Why Don’t Third Party Music Apps Work With iTunes Match?

Apple launched iTunes Match back in November of 2011, and positioned it as a major component of iCloud. It’s been almost two years, and sadly very few third party music apps play back iTunes Match files. There’s such a wide assortment of alternatives to the stock music player in the App Store, but very few offer iTunes Match compatibility. Instead, you have to download the songs first, but that defeats the purpose of iTunes Match. The goal of the service is to free up storage space on your iOS device from storing music, but still have access to your entire iTunes library.
We wanted to get to the bottom of why exactly iOS developers aren’t supporting iTunes Match properly. Outside of CarTunes, all of the other music players apps we have tested have failed the iTunes Match portion of the exam. After asking a few different developers, we discovered why that is. It turns out, that Apple has a very limited iTunes Match developer API, which means the tools aren’t there for the developers. Right now, Apple only offers the ability for the most basic playback of iTunes Match files, which means if developers want to do anything with the files, there arew just no tools to do so. Whether it’s matching up songs by beats per minute, trying to create visualizers based on track qualities, or fully interacting with the music as in djay 2, it’s just not possible.

Going into this investigation, I was thinking that third party developers were slacking on supporting the features, but now it turns out that Apple is to blame. You would think that Apple would want more people to pick up the $24.99 a year service by offering more potential use cases, but it seems that the opposite is true. For some reason, Apple is restricting the use of iTunes Match tracks, and it means that subscribers are the ones who ultimately suffer. It may have to do with the DRM set-up of iTunes tracks, but Apple needs to find a way around those restrictions, because iTunes Match is extremely limited without great access for developers. Hopefully the rules change in iOS 7, but early signs show no indication that there are new APIs related to iTunes Match.

iTunes Match has its own fair share of problems regarding matching songs, playing back complete files, and staying constantly online. This fact is worse than all of those, and it makes that $24.99 per year not worth it, if you can essentially only use the stock music player to playback iTunes Match songs, and have no interactive options. Third party developers are creative, and offer all new ways to appreciate your music, that Apple is hampering with their iTunes Match restrictions.


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2 Comments on "Why Don’t Third Party Music Apps Work With iTunes Match?"

  1. Adi Himpson August 25, 2013 at 9:09 AM -

    I’m glad it’s not just me that is finding this limitation beyond annoying. On the whole I love the iTunes Match service – it means I have permanent access to (pretty much) my entire music library wherever I am and (perhaps more importantly) means I always have an in-the-cloud backup of my valuable music library.

    BUT not being able to use such a large number of great music apps is really starting to pee me off. But for the storage limitations of my various iDevices I suspect the chances of me renewing the service for another year would be pretty much zero.

    • Trevor Sheridan August 25, 2013 at 10:17 AM -

      Great response. Lets’ hope Apple fixes the limitation with iOS 7.

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