How To Use iTunes Match on Your iPhone, iPad, and Mac

BY Tris Hussey

Published 18 Nov 2012

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When iTunes Match came out a year ago some folks jumped right on the bandwagon, others, like me, held off for a bit. Nearly a year down the road for me with iTunes Match I can safely say it has been a great investment. Best part? Saving space on space-crunched iDevices.

If you’re unfamiliar with iTunes Match here’s the skinny (and you can check out the post above for more info):

  • It costs $25/year
  • You start on iTunes on your machine (Mac or PC) to enable it
  • iTunes will then scan your music library and match it against songs that Apple already has in their catalogue.
  • Songs that you have, but Apple doesn’t, will be uploaded to the cloud for you
  • You can delete any song from your Mac or iOS device and then download it again from the cloud.
  • It’s available in a lot of countries, but not all. Check Apple’s list—iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match Availability—for details.

One cool thing about deleting and downloading is that the new, downloaded version will be very high quality. So if you have a lot of lower bitrate songs in your library, you can search for them, delete them, then re-download them. MacWorld has easy steps for doing this little trick (I did it myself, actually, using their process). This post, however, isn’t about that spiffy trick, it’s about managing the space on your devices.

My iPhone 4 was the 16GB model. Yeah, I didn’t make that mistake again, my iPhone 5 is 32GB. The problem with only having 16GB to work with (my iPad mini is only 16GB, but I think I’ll manage) is that you can quickly run out of space once you start loading up apps, books, movies, and music. Solution? iTunes Match. How? Let me tell you.

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Once you’ve signed up for iTunes Match and it’s completed the scanning and uploading process on your machine (it’s essential that you wait for that step to be completed), sync your device (just to make sure all your songs have been transferred), go to you device and turn iTunes Match on. You’ll get an ominous warning about replacing the music on your device…don’t worry that’s what’s supposed to happen. At this point any song on your device will be deleted.

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Right, scary, but trust me, it’s all good.

On the settings screen choose the option for “Show All Music” is on. Here’s what my music library looks like with “Show All Music” off:

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And on:

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With that setting on, you can see all the songs you have in iTunes Match, but not all of them are on your device. How do you get the song onto your device? Just play it. Yep, play it and your device will start playing the song as the rest downloads. Now that song is on your device as well.

How about if you want a whole album or play list? Can you download it all (say if you’re going to be flying)? Totally. Just scroll down to the bottom of the list of songs in the play list or album and tap the cloud icon:

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Okay, let’s talk about downloading for a min. If you have have a WiFi only device, then it’s pretty easy. When you’re connected to the Internet, iTunes Match works. When you’re not, it doesn’t. For devices that can use cellular data (like your iPhone) you can device whether or not you want to allow iTunes to use cellular data to download things (apps, music, books). The decision is yours, myself I have a healthy data plan, so I opt for it. This is a good point for a really important note:

If you’re not online, you can’t download music from iTunes Match.

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So deciding while on the plane you’d really dig some ABBA isn’t going to help you if you didn’t download it ahead of time. Trust me, I’ve done this often. My tip is to turn off “Show All Music” before going offline just to see the true state of your library. If you see a gap (I tend to look at playlists and see what’s there), then switch Show All Music back on and download the music you need.

How does all this this help you manage the space on your device? First, you don’t have to pick and choose when syncing what you want to have on your device. You only want the music you will listen to, but in the past you might stock up on tunes “just in case” you might want to listen to something. Now, you don’t have that pressure. When you want a song, you play it. If it isn’t on your device (and you’re online) you get it. Now here’s the best part, when you’re done with the song, you can delete it from your device!

Before you start jumping for joy, there is a catch. If you’re running iOS 6, you need to turn iTunes Match off before you can delete individual songs. We know that in iOS 6.1 Beta 2 individual song downloads are back, but we don’t know if deleting will return as well. So to manage songs, if you’re running low on space and iOS 6 isn’t clearing enough out of the way fastest enough, turn iTunes Match off, then go to your music list, wait for all the iTunes Match songs to disappear, and delete. Yep, it’s a pain, but it will get the job done.

That’s the basics. Using iTunes Match you can reclaim space on your device for more games, books, and other apps. Then only keep around the music that you’re really listening to. Simple, easy, and really a bargain at $25.