iTunes 9 Review

I didn’t rush out my iTunes 9 review, simply because I felt the need to actually use it for a while to see how I felt. Also, I’m not a gadget blog, so I can take my damn time. Anyway, my feelings and wants for iTunes are no one’s but my own. Anyway, I wrote a little wishlist before Apple’s music event, which if I had to sum up, was for iTunes not to suck anymore. While that didn’t entirely come true, iTunes 9 sucks a hell of a lot less than before.

First of all, iTunes 9 plays much, MUCH nicer with my dying iPod than 8 did. It manages to sync the first time, almost every time. It may not seem like much, but its a vast improvement. Its also quite a bit faster with the 3GS. It still beachballs for a second when I connect the phone, but it takes (subjectively) less time than before. Switching views from Music to Podcasts to Applications is very fast, with no beachballing at all. Note that I have just shy of 10,000 tracks with 984 artists, 45 podcast subscriptions, and 96 apps. ITunes 9 seems to have pulled a lot of its speed by drawing icons on the fly after the view switch. I’d far rather switch fast and see the icons drawn while I’m interacting with the window.

Which is not to say that I don’t have problems. The first and worst is that smart playlist sync seems to be broken between iTunes 9 and iPhone OS 3.1. I mainly listen to podcasts on my iPhone, and exclusively while commuting. I set up a smart playlist that grabs podcasts as they’re downloaded, and I’l go in and manually arrange the order. I did this because my car’s iPod connector only sees playlists, artists, albums and songs, so I had to make a playlist to listen to my podcasts in the car. It actually turned out to be a really convenient way to consume them. The problem is that the podcasts showed up in a random order after the update. This seems to be a problem with iTunes, rather than the iPhone OS, since turning off live updating solves the problem. Its annoying to have to do additional steps, but I’m sure a fix is coming.

I only had one crash, right after I updated. I still had to wait while iTunes checked the library, but it only took about a minute. I’m sure that this is a result of iTunes’ Carbon-ness and inability to use Core Data. (I’m making the assumption that Core Data will handle crashes more gracefully than whatever it is that iTunes does now. We all know about assumptions, right?)

As far as the rest, I can’t use Home Sharing, because I have one updated machine and almost nothing from the iTunes Store. I tried Genius Mixes, and while the feature is cool, its not my cup of tea. I love the ability to arrange apps from iTunes and really wish it had been there last year, but what can you do? Clearly, Apple didn’t expect people to put hundreds of apps on their phones, so it took a while. I don’t like the white background behind the icons. The black background provided more contrast and was easier on the eyes. Maybe a background preference?

So, yeah, I’m really happy with iTunes 9, and hope that it just keeps getting better. ITunes is home to a lot of stuff and it takes some serious UI mojo to keep everything simple and tidy and fast. While I still say that iTunes has some suckage to work out, its with the understanding that a lot of work goes into it.

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