How iTunes Hurts Apple And Why It Needs To Be Fixed

What do you think of iTunes? Mac or Windows, it’s become a huge, bloated, unwieldy mess that tries to do too much and doesn’t do much well anymore.

Worse, iTunes is everywhere, spreading complexity, confusion, and misery among Mac and Windows users. At least on the iPhone and iPad and iPod touch, Apple segregates some of the traditional iTunes functions.

Aren’t you glad Apple didn’t stick the Mac App Store into iTunes?

What’s wrong with iTunes that needs to be fixed?

It’s slow and buggy and bloated. If I were an Apple app designer I would be ashamed to tell my friends or family that I worked on iTunes. Hello? Is there anything about iTunes that’s intuitive?

One of the early and highly prized features of iTunes was syncing up to the iPod. Pop in FireWire or USB, and music and movies synced within minutes. These days, synchronizing via a cable from Mac to iPhone or iPad or iPod is problematic.

Thank the Cloud overlords for wireless sync.

Then, while you’re thanking them, curse the draconian way iTunes manages iPhone and iPad apps. Please. Sometimes iTunes on my Mac wants to sync items I don’t want to be on my iPhone or iPad. Honestly, except for the critical and occasional backup, connecting my iDevices to iTunes is not worth the time or resultant headaches.

And don’t get me started on the iTunes user interface. It’s worse than a complex spreadsheet.

Look at the left sidebar. It’s a Chinese restaurant menu of items, and anything but friendly or inviting. What’s in the Library? Music. Movies. TV Shows. Podcasts. iTunes U. Books. Apps. Tones. Radio.

Hello? Apple? Ever heard of tabs? They’re all the rage on popular apps these days.

Below Library is Store, with iTunes, iTunes Match, Ping (does that still work?), Purchased items. Then it’s Devices, Shared Devices, Genius, then my Playlists. Click on anything in the left Sidebar and the whole content area changes.

Worse, iTunes is no longer the right name.

It was perfect back in the day, when Mac users needed a way to manage and burn music. The advent of the iTunes Store started the app’s long national nightmare, and Apple missed a perfect opportunity to change the name to something that fits what iTunes Store has become.

It’s not just for tunes anymore.

Of all of Apple’s polished, elegant, and usable apps, iTunes doesn’t even feel as if it’s made by the same company. Why has iTunes become worse and not better?

Apple just can’t shake up the apple cart. iTunes is a huge money maker and many tens of millions of people depend on it. So? Making wholesale changes to something we love is Apple’s forte’ so why can’t they fix iTunes?

Apple needs to segregate iTunes built-in functionality to separate apps. The Player becomes a media player (music, TV shows, movies, et al.). The Store is where you go to shop (tabs for apps, TV shows movies, music would be nice). Let the Player handle playing and media management, and let the Store do what a store should. Even Sync could be a separate app.

Divide and conquer, Apple.

Your reputation as a maker of slick and sassy apps is in danger because tens of millions of customers worldwide use iTunes, and many of us hate it.


  1. I think you protest too much. iTunes is amazingly functional and still handles sync on multiple devices very well. iCloud is nice but for max speed and flexability, having a system that you sync your iOS devices to is vastly superior.

    None of the 8 iOS devices that sync to our main iTunes library ever seems to get confused about what Apps to sync and now all of that happens wirelessly throughout the house. Backups are done nightly when devices charge. It is a beautiful system.

    Now the idea of breaking up itunes into separate apps has some appeal, but tighter integration of my library with the iTunes store might be even more appealing. I search for a piece of music and it is not in my library, so I’m shown a song from the iTunes store that I can preview and am shown other songs I might like from genius recommendations.

    Or I just finish watching the last episode of Breaking bad from my library and am shown an option to purchase the next season.

    There are plusses and minuses to breaking up the App and I’m not sure it is all that confusing. On the left you have a list of content types grouped by source. Then in one interface I can view Apps in my library, or in iTunes or on any of my devices or even on a shared system.

    How will having a device manager with an iTunes looking interface, a library manager with an iTunes interface and a Store with an iTunes interface as individual apps make things better?

    It is easy to throw stones, but the system works and I think it needs tweaks, not overhauls.

  2. Oh, dear iToons, how many ways do I hate thee?

    If only sync would work flawlessly, or, at least as well as it does wirelessly, direct from Apple or iCloud.

    We have two iPhones. iToons recognizes only one when connected by cable. Sometimes the syncs take half an hour by cable. Managing apps in the iTunes window is a great idea if only it would work smoothly.

    Finding apps using search is as problematic. Sometimes I can insert the name of an app that actually exists on the App Store and iToons digs up music, movies, TV shows, and other apps, but not the one I know is there.

    iTunes runs on a WebObjects backend, and that’s likely where the problem really is. Apple is afraid to disrupt what works in fear of alienating a 100-million customers.