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.

match
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

longofest Avatar
130 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)
ksgant Avatar
130 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)
fredfnord Avatar
130 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)
Michael Scrip Avatar
130 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)
Carouser Avatar
130 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)
arn Avatar
130 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

REC ASA CODE2016 20160601 205816 2745

Elon Musk Reportedly Demanded to Become Apple CEO as Part of Potential Tesla Acquisition [Update: Musk Denies]

Friday July 30, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly once demanded that he be made Apple CEO in a brief discussion of a potential acquisition with Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook. The claim comes in a new book titled "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century," as reviewed by The Los Angeles Times. According to the book, during a 2016 phone call between Musk and Cook that touched on the possibility of ...
General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
iPhone 13 Always On Feature

iPhone 13 to Bring Over a Major Feature From the Apple Watch

Wednesday July 28, 2021 2:21 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will feature an always-on display akin to the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6, according to recent reports. In his weekly Power On newsletter, Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman, who often reveals accurate insights into Apple's plans, said that the iPhone 13 may feature an Apple Watch-inspired always-on mode. The Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch...
duracell battery bitter coating

Apple Says Don't Buy AirTag Replacement Batteries With Bitter Coating

Wednesday July 28, 2021 11:08 am PDT by
Since AirTags were just released earlier this year and are expected to have a year-long battery life, it may be some time yet before AirTag users need a replacement battery, but when the time comes for a refresh, Apple is warning customers not to buy batteries with a bitter coating. AirTags use coin-shaped CR2032 batteries, which happen to be a size that's easy to swallow. Some battery...
a15 chip

iPhone 13 and Redesigned MacBook Pro Chip Production Hit With Gas Contamination

Friday July 30, 2021 5:44 am PDT by
The most important TSMC factory that manufactures Apple's chips destined for next-generation iPhone and Mac models has been hit by a gas contamination, according to Nikkei Asia. The factory, known as "Fab 18," is TSMC's most advanced chipmaking facility. TSMC is Apple's sole chip supplier, making all of the processors used in every Apple device with a custom silicon chip. Industry...
apple rtp land

Apple Preparing to Occupy 200,000 Square Feet of Temporary Space Ahead of New $1 Billion North Carolina Campus

Thursday July 29, 2021 9:14 am PDT by
Back in April, Apple announced a $430 billion investment over the next five years to create more than 20,000 new jobs as the company continues to expand. One significant piece of that plan is a new engineering and research center in North Carolina where Apple will be investing over $1 billion and hiring at least 3,000 employees. Assemblage of seven properties in Research Triangle Park owned by ...
Apple Leak Feature

Apple Demands Leaker Reveals Sources Under Threat of Being Reported to Police

Wednesday July 28, 2021 6:53 am PDT by
Apple has sent a cease and desist letter to a leaker based in China as part of its continuing attempts to curtail leaks of unreleased products, according to Vice. A Chinese citizen who shared images of stolen Apple prototypes on social media was sent a warning letter from Fangda Partners, Apple's law firm in China, on June 18, 2021. An extract from the letter read:You have disclosed without ...
macos monterey tidbits feature copy

Apple Releases New macOS 12 Monterey Public Beta

Wednesday July 28, 2021 10:19 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the third public beta of the macOS 12 Monterey beta to public beta testers, allowing non-developers to test the new macOS Monterey software ahead of its public release. The third beta comes two weeks after Apple released the second macOS Monterey public beta. Public beta testers can download the macOS 12 Monterey update from the Software Update section of the System...
iOS 15 General Feature Purple

Apple Releases New Public Betas of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and tvOS 15

Wednesday July 28, 2021 10:16 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the third betas of iOS and iPadOS 15 to public beta testers, allowing non-developers to download and test the new updates ahead of their fall release. The third public betas come two weeks after Apple released the second public betas. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS and iPadOS 15 updates over the air after...
nothing ear 1 buds 1

Nothing 'Ear (1)' True Wireless Earbuds Launch to Take on AirPods Pro With ANC and Unusual Design for $99

Tuesday July 27, 2021 7:57 am PDT by
Nothing, a new brand from OnePlus founder Carl Pei, has today officially launched the "Ear (1)" true wireless earbuds after months of anticipation around the company's AirPods Pro rival. The Ear (1) features an in-ear design, Active Noise Cancelation, Bluetooth 5.2, IPX4 water resistance, and a charging case with Qi-compatible wireless charging and a USB-C port. Fast pairing is supported on...