The release of iTunes 9 adds a significant set of new features and a refreshing look and functionality to the store yet with every new release I still find myself wanting more. I do have to concede they are trying to tackle one of my biggest complaints about digital music and that is the loss of the album experience. The iTunes LP feature in is attempting to bring this back but only time and selection will decide if it is successful. Genius continues to improve and is at a point where I feel it satisfies my mix needs to a Pandora level. So what do I have to complain about? What is missing? Plenty.
The biggest thing I want to see from Apple is a true discovery engine that is driven by peers. Social integration in iTunes can take music discovery to a whole new level if they properly integrate it. While genius mixes are attempting to provide this service it is still missing that hand sell element you get from a social human. I would love to know what 60% of the people that have 80% in common with my library or selected parts of it are listening to that I am not. But if Apple really wants to produce the ultimate application they need to mix the podcast engine with the music. What I mean by this is simple. Imagine if anyone could produce their own radio show on iTunes, using any song available from iTunes and then anyone could subscribe to it and purchase songs. Imagine being able to record your commentary, drag and drop songs from the iTunes store into the timeline and then push it live for people to listen to in iTunes. One of the few good things radio has to offer is the hosts ability to introduce music and artists through commentary, background information and more. I would love to record my own show and play songs I love for reasons I want people to know. And yes, I expect them to pay for the songs if they don’t already own them. Of course the problem is that it only works for streaming content unless Apple is willing to launch an all you can eat subscription service and even then they would probably have to battle huge rights issues. The new twitter and facebook social integration with iTunes is a pretty blunt tool and falls short of what it could be.
While I was happy with the new iPhone application sorter to make syncing easier there still is much work to be done to improve it and I was disappointed the app store hasn’t seen any significant organizational changes other than a facelift. It would be nice not only to just drag and drop your apps onto the chosen screens but Apple should have provided easy category organization. I would like to be able to choose my home screen apps then have iTunes automatically put all of my games on one page, utilities on another, social apps and other categories on their own pages. It would be even cooler to have iTunes examine your apps and recommend smart or proximity organization. For example, the Yelp app works great next to the Open Table app.
Also missing from this upgrade is some much needed changes to the app store organization and navigation. I hate the fact that you can’t sort apps by rating but only by popularity or release date or best sellers. I want to be able to sort by number of ratings, average rating or be able to select my sort criteria. It used to be easy to find cool new apps on the store in the beginning, now with so many apps I feel it is more like a hunting exercise.
Last I would like to see better utilities built into iTunes for organizing and managing your library. I have become insanely obsessive about trying to complete information about each song from artwork to album, title, artist, genre, etc. Maybe iTunes could harness the collective power of thousands of libraries to examine my collection and round out my meta data. It would also be very nice if you could build your own iTunes LP for a collection of songs. For example, maybe I have the entire Beatles collection in my library and want to build my own digital extras for the White Album from information I collect.
iTunes 9 is a solid step forward and there still is no better tool for managing your music than iTunes but it can be better, it can evolve, it still has the potential to change everything we know about experiencing and managing content.