Despite Apple's Denial, iTunes Match is Streaming

Yesterday, we reported that the developer beta of Apple's iTunes Match appeared to show options for both streaming and downloading content from the cloud to a user's device. But some questions have arisen about just how the service functions, as a new report from AllThingsD shares word from an Apple spokesperson that the service is not actually a streaming one.

While a video making the rounds today makes it seem as if Apple’s upcoming iTunes Match service will stream music from Apple’s servers to a user’s device, that’s not the case. An Apple spokesperson confirms that any music you want to access from your cloud-based “locker” will still need to be stored on your iPad, or iPhone, or whatever device you’re using to listen to the song.

The difference appears to be one of semantics, however, with Apple's claims of the service requiring tracks to be downloaded actually related to local caching of streamed tracks.


Traditional streaming services maintain constant connections, buffering only a small amount of the currently-playing track at any given time. Apple's streaming solution appears to download each track in its entirety once streaming begins. Upon tapping on the track to begin playing without initiating the full iCloud download process, the track begins playing immediately just as with other streaming services. But in reality, the full track appears to be downloaded to a local cache on the user's device, allowing for fast access to any portion of the track.

Once the track has been fully played, it remains available in that cache and can be re-accessed without needing to re-stream, but it is not considered permanently downloaded and is not counted as being in the device's music library. A video from Jeff of iDownloadBlog demonstrates a streamed track being replayed after the device is put into Airplane Mode.


As shown in the video, switching away from the cached track while in Airplane Mode appears to empty the cache, and the device is unable to replay the track if the user returns to it.

The result is a service that acts just like a traditional streaming service, but one which may provide a better experience for users, especially in areas of unstable network coverage for those on the go. As noted by AllThingsD, the reason for Apple's implementation appears to not be due to any lack of a license for full-fledged streaming.

Instead, says music executive X, this is a philosophical/design issue on Apple’s part.

Part of it is that Apple doesn’t trust the current telecom ecosystem to handle on-demand streaming of library files every time someone wants to use them — look how much trouble AT&T has had with the iPhone to date. But the other part is that Apple wants its users to think of entertainment as something they consume on Apple device — as opposed to the Google and Amazon approach, which lets consumers grab anything they want on any device with a browser.

Apple has officially remained vague about just how the service works, but it certainly appears that the company has employed a streaming service with expanded caching capabilities allowing for storage of an entire track. Users also have the option to download tracks directly by tapping on the iCloud icon associated with each track.

Thanks to @insanely_great for assistance and clarification.

Update: This YouTube video walks through the streaming vs not streaming debate.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
117 months ago
Apple is probably denying it because true streaming probably requires some sort of additional royalties from the music industry.

I like Apple's solution from both a technical and user experience point of view.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
117 months ago
this is more I think of Apple's way of saying it's streaming...but not really.

"Oh, it's not streaming, it's simply downloading the track from your iCloud...but you can play the track as it's streaming...I mean...downloading. Wink wink". ;)
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
117 months ago
Three kinds of people in the world

Speaking as someone who has done audio engineering work, both on location and in a studio, I always love listening to the audiophiles. It's endlessly amusing. I'm really looking forward to my next project, which should let me do some serious trolling.

I'll try to remember to report back on how good they are at telling the difference between two identical files with different names, solely by ear. (For example, one named 'uncompressed' or 'lossless'.)
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
117 months ago



You know, you're wrong. Lossless audio is the only kind of audio thats interesting to me, when it comes to my personal collection. I tolerate other bit rates, but not for music I truly care about.

Live performances should never be listened to in anything other than lossless, or you're simply listening to a bunch of noise.


Good... you've ripped all your CDs to lossless and you enjoy them.

Most people don't. And those 15 Billion iTunes purchases and the average person's ripped CDs are not lossless either.

The iTunes Music Store or iTunes Match don't do lossless.

This is clearly not the service for you.

Moving on...
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
117 months ago

that's exactly my point, according to apple u just download the song again, so if your iPhone is already full u can't even "stream" "cloud" or whatever they call it . their whole music match in the cloud thing is basically just letting u play/redownload everything that u already have again from the iTunes store without having to pay for it again. they basically just replace the "buy" button on the iTunes app with a "cloud" button for redownloading for free on stuff u apparently "own" from whatever original source


Leave a measly 50 MB free on your iPhone. Now you can get all the music you want.

You seem to think accessing your whole library from anywhere is nothing notable. Well, that's what iTunes Match is, like it or lump it.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
117 months ago

True streaming breaks the file up into smaller pieces and only caches portions after where you start playing. If you could start in the middle of the song, the beginning of the song would not exist in the cache. The music app doesn't appear to allow that though, and given the nature of mobile connections, it's probably for the better. This still feels and behaves very similar to real streaming, but Apple is correct to point out that it is not actually streaming.


If that's the case, then Apple TV isn't streaming either, and Apple calls that streaming.

arn
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple-Acquired Dark Sky Officially Shuts Down Android App

Saturday August 1, 2020 3:43 pm PDT by
Apple in March purchased weather app Dark Sky, and at that time, Dark Sky's developers said that the app's Android version would be discontinued on July 1, 2020. However, instead of shuttering the app on that date, the app's developers announced that the discontinuation would be delayed for another month. Now that it's August, Android users are no longer able to access the app, and...

Apple May Launch This Year's 'iPhone 12' Lineup in Two Stages, With 6.1-inch Models Debuting First

Monday August 3, 2020 3:14 am PDT by
Apple last week confirmed that its "‌iPhone‌ 12" launch will be delayed this year due to the ongoing global health crisis and restrictions on travel. Apple last year started selling iPhones in late September, but this year, Apple projects supply will be "available a few weeks later," suggesting a release sometime in October. We're expecting a total of four OLED iPhones in 5.4, 6.1, and...

Apple Announces New 27-Inch iMac With 10th-Gen Processors, Up to 128GB RAM, 1080p Webcam, True Tone, and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 8:07 am PDT by
Apple today announced a new 27-inch iMac with faster 10th-generation Intel Core processor options, next-generation AMD graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, a higher-resolution 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, a T2 chip, higher fidelity speakers, studio-quality microphones, and more. A breakdown of the new 27-inch iMac's features and specs:10th...

Apple Explains Why You Might See 'Not Charging' When a Mac is Plugged In

Monday August 3, 2020 1:42 pm PDT by
If you have a Mac and have seen a "Not Charging" warning when plugging it in to power, Apple last week released a support document that explains why. Macs running macOS 10.15.5 or later have a Battery Health Management feature to preserve the life of the battery, and occasionally, the Battery Health Management option will cause the Mac to pause its charging for calibration purposes.Depending ...

Top Stories: Try the 5.4-Inch iPhone 12 Display Size, Blockbuster Earnings, Tim Cook at Antitrust Hearing

Saturday August 1, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
Another busy week of Apple news and rumors has wrapped up, with a lot of focus on Tim Cook's appearance at a Congressional antitrust hearing and a blockbuster earnings report. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We continued to hear rumors about the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup, including a rare admission from Apple that the lineup will launch "a few weeks later" than...

Unreleased iPod Touch with Mac Pro Glossy Black Finish Shared Online

Sunday August 2, 2020 11:32 am PDT by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today posted images of what seems to be a first-generation iPod Touch prototype with a 2013 Mac Pro-style glossy black finish. The Twitter user claims that the iPod Touch prototype pictured has "the same coating as the 2013 Mac Pro." Had the finish been selected for the final product, it also would have been similar to the metallic glossy black finish that...

Just How Small Will the 5.4-Inch iPhone 12 Screen Be? Try It Out for Yourself

Tuesday July 28, 2020 12:57 pm PDT by
As rumors of the iPhone 12 have continued to build over the past few months, the one model that has the most excitement around it is the smallest 5.4" model. The iPhone 12 is believed to be coming in 5.4", 6.7", and 6.1" sizes. Dummy models have shown how much smaller the 5.4" is compared to the rest of the iPhone lineup. The upcoming 5.4" iPhone falls in-between the size of the original...

Everything New in iOS 14 Beta 4: Apple TV Widget, Search Improvements, Exposure Notification API and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 11:14 am PDT by
Apple today released the fourth developer betas of iOS and iPadOS 14 for testing purposes, tweaking and refining some of the features and design changes included in the update. Changes get smaller and less notable as the beta testing period goes on, but there are still some noteworthy new features in the fourth beta, which we've highlighted below. - Apple TV widget - There's a new Apple TV...

Microsoft to Stop Supporting Office 2016 for Mac in October

Monday August 3, 2020 12:21 pm PDT by
Microsoft's Office 2016 for Mac is set to reach its end of support date on October 13, 2020, and after that date, connecting to Office 365 services using the Office 2016 for Mac software will no longer be supported. Microsoft shared the detail in a support document from July highlighting which versions of Office will be supported for connecting to Office 365 services in the future.Connecting ...

Apple Shares Requirements for Default Third-Party Browser and Email Apps With Developers

Monday August 3, 2020 4:28 pm PDT by
Apple in iOS 14 plans to allow users to set a third-party app as the default email or browser app on an iPhone or iPad, replacing the current Apple-made default apps Safari and Mail. Apple hasn't provided many details on the new feature to users, but as noted by MacStories' Federico Vittici, Apple has shared documentation with developers who want their apps to have the option to be set as a...