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How Apple iCloud And iTunes Match Will Work: The Unofficial FAQ

Now that iCloud and iTunes Match have been unveiled, a few questions may remain. How does the iCloud-Match combo differ from Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Music Beta and Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Cloud Drive? How does it improve on MobileMe? We’ve waded through these questions and more:

»  What kinds of data/files can you put on the iCloud? Aside from music (MP3 and AAC files) users can store iBooks, apps, pictures, e-mail and documents. iCloud will store photos for only 30 days. Amazon’s Cloud Drive can store photo and video. Google offers e-mail (7.6GB for free) and document storage (1GB free then 25 cents for each extra GB) through Gmail and Google Docs, respectively.

»  How much does it cost? iCloud is free and comes with nine applications, including iTunes. iTunes Match, however, will cost $24.99 per year. Here, users can sync up to 25,000 songs not purchased through the iTunes Store among their computers and gadgets.

»  How much data can you store in iCloud? 5GB. Music, apps, and books purchased through iTunes, as well as your Photo Stream, don’t count against your free storage.

»  When can I use it? iCloud and iTunes Match will be available this fall.

»  Can I use it on all my devices and computers? According to the latest revision of the iTunes Terms and Conditions, you can auto-download or download previously purchased “eligible content” to 10 “associated” devices. Up to five can be iTunes-authorized computers. A device can only be associated with one account at a time and can only be switched every 90 days.

»  How does iCloud differ from MobileMe? The concept is the same: syncing your data among your Apple-branded mobile devices. Since iCloud is a new service, it’ll enable syncing of apps, docs, iTunes and iBooks in addition to just mail, contacts, calendar and photos, which MobileMe had offered. MobileMe, which debuted three years ago, was $99 per year and will close down on June 30, 2012. It is no longer accepting new subscribers.

»  Can I read iBooks on a Mac or PC? iBooks can be purchased via computer but can only be read on iOS devices.

»  How do the music offerings differ from that of Google’s and Amazon’s? Because Google and Amazon haven’t secured rights with record labels, users of Music Beta and Cloud Drive have to upload their entire libraries to each service before they can be accessed online and through the mobile apps. Music purchased from can automatically be stored in Cloud Drive; Google, on the other hand, does not have a music store.

»  How does the price compare with our major music services, like *Google* Music Beta, and *Amazon* Cloud Drive? Google Music Beta is free but available through invitation only. Amazon Cloud Drive offers 5GB (or about 1,000 songs) for free to users with an account. After that, it costs 20GB for $20 per year, then $1 per GB in increments of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000.

»  How does iTunes Match work? iTunes figures out which songs in your existing collection are available in the iTunes Store. From here, the matches are automatically added to your iCloud library so you can listen to your music on any of your Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) devices.

»  How is the sound quality? Music played through iTunes in the cloud will play at 256 Kbps quality, even if the original copy of a song is of lower quality.

Anything else you want to know about these new services? Leave requests in the comments below.

11 Responses to “How Apple iCloud And iTunes Match Will Work: The Unofficial FAQ”

  1. Tom Hudson

    I am a slow learner I guess…..but….when iTunes Match uploads my existing library from my PC does it also wipe the library from my hard drive ??? ie  can I keep my existing PC hard disc library as well as my iCloud , iTunes Match library ??? IF i buy  a new iPod Touch can I download / synch  my ENTIRE library to it  from my iTunes Match library in one shot …or do I need to download track by track as and when I want to play tthem ?? Will there be occasions when I can only download tracks to my ipod from the Match library if a solid wi fi connexion is available ???[ answer must be YES I guess ].

  2. I am curious to know how iTunes Match actually works?  Does it match based on the ID3 tag of a song?  the digital signature of a song?  both?  I ask because Apple bought, which had the same technology behind their service but it was very bad.  For eg, if you had a popular album like Thriller that you synced rather than gaining access to a complete version of thriller you might gain access to a few songs from one version, a few songs from another and then maybe a smattering of songs avalable across various compilations.  Hardly a good experience.

  3. I’m interested in a more detailed comparison of iCloud to the Best Buy Music Cloud service. 

    TheStreet has a story by Anton Wahlman titled Apple Plays Catch-up with Its Offerings, and it ends with the following quote. I would like to know more…”Apple’s new Cloud services will be a good solution for many people. I’m of course a big Apple user myself. But many people want software/services products that maintain the functionality across devices based on all the other operating systems and are made by other hardware players. I want to access all of these iCloud services and information on my Android, BlackBerry and Microsoft devices, among others. Google and Dropbox have been doing this for years. And as for the Match music stuff, it’s already available from Best Buy using CatchMedia’s “Play Anywhere” technology.”

  4. Another part of this that confounds me is that Apple plainly has the technological ability to offer, among other things, streaming from the cloud (indeed, has had for quite some time), but for whatever reason does not care to offer it to its users (as things currently stand).

    More than two years ago I availed myself of Lala’s Music Mover service (essentially identical to the iTunes Match service) to obtain remote access to the vast bulk of my music library — whenever or wherever — so long as I had internet access to log into my account on Lala’s browser based music player.  As is commonly known, Apple obtained this “music-matching” and streaming know-how when it purchased Lala in December 2009.  The only key distinction is that now that smartphones are more ubiquitous, users naturally would like the ability to stream to their mobile device as they previously were able to stream to their laptop or desktop PC.  That is, the only “new” development is the increasing and subsantial reliance on mobile internet connectivity via telecoms (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.) rather than broadband.  It would appear then, that denying users the choice of a streaming service stems not from any technological hurdle, but rather a business (some might say “political”) decision to avoid burdening the 3G and forthcoming 4G spectrum.

    I guess I would like a little more transparency as to why Apple has decided to deny its users a technology it plainly has the capacity to deliver.  (I know, asking for transparency from Apple is like wishing upon a star).  Still, given these facts, I am perplexed by some of the tech media’s rapturous reponses to iCloud (present compay excluded — rather see e.g., gizmodo’s paean to iCloud  Yeah, its an improvement on Apple’s previous offerings, but still remains very weak tea.

    And FWIW, I’m not a hater.  I am nearly exclusively a consumer of Apple hardware and that’s probably the source of my frustration.  Nothing that was announced on Monday (even the iOS and Lion stuff) met any reasonable standard of a major leap forward.  Oh well.  I still hold out hope that all that changes and we are treated to something incomparable and amazing in September.  The fanboy in me still kicking somewhere.

  5. annvaughn

    In the case of iCloud, Apple also gains access to all of your data, and I suspect applies the same privacy model as Google. This doesn’t have to be the case.

    • You suspect wrong.  Apple has very different privacy policies from Google.  Both for themselves and for their partners.  They don’t need to filch users data like Google who is in the business of selling ads.  Apple sells devices.

  6. The biggest missing question for me (which I haven’t seen clearly answered by Apple)

    What OS’ will and won’t iCloud support?  I have seen a lot of reporting that the answer is Vista, Windows 7 and Lion, but I haven’t seen a CLEAR confirmation.  If that is really the case, it would be somewhat surprising that it won’t be supported on Snow Leopard…

  7. Your post implies, perhaps unintentionally, that the iTunes Match service allows streaming of one’s music library to iOS devices.  As I understand, users will not be able to stream any of the music they “store” (or perhaps more accurately, “have registered”) in the Apple iCloud.  Rather than streaming music from the cloud, as Amazon’s and Google’s services offer, the iTunes Match service is more akin to a locker; users will have to download from iCloud to their iOS device to play the songs. 

    Perhaps in the future this will change.  Nevertheless, streaming vs no-streaming seems like a pretty significant distinction that should have been more clearly set forth in your otherwise very helpful post.

  8. RichardL

    Why doesn’t iTunes-in-the-Cloud stream to my iPhone? Apparently I will have re-download every single song I might want to listen to on every single device. Google Music and Amazon Cloud player will stream music in my library. All I have to do is click play. 

    Also what about playlist support? Can I sync a playlist and all the songs in it across multiple devices. That seems like it would be handy?

    What if I want to listen to my music on a device that isn’t made by Apple? Can I do that?