just a network copy feature and nothing more. Although Home Sharing DOES automatically add purchased songs to the other computer, there's no syncing and no duplicate management for playlists or anything else. Grab 10 songs and drag them over and 5 minutes later you can grab the same songs and drag them over again. iTunes will not warn you about any duplicates and it will just copy them AGAIN. This problem got a little worse back when Apple moved to iTunes Plus because although you could "upgrade" your songs and iTunes would replace them with the new DRM free versions at a higher bit rate (keeping your ratings, metadata, play counts, etc.), your other computers would be out of luck for this automatic replacement. You would have to do it all manually.  I guess from time to time you could wipe your library on one computer and copy over again, but the question becomes why is there no automatic way of keeping two iTunes libraries in sync?

 

Is there a 3rd party solution out there?

I've looked and so far I haven't found the perfect app yet (or even one that's close). Sure there are some Apps out there that will attempt to keep your iTunes libraries in sync. However, from what I've seen so far either the user interfaces are HORRIBLE and overly complicated or they simply don't do enough. For example, I haven't found one yet that syncs "Smart Playlists". Let's say I have a Smart Playlist of my "Best of the Best" songs. They are the ones I've rated 5 stars. So technically it's not a "real playlist", it's a dynamic one that updates automatically based on the song ratings. None of the Apps I've tried to date will handle this. Yet Apple has been able to sync Smart Playlists to the iPod since day one.

Ideally what I want is pretty simple – I want to be able to choose a few playlists on my iMac (including Smart Playlists) and have those SAME playlists sync to my MacBook Pro. If I change the rating of a song on the iMac, then that song's rating should get changed on the MacBook Pro too and therefore it would appear in the proper playlists automatically. If I have manual playlists that I move songs in and out of, this should happen on the MacBook Pro too. 

Yes, I'm very willing to pay for such a solution. Have you guys seen anything out there that really works? It's sad that Apple hasn't built this in directly to iTunes for computers like they have for iDevices.