Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 78: Is Apple Breaking Up iTunes?

Rumors abound of Apple breaking up iTunes, and we look at what this might entail. We also discuss how Amazon employees are listening in on Alexa devices, and we relate the story of an Apple employee whose confidential Apple devices were subject to searches when he tried to cross the border.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

Apple to Begin Dismantling iTunes?

If you use an iOS device, you have long had access to the TV app to view movies and TV shows. Yesterday, Apple announced that the TV app would be coming to the Mac later this year, suggesting that videos would be removed from iTunes. While I can hear the joy of the many people who have been hoping that iTunes would be dismantled, it’s not clear exactly what this change would mean.

As long as iTunes has supported video, it has also supported home videos; films you’ve shot yourself, or ripped from DVDs. These videos sync to iOS devices when you select Movies as a content type; there is no specific sync option for home videos.

While Apple certainly wants to have a separate video app for its own iTunes Store content, and its new Apple TV+ content, I can’t imagine that they will remove the ability to store home videos in iTunes, or to sync them to iOS devices. And, while many people stream iTunes Store purchases, I’m sure that there is a substantial number of people who want to have these movies and TV shows locally stored so they can watch them without having to use up bandwidth, and to sync them to iOS devices.

It seems more likely that the TV app will be the catalog, not the library, for video content. While Apple may roll the movies and TV shows sections of the iTunes Store into the TV app on the Mac, it’s also possible that they may not do that . Just as on iOS, where the storefront is in a different app, they may retain all of the iTunes Store in the iTunes app.

As I’ve often written, dismantling iTunes into multiple apps is not a very useful solution. It works on iOS because apps are single windows, and there would be too much navigation and too many tabs required to fit everything into one app. But on the Mac, it still makes more sense to have a single app. I expect the TV app to be similar to the one on iOS and the Apple TV: a way to view content you’ve bought or rented, or to view content from the new channels that Apple will be selling. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if iTunes still retained its movies and TV shows sections to store and manage a library of content you want to keep on a Mac and sync to iOS devices.

The Next Track, Episode #136 – Breaking Up with iTunes?

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxWe look at some possible future scenarios about iTunes, in part because a recent change that Apple has made.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #136 – Breaking Up with iTunes?.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

The Version of iTunes with the App Store Doesn’t Work with Mojave

For a while, Apple had released a version of iTunes – 12.6.5 – that still had the App Store, so businesses could manage apps on their devices. With the release of macOS Mojave, this iTunes version no longer works, so the workaround that Apple had provided to allow some users to still download and manage apps from the desktop is now dead.

So there is one other solution: iMazing can download, install, and manage apps for iOS devices. Check out the linked article for more. I’d still rather have the App Store accessible from the desktop, but this is a solution that can be useful for many people.

Full disclosure: I do writing work and screencasting for iMazing.

Playing iTunes Music through the iOS Remote App no Longer Updates Metadata

I have long used the iOS Remote app to play music on my iMac, streaming to one of my AirPlay-compatible devices. It’s convenient, and allows me to control the music and the volume with any iOS device.

But since the recent update to the Remote app, it no longer updates metadata in iTunes. Previously, it would update the play count and the last played date, useful notably because this would put music you played via that app in the Recently Played playlist. It’s a bit annoying; imagine if you play music on shuffle, and you want to go back and check out some of the songs you heard, because you don’t recall exactly what they are. Previously, the Recently Played playlist would show you this; now, there’s nothing.

However, what you can do is start playing the music in iTunes, then, later, if you wish, control if from the Remote app. You can skip tracks and change volume, but you can’t start playing something different; if you do, then the metadata won’t be updated.

I don’t know why Apple has made this change. It doesn’t make things better in any way, and only removes useful data from your iTunes library.

iTunes 12.8 Brings AirPlay 2 Support to the Mac (and Windows)

Apple has released iTunes 12.8, for Mac and Windows, adding AirPlay 2 support to the desktop. When Apple released iOS 11.4, with AirPlay 2, the Mac (and Windows) was notably absent, meaning that you could stream music to a stereo pair of HomePods from an iOS device, but not from iTunes. This his (finally) been corrected.

Download iTunes 12.8 here, or through the Mac App Store app.

Apple Has Updated the iOS iTunes Remote App

Apple yesterday released an update to the iOS iTunes Remote app, which can be used to remotely control playback from an iTunes library. This wouldn’t be a big deal except for the fact that the company finally updated the iPad version of the app, which, in spite of received minor updates over the years, still presented an iOS 6 style interface.

Here’s how it looked before the update:

Remote old

And now:

Remote new

I had long been surprised that Apple couldn’t bother updating the interface of this app. Granted, it may not be widely used, but still; compared to the current iOS look – which has been “flat” since iOS 7 – it looked archaic.

Finally.

The Next Track, Episode #104 -The Future of iTunes

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxDoug and Kirk discuss the future of iTunes. What effect will streaming and Apple’s forthcoming video service have on iTunes? Will it split into several apps? Will it still be called iTunes?

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #104 – The Future of iTunes.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Side Splitter AppleScript Lets You Relive the Joy of Flipping Albums in iTunes

My podcast partner Doug Adams were chatting recently about the experience of listening to record albums – LPs – where you would flip a record after 20 or 25 minutes of music. So he made an AppleScript to reproduce this in iTunes.

Back in the day, LP record albums were experienced as pairs of “sides,” right?

A decent record side was about 22 to 27 minutes long. And so we got used to listening to chunks of music of this duration. These time constraints on a record would often affect how the album was programmed, such as the song order and perhaps other conceptual factors.

If you spent a lot of time listening to record albums this way, you may remember the convention of “flipping the record” after the first side was finished in order to hear the other side. It only took a few moments to do so, but this pause in the action is the sort of thing you don’t experience much with CDs and virtually never with hours-long playlists.

We discuss this in an episode of The Next Track podcast to be released this Friday.

Check out the Side Splitter AppleScript for iTunes.

Apple Music’s “Recently Played” Problem

You can listen to Apple Music to hear the songs you know, or to discover new music. The “discovery” feature is one of the main selling points of streaming services, which offer tens of millions of tracks. But this discovery is very difficult. As I recently wrote, it’s not easy to play music that you can’t remember. If music isn’t in your library, and you need to search for it or, even more difficultly, use Siri to request it, you will generally not play a great deal of music. You will remember your favorite albums, your favorite songs, the artists you have listened to for a long time; or you will listen to the biggest hits, the current favorites that you hear, perhaps, in a playlist of new music.

While you can discover lots of music on any streaming service, Apple Music makes it difficult to find out what you have discovered. Sure, you can look at your iPhone, or ask Siri, and you’ll know what is being played at a given time. But what if you are out running, listening to a long playlist in shuffle mode; when you get home, you cannot find which songs you heard. You may want to go back and pick some of those songs to add them to your library for your next workout. But if you look at the Recently Played section of For You, all you see are icons for albums or playlists. Even if you play just one song from an album or playlist, you see that icon; nothing tells you exactly what you listened to.

Recently played

This is even worse if you listen to an Apple Music radio station. You will see the station in Recently Played, but you won’t see any listening history. The only place you can see that is on the Radio tab, in the Up Next button, under History.

It’s more confusing because Apple Music lists something as “played” even if you’ve only listened to it for a few seconds. Say you have been sampling some new albums that show up in For You. You start playing one of them, you listen for a minute or so, and you don’t really care for the music, so you stop and try another album. The Recently Played section shows that you have listened to that album. It doesn’t show that you stopped listening to it, that you moved on to something else, that you did not like it. If you’re sampling a lot of music, this makes it very difficult to remember what you did like; unless you choose to “Love” every track that you like just a little bit.

Apple is erring on the side of caution here. They don’t want to not include the music that you listen to, so they include everything and more. What they should be doing is only showing an album if you have started playing the album itself, rather than a song in an album. And they should show songs that you played outside an album or playlist separately. Or, when you select an album or playlist in the Recently Played section, they should somehow indicate which songs you listened to. And they should probably not include any songs that you haven’t listened to all the way through, or nearly. When you play music in iTunes, it only counts as played if you have listened to it up until at least 10 seconds from the end; you can skip ahead during the final fadeout, and iTunes will still count the track as played.

Most people don’t care too much about this; they listen to music as wallpaper, they listen to a playlist because someone or some algorithm suggested it. But for those who are actually interested in discovering new music, it would be useful if Apple improved this Recently Played section.