Apple iTunes 11 review

Forget the iPhone 5; the September Apple announcement that made us leap from our seats with a very un-British whoop was that of a new version of iTunes. For years we’ve moaned about Apple’s bloated mess of a management tool – its antediluvian interface, clumsy synchronisation tools and huge memory footprint – so news of an overhaul was welcome.

After a month-long delay it has finally arrived, and in most ways it’s a much-needed improvement. The interface design has been streamlined wherever possible. Gone is the sidebar, with the library sections moved to a dropdown menu in the top-left corner and a Store button in the top right.

The various listing views have been tidied up with some nice enhancements. Click an album cover and a full-width detail panel slides open beneath, complete with track listings and an “In the Store” button to buy related content.

iTunes 11

The old iTunes DJ feature has been replaced by Up Next. This allows you to queue tracks in a playlist that pops out from the playback area at the top, and comes complete with its own contextual menu full of “Go to” options, ratings filters and Genius suggestions. The goal is to allow users to browse seamlessly between a music library and the store, creating playlists organically, and it does its job well.

Once a playlist has been set up, you can switch to the Mini Player – a tiny floating playback control bar. The Up Next list and all its related menus remain usable in this mode, along with AirPlay functions, giving a surprising level of control in such a small window.

The redesign is all well and good, and the design of the store itself now matches its iOS 6 counterpart, but what we really wanted from iTunes 11 was evidence of a diet. On our test Mac, an idle iTunes 10.7 occupied 89MB of RAM, rising to 343MB when browsing the store; after upgrading to iTunes 11, the same actions occupied 76MB and 221MB. As for peak memory use, that was 363MB for iTunes 10.7 and 325MB for the new version.

iTunes 11

It’s a step forward that sums up iTunes 11 as a whole: necessary and welcome, but hardly earth-shattering. Synchronisation with devices remains as clumsy as ever, and it’s surprisingly buggy – some store pages failed to render with a readable layout, while the In The Store link on albums gave us broken, unreadable fonts on some test systems.

If you have iTunes installed for whatever reason it’s worth an upgrade, but this update is unlikely to convince the naysayers.


Software subcategoryMedia software

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