The Monstrosity That Is iTunes

iTunes was recently reported to be something that Steve Jobs had no desire to spread beyond the Mac family line of computers. Once Apple spread it from the Apple platform, iPods and then the iPhone itself, became latched to Windows, and expanded in popularity and feature count. For almost every app that Apple has shipped with the iPod Touch and iPhone over the years (not including the Compass, Calculator, and Stocks apps) there is now a connection to iTunes. And that collection has made iTunes quite a monstrosity.

No one really gets away from the experience of running iTunes without thinking of what a slow behemoth it is. The iTunes app handles Music/VoiceMemos/Ringtones (including the new iTunes Radio), Photos, Notes, Contacts, Videos, Podcasts, App Store, TV Shows, Books, iTunes U, backup, and probably more that I am missing. At it’s heart, iTunes is basically a media center that collected miscellaneous functionality as it was added to the iOS products. Now with these apps supporting Apple TV and AirPlay, it’s an even bigger list of features. But with all that functionality, I now dread running this application. It takes so long to start and sync for just one piece of new media, and uses up so many resources because of all the other housekeeping it does. I would have no problem hooking my iPhone to my Mac for just a backup, but for everything else it does, it all just takes too long, Wifi Sync or not.

The iPhone already has a number of third-party apps that all individually sync on their own. Dropbox, Evernote and much more – each of these managing their own area of responsibility. But why can’t Apple do the same for its own apps, each only syncing when it needs to? Notes syncing when there are new Notes, Music syncing when there is new music, and so on. For music, I have taken to using the Melodies app with Google Music, meaning no music to handle in iTunes. With Photos, I now rely on Flickr’s 1TB of photo space and full-size photo support to do my photo syncing. These are all examples of sync being done individually and being done the right way. Apple has already split out the Podcasts app on its own so this is the next logic step. The Notes app also syncs with iCloud and various email providers so it has also taken this leap. App Store apps can already install by themselves on a local wifi network if they are purchased on another computer and can be set to update automatically. Photos, Music, Books, and Apps can all do this. Note that for books, I don’t yet have a work flow that fits my needs, but that’s another article.

I call on Apple to do the same for the apps on the Mac and Windows. iPhoto should sync with the iPhone on its own (no Photostream does not count),  iTunes should just be a music app that has nothing to do with Books or Photos or backups. Don’t care about iBooks? Then you don’t ever run it and no sync is ever done for iBooks, saving time. Otherwise, iBooks should sync on its own. All should be independent of any central app which at this point would really only be left with handling backups – Apple could then introduce this as iBackup. Not only would this make managing your iOS devices easier, but would streamline and lighten the weight of the apps as they individually run on your computer.  Each one of these would only be syncing via Apple’s servers on the internet, your machine on local wifi, or even better, over the internet from your local computer a la Back To My Mac. And each would handle its own sync individually and intelligently. No longer via a monstrosity. This is no small job at all, but a company like Apple should be up to this task.