Should iTunes be split into 16 different apps?

“Apple gets a lot of kudos for its design chops, but there’s one product everyone thinks Cupertino can improve: iTunes,” John Brownlee reports for Cult of Mac. “The bloated Swiss army knife app for managing everything from your music library to the apps on your iPhone has been begging for a rethink for years. Yet for whatever reason, Apple has yet to deliver a true design overhaul of iTunes.”

“The situation has gotten so bad, iTunes is now being assigned to college students as a design problem,” Brownlee reports. “Students at German college Fachochschule Potsdam were assigned the task of splitting iTunes up into 16 different apps [Albums, App Control, Apple Books, Apple Tags, Demand, Devices, iGear, iRadio, Movie Time, Music Finder, Podcasts, Push, Shows, Simplay, Sync and Vision]. And the results look pretty good!”

MacDailyNews Take: Apple, especially under Steve Jobs, has shown a great and admirable willingness to cannibalize themselves. They obliterated their iPod business with the iPhone, for one example. But, when it comes to iTunes, they seem paralyzed by fear of change. Apple paralyzed by fear is not a pretty thing and it doesn’t yield pretty things. It yields hot messes like iTunes.

iTunes screams to be broken up into separate, streamlined apps. It’s been screaming that for years. But Apple seems to be scared silly to do so — perhaps 800+ million credit cards have something to do with it — so they’ve tinkered around the edges, making questionable tweaks here an there and bolting on even more bloat.

Grow a pair, Apple, and do what needs to be done already.MacDailyNews Take, July 17, 2015

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote in July:

This has been building for years. With each new version of “iTunes” (even the app’s name hasn’t been right for many years), we’ve had such high hopes, but all we ever get are more and more appendages bolted on to the bloated mass, when it’s exactly the opposite that’s called for!

iTunes is the Yoplait yogurt cup of UIs.
iTunes is the Yoplait yogurt cup of UIs.
iTunes is the Yoplait yogurt cup of UIs. Upside-down, inefficient, messy, unusable in spots and woefully inefficient. The foil top always tears in half; it never comes off in one piece. Trying to spoon it all out of an ever-widening cup maddeningly gets yogurt all over the spoon’s handle and your fingers. And inconvenient bumps molded into the horrid thing to go along with a wide yogurt-catching lip around the top thwart even the most determined of spoon scrapers. The amount of Yoplait yogurt thrown away due to poor packaging design could feed several impoverished nations. The amount of media hidden away, seemingly inaccessible, and lost inside in iTunes is like leftover yogurt forlornly and forever stuck in that awfully-designed Yoplait cup. What a stupid waste!

Apple, take a step back and look at the iTunes app anew. Look at it as if, say, it was a piece of Microsoft software (it certainly looks and acts like one) and approach it as if you’re about to enter the market. What would Apple do? Laugh at what a POS it is and then get to work creating a coherent, easy-to-use solution.

Just like you did with personal computers, MP3 players, smartphones, and tablets make this experience for end users again. Look at what Apple did with non-linear editing via iMovie. You made something very complex into something simple, understandable, and usable for everyone. Reinvent. Simplify. Delight us. Surprise us. That’s why you get the big money.

Give “iTunes” to another Apple team, or teams, or even bring in some outside talent, and see what their fresh eyes might imagine.

SEE ALSO:
The tragedy of iTunes: Nothing ‘just works’ – July 28, 2015
Dear Apple, please go thermonuclear on iTunes – July 28, 2015
Marco Arment: iTunes is a toxic hellstew – July 27, 2015
Jim Dalrymple: I got (most of) my music back; Apple working to fix Apple Music issues shortly – July 26, 2015
Jim Dalrymple: Apple Music is a nightmare, and I’m done with it – July 23, 2015
Apple’s iTunes: Whatever happened to ‘It Just Works? – July 17, 2015
The iTunes Report: Still a mess – July 14, 2015
Apple releases iTunes 12.2.1, fixes iTunes Match issues – July 13, 2015
Apple Music, both on iOS and OS X, is an embarrassing and confusing mess – July 10, 2015
iTunes 12.2 is mangling network-shared libraries – July 6, 2015
Serious iTunes Match issues for some users ahead of Apple Music launch – June 26, 2015
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015

25 Comments

    1. And apps for your devices and Mac.

      Then the question becomes how to you synch them.

      Does each separate music, video, and app application have its own synch?

      Is there one central synch that pulls in your purchases from each of the separated apps?

      I think the synching problem can get solved easier with iCloud. Allow you to create “profiles” that you add apps, music, videos, etc to then assign those profiles to your devices.

    2. What would you do with “Music Video’s”?

      Wasn’t there a time when everyone was demanding that Apple “UNIFY” different media into ONE app. I kind of seem to remember something like that.

      Maybe all they need is a home screen with a 4X4 grid of “apps”; called Music, Books, Videos, Podcasts…..

      Whatever, I am happy the way it is.

      1. I agree, look at what happened to apple magazine newsstand, what a mess. My one place to go is now18, I can’t see the magazine covers without opening the apps, and no common place for notes and bookmarks. I had to go back to Zinio and other racks with some cohesiveness. So please, leave iTunes the way it is, put books back in it, I don’t want to switch apps.

  1. I would definitely split out syncing devices and put apps into the App Store as a minimum. I’d also like the ability to specify a different default location for different medias.

  2. 16 apps? Please God no…

    Would be great to make the apps all be in the App Store, but then there are those stupid Windows users..

    Apple painted themselves into the corner with iTunes being both Windows and Mac apps, and making them do everything…

    I’d be fine with iTunes handling music and movies only, the rest being an iOS sync app. (Which would pull your iTunes data it needs, like music)

    1. Agreed, 16 is a lot. But 8-10 would be good. And why not have multiple apps on Windows? Get those Windows users used to more Apple goodness instead of iTunes GUI hell.

      1. Audiobooks should be its own app/store (like iBooks)
      2. Movies should be its own app/store
      3. TV should be its own app/store
      4. Radio should be its own app/store
      5. Podcasts should be its own app/store
      6. iOS App Store should be its own store

      7. iOS device syncing and backups should be a separate app. It would allow selection of playlists, movies, apps, etc. for syncing. And link to the other apps from those lists to “get more”.

      8. Then iTunes would remain focused on Music.

      The separate apps would launch each other wherever that made sense. For instance, the Radio app would show links to the iTunes music store for the playing song.

    1. The most important task in cleaning up a UI is to remove unnecessary features.

      The second most important task is to separate weakly connected features into completely separate UI’s. (Which can launch each other if there is a reason to link.)

      Just for starters, the iOS app store and podcasts should not be in the same UI.

  3. I recently switched to Swinsian because iTunes has gotten so bad. I just wanted a clean interface to listen to my music. Using Swinsian is like using the iTunes of old when all it did was play music.

    I have no affiliation with Swinsian other than being a happy user.

  4. There has never been a better example of the adage “When a headline ends with a question mark, the answer is always ‘no’.”

    Sixteen apps? Are you fscking kidding me? No way do I want to deal with that many applications.

    How about we just allow iTunes to be configured to hide the stuff you’re not interested in?

    ——RM

  5. Seems to work for the printer companies.
    They have over 400 different print drivers instead of just or or two. That has always been a lot of pure fun to deal with. 😉

    1. Uhoh. You spoke about usability and ergonomics back there. That’s a no-no in the brave thin world of tomorrow where you must have 900+ apps because productivity! There is an upper limit past which more apps = less productivity, not more.

  6. People like to bitch about itunes, but what’s better?

    Let’s say I grab a folder of music from a sharing site or list. (I do that a lot.) I unzip the folder, and dump it in to itunes. If I don’t like the tagging, I select the files and hit command-I and can edit the tags. If I want to add album art from a web page, I drag the art over. If I want to play it on my computer, I hit play. If I want to play it on my apple tv, I access the shared library that way.

    If I want to play it my receiver, I hit play in itunes and select my receiver from the airplay options. If, instead, I want to stream it to the old Marantz receiver in the kitchen I airplay to the airport express that’s plugged into the aux rca jacks.

    If I want to put the tracks on an ipod, I plug in my ipod and drag over the tracks. If I want them on my phone, I select the files, drag them to the right and drop them onto the phone.

    I got Jurassic World today. After entering the digital download info in itunes, I will be able to watch on the computer, stream to apple tv, put on my ipad, all from itunes.

    I have a long train trip tomorrow, about 6 hours total. I have a bunch of magazine pdfs I’ve downloaded. I plug in my ipad, drop the pdfs on, drag over Jurrasic world if I want to have that along, dump some podcasts on, a Fred Hersch album I just got, etc. all using itunes.

    I have around 10 TB of music, books, magazines, comics, movies, etc. and all I need to access all of it, and carry around hours and hours of things from it, is iTunes, my iPad and my iPhone.

    There are thins I need other programs for — XLD for converting FLACS and SHN files, handbrake for other converting, but after the stuff is converted all I need is iTunes.

    There are things I would like iTunes to do better – it still chokes on large libraries, the screen elements keep changing, etc., but having to use six or seven programs just to do the same stuff would be incredibly annoying.

  7. I like iTunes the way it is. What the hell is wrong with people that they can’t navigate it? It’s the simplest thing ever. Each type of media has its own tab on the left. Within each of those are sub-tabs in the middle to switch between your library, the store, etc.

    It’s the best navigation UI I’ve ever seen in iTunes and I don’t see how it could be any better. If you disagree then create a mock UI in a clickable, functioning website to prove yourself otherwise, and don’t do this hassle BS of making 16 different apps, that’s ridiculous and unnecessary.

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