iTunes turns 10

How to fix the iTunes Store

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Review reviews

You can't review an app your haven't bought—but you can do so with a song, a movie, a TV show, or a podcast you haven't heard or listened to. Why the disparity?

Attempt to rate an app you haven’t purchased, and the App Store warns you that you won’t actually be able to do so unless you buy it. Not so for iTunes’s music, movies, books, and podcasts: You can rate whatever you want at whatever star-ranking you feel it deserves, even if you’ve never heard the song or read the book.

On one hand, I understand that Apple wants to offer freedom to those who may have read books or listened to music elsewhere. But with this freedom comes chaos—there are plenty of excellent books and albums out there with 2-star rankings, thanks to a few people’s angry reactions to cover art or pricing. You can’t rate an app for “being too expensive.” Why should Apple let anyone with an Apple ID do the same to an album, book, TV show, movie, or podcast?—Serenity Caldwell

Extended play

You don't just want to know if you'll like 30 or 90 seconds of a song. Let us hear the whole thing.

While 90-second previews are certainly better than the old 30-second limit, entire songs are better yet. Go ahead, limit them to one play only. Or limit full previews to one per day, or five per week, or 14 per month. And allow us to share those full previews with others via Facebook and Twitter. Yes, the occasional criminal type will capture the track in real time, but honestly, there are easier ways to steal music.—Christopher Breen

Liner of duty

Liner notes shouldn't be limited to some album purchases. Sometimes we just want the lyrics so we can sing along.

In the days of physical media it was common to find information-packed booklets bundled with LPs and CDs. From these scraps of paper you’d learn who had played on the track or album, where it was recorded, who engineered and produced it, and whose sticks the drummer used. For those who liked singing along (or making out exactly what that death-metal tenor was screaming about), lyrics were also included. Apple provides some of this information as part of more-expensive iTunes LP versions of albums. Time to bring it to all albums in the form of included PDF files.—Christopher Breen

Background check

Those app updates have a way of mounting up. Why can't iTunes just download them automatically in the background?

Many of us still download and install/sync iOS apps through iTunes. The problem is that if you have a lot of apps, you always have a little—or big—number next to the Apps entry in iTunes’s sidebar, indicating that there are app updates available. And if you really have a lot of apps, iTunes will show you, and let you download, no more than 200 at a time. And each batch you download, you’ll likely be prompted to confirm that, yes, you really do want to download apps that may contain 18-and-over content (usually because one of the apps contains a Web browser). In other words, updating apps in iTunes is a hassle. Apple should add the option to automatically download app updates in the background, just as Software Update could download OS X updates when available. You’ll still need to sync those apps to your iOS devices, but at least the updates will be ready and waiting.—Dan Frakes

Window to the Stores

With iTunes 11, Apple gave the app a major interface overhaul. While some of those changes were improvements, one was a major step backwards for heavy users of the iTunes Store: You can no longer open the Store in a separate window. This means, for example, that if you’re browsing your music library or playing a playlist, and you click an iTunes Store link on a webpage or in an email or a tweet, iTunes has no other choice but to leave your current window view and switch to the Store view, losing whatever you happened to be doing. In iTunes 10 and earlier, we could simply keep the iTunes Store open in an independent window. If Apple isn’t going to break the iTunes Store out into a separate app (see the next item), the company should at least let us open it in a separate window again.—Dan Frakes

Divide and conquer

On iOS, each store gets a separate storefront, and iTunes isn't jammed in with the Music player. Simple, elegant.

iTunes started as a relatively simple audio player. But over the past decade, it’s been asked to also handle movies, TV shows, other videos, podcasts, ebooks, PDFs, ringtones, and various other bits of iPod and iOS data. But at least these features are coherent parts of an app for managing and syncing media—the iTunes Store feels like something completely different that’s been bolted on. Sure, the Store lets you buy and download many of those types of media and data, but it’s not the only place to get that stuff. And integrating the Store into iTunes makes iTunes bigger and, it seems to me, slower and more confusing to use. Just as Apple has done on iOS, I’d like to see the iTunes Store pulled out of iTunes and turned into an independent app.—Dan Frakes

Simple samples

Clicking 'Get Sample' on your Mac means you have to find your iPhone or iPad and fire up iBooks. Hardly an ideal experience.

Apple did the right thing by adding the ability to browse and make purchases from the iBookstore via your computer. And while an iOS device may be the ideal way to enjoy iBooks, it would be really nice to at least be able to read ebook samples on your computer. Most (perhaps all) books on the iBookstore provide samples to help you decide if you’re interested in buying them, which is often more helpful than the short book description in the iTunes details. But if you’re browsing the iBookstore, having to send a sample to your iOS device, switch to it, launch iBooks, and then read it is irritating. Instead, just make samples unprotected PDFs. After all, they’re really just marketing materials; that way we can view them on our computers. And, hey, it might even boost overall book sales.—Jonathan Seff

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