iTunes - Why all the hate?

#1

The recent speculation that iTunes will likely be broken up into separate apps on Mac OSX in the near future has seen most apple focused podcasters spouting off on the fact that they hate itunes.

It is percieved wisdom within the Apple commentating community that iTunes is bad, but because it is perceived wisdom, no one ever explains why they think that. On Connected this week, itunes was described as a garbage fire, and “very bad” but the closest any of the hosts got to saying what the issues they have with it actually are, is that Mike thinks the search is bad, but didn’t say what was bad about it.

So I’m curious, those of you who hate itunes, what is it specifically that you hate? What is it that it does badly, or what features are missing?

I have no particular love for itunes, for me it is a utility that does it’s job. What is it that I’m missing?

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#2

It is bad to have an app that serves as a music store AND a music player AND a backup tool AND a sync service AND a Podcast service AND a … all wrapped in to one. It is bad to have to go to TWO places to figure out what pictures you have and what pictures be synced (iTunes and Photos).

You want to do music, use Tunes/iTunes. You want to do photos, use Photos/iPhotos. You want to allow users to sync stuff between macOS with iOS, develop a proper Sync Tool.


JJW

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#3

I agree. Normally the reasons are nebulous and non-specific. “Oh it does too many things”. Alright, but that doesn’t actually say anything to answer the question.

I think it’s just de rigueur at this point, and seen as a requirement of geek cred.

I’m not arguing for a minute that iTunes is great, but the hyperbole surrounding it in the Mac Nerd community is utterly disproportionate.

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#4

This is a great example of what prompted my post.

Why are the things you listed bad?

I’m not arguing that they are necessarily good things, but nor do I see them as self evidentiary bad things either.

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#6

No, it isn’t.

There’s nothing intrinsically bad in any of these things or the fact they are combined.

You could say, that because of these things iTunes has an over complicated UI. Sure. I would agree. But all of those things are functional in iTunes. All of them are accessible. To state that because an app does all of these things it is bad, is at best some seriously reductive logic, but it’s also just not even wrong.

A complicated UI is also not automatically just a terrible thing.

By your own logic, an independent sync tool is not a good solution. You yourself say that managing photos and photo synchronisation should be possible in photos. Why then would a tool that only syncs stuff be a better solution than using iTunes. It’s an almost identical user outcome and repeats the same anti-pattern you point out in the current solution.

These just feel like parroted opinions to me. I don’t think many people can actually articulate a reason they dislike iTunes beyond that everyone hates iTunes.

Again, I’m not defending iTunes per se, but the vociferous derision just seems weird to me. I actually do think that the user experience is improved if media management is delegated to media-specific apps and iTunes was allowed to be just a storefront as it is on iOS.

But anyone calling iTunes a dumpster fire is being intellectually dishonest, presumably for nerd points.

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#7

How many times have I had to sort through with some folks and with myself whether we should use iTunes or Photos to sync? How many times have I had to sort through myself why iTunes is showing me TV shows that are of no interest to me as “tunes”. The list goes on. The overhead in clutter contributes to a confusion about how the heck and what the heck should I do to do this. This is frustration.

  • I want to play music --> use a Music app
  • I want to control what photos sync between my devices --> use a Sync Tool app
  • I want to browse/buy music from Apple --> use an AppleStore app
  • I want watch podcasts --> use a PodCast app
  • I want to watch TV shows --> use a TV app

The “everything and the kitchen sink too” is why I only open iTunes because I MUST when I have to change something about the sync to my iOS devices. Otherwise, it sits bloated in the corner.


JJW

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#8

I’ll extend this a bit further and say that the overall problem is “friction”. Using iTunes is a friction-heavy experience, requiring multiple hoops to be jumped through in order to get to what you want.

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#9

Something to keep in mind: lots of people, particularly the folks on Connected, have gone into detail on what they dislike about iTunes before. Repeating it every time the subject comes up is, well, repetitive! Granted not everyone listens to every episode, but I’m sure the details have cropped up several times.

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#10

Personally, I really like iTunes for managing my music library. I really like the ability to mange metadata, make smart playlists, have access to comprehensive scriptable elements (for which I rely on Doug’s AppleScripts), and have great flexibility in organizing my music. I have spent hours and hours creating organizational methods to handle my classical music library, my rock library, and the like–for me it’s a hobby, not work. Any excuse to interact with the music and mull over what it means and how I enjoy it, is great for me. I wish Apple Music would absorb the tools and give users such great power. (It irritates me, for example, that on iTunes I can paste in custom lyrics when the song file does not have them, but I cannot on Apple Music.) For this reason alone, I want to see iTunes be maintained and improved.

As far as the criticisms about other facets. Most of them seem like silly complaints about things that aren’t really problems. The store part integrated with iTunes makes logical sense to me. Podcasts and audiobooks seem logical enough to include with iTunes. But I could see a case for moving audiobooks to… well… Apple Books.

One could have created another tool to sync and back up data rather than use iTunes, but does that really merit the hate? Admittedly, it seems seems like a weird design choice today, but the program is simple enough to use, it runs fine (I’ve never had really sluggish-ness issues with iTunes), and the UI is not unusably byzantine. I know it’s not an honor to say something is good so long as it’s not byzantine (that is plenty of room for improvement in the UI department). I just mean to say that while the criticisms of the UI may be right in terms of best practices and appearance, they are over-the-top in terms of the actual functionality of the tool.

I do agree with @DrJJWMac about this specific point:

I’m not bothered by the consolidation of of music/music store/podcasts/movies/TV. But I do agree it would be preferable to consolidate functions into the tool-sets they belong in and not have overlapping functions in iTunes. The photos example is a good illustration of this.

[SIDE NOTE: For any of us who may be unrelenting adherents to the Unix philosophy, I suppose iTunes could not be described as anything but an abomination, but that is a subject for another post!]

My enjoyment of iTunes does not blind me to the problems of iTunes. I have had to rebuild my library so many times that I created a hazel rule that essentially triple backs up my library so I rarely lose any work.

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#11

I have a hard time finding things. I can search for, say, Billie Eilish, and iTunes can’t find her. I switch to Store, and see the video I want to watch. Click play and it’s the 30 sec trailer. Nowswitch to Browse to see the video in Apple Music. Same confusion trying to find videos in my own iTunes library.

Plus everything @DrJJWMac said.

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#12

I don’t think iTunes is useless but I do think that the development team will never be able to make it good at everything it does. It has a lot of UX and performance compromises in it to fit everything and have paths to every feature. Even if it were perfectly designed, the large feature list necessarily introduces friction since not everything can be one click away. I believe it is also compromised because it is also a Windows app and this slows down the development team, but I can’t find a source.

But considering all that, it’s not bad for kitchen sink media control. Certainly better than what Windows XP, 7 and 10 did for their media centers.

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#13

You’re right, but there’s a happy medium between how itunes is talked about - where it’s basically assumed that everyone just knows that its garbage without ever elaborating - and how, say, the keyboard issues are discussed, where many apple focused podcasts will do a good 15 minutes, in excruciating detail, at the drop of a hat.

BTW, I didn’t intend to come across as specifically digging out the Connected guys (they were just the last podcast I had listened to before posting). They’ve been far from the only ones this week.

The discussion about itunes on Clockwise this week was much more constructive, although again lacking in specifics about the negatives.

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#14

Still my favourite: What is Your Favorite App ... Ever

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#15

Rather than a dumpster fire, it’s more a cluster of smoldering barrels.

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#16

There’s been a lot of feature creep over the past 15 years (tried to find a screen shot from '04), and I think that’s led to friction in its use.
The vocabulary is somewhat ambiguous too. What is a video? Where do you find a video? Are home videos classified the same as music videos? Are movies videos? Etc.

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#17

I didn’t hate iTunes. But I wasn’t thrilled with many of the changes they made as they tried to add feature after feature.

I abandoned iTunes for day to day use because Apple Match/Music kept screwing up my library. Album art which I had manually chosen years earlier when I ripped my collection would be changed. Tracks would be substituted for other versions. Occasionally some would just disappear. After I rebuilt my iTunes library for the 5th or 6th time I gave up and moved everything to a Plex server to protect the files.

I kept a copy of all my songs on both my iPad & iPhone, but now that I’m IOS only (my mac died) it appears I will have no way to use the IOS Music app when I purchase a new iPhone. 70% or more of the music I own predates Apple entering the “Rip/Mix/Burn” era so I know of no way to move songs to the IOS Music app.

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#18

The best summary is “friction”.

Individually, certain things require more steps than they should. Or they give results that are counter-intuitive. The specifics given by others in this thread mirror my experiences.

To counter your statement about “… the fact they are combined” … Certainly, nothing is intrinsically bad about putting a dishwasher + oven + microwave + refrigerator in one machine. But then, this is just another way of saying that absolutely nothing is practically good about this approach. At this, we firmly agree.


JJW

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#19

I use iTunes to manage a huge library of movies and tv shows and have had no problem at all. Most of my music is now through Apple Music because I’m playing via HomePods, iPad or iPhone but when I do use the Mac to play music I have no problems finding what I want. These days most of my iTunes use is the local library/computer on the Apple TV. So iTunes is just where I organize everything not the interface for playing. I never manage devices through iTunes as I use iCloud for all that. All my photos are in iCloud Photo Library and set to sync through that.

I’m not saying the app is perfect. Of course it’s not. But in my use it has been a great app that I’ve had no problems using or understanding. I don’t experience the friction that others are speaking of. Perhaps if I did my device management via iTunes I would but I think that is unavoidable because iCloud has worked so well and is so seamless for me that the idea of plugging into the Mac to do any management will immediately be more friction. I plug in to charge and that’s it. Back-ups and photos and files are all via iCloud. I’ve got the Mac set to keep local copies of all that so I don’t bother other than my Mac back-ups.

It’s been awhile but when I think back to the first versions of iTunes and various incarnations of the iTools and .mac apps which included a sync app and iDisk… my memory is a bit fuzzy but I have to laugh. We’ve come a long way in terms of reliability and frictionless workflow. More than anything I’ve come to appreciate just how fantastic (it often does seem like magic) the current ecosystem of devices, apps and internet connectivity is in my daily use.

This fits in with a recent thread that I started (now closed/locked) about my perception that apple podcasts and press have really gotten in a rut of negativity in which they seem to repeat the current, popular complaint about apple. It’s clear to see if you’re paying attention and listening to a handful of them in a feed. The past week it’s been iTunes. In given month it might be the MBP keyboards, iOS lack of access to files on hard drives, Siri, HomePods, lack of Mac updates, 5GB of free iCloud is too little, etc.

But, as to this specific thread, agreed with some of the above comments that often times there’s not a lot of substance. Just vague complaints that iTunes too big and practically unusable. Of course, what’s funny is that whatever Apple does, there will continue to be complaints about the replacement apps. I’ve already heard one podcast doing that… complaining about what will be replacement apps that they are sure will be terrible or at least not very good. They’re already confused about how to feel about the loss of iTunes and it hasn’t even happened yet.

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