iTunes, iOS, and the Mac

As someone who works with new iOS and Mac users on a daily basis, I have a keen awareness of the confusing parts to Apple’s software. One such area of universal confusion is iTunes on iOS.

Client: So, this is where my music is, right?

Me: No, this is where you buy music. The “Music” app is where you listen to music.

Client: Fair enough.

Me: iTunes is also where you go to buy videos and podcasts, too. But when it comes to actually playing that content back, you go to the respective app. Videos.app for movies and TV shows, and Podcasts.app for podcasts. Think of iTunes just as a store, not the place your media actually resides.

Client: Uhm, ok.

Me: iBooks is an exception to this. You use iBooks to read as well as buy books.

Client: I like that!

Later, when we talk about the Mac…

Client: So, where is the Music, Video, Podcasts, and iBooks apps?

Me: You go to iTunes for all of this. Except for iBooks, there is no way to read iBooks on your Mac. Buy you can buy iBooks on iTunes on your Mac.

Client: Wait, but I can read PDFs on my Mac, and iBooks does this on my iPad, right?

Me: Yes, PDFs are in iBooks on your iPad and iPhone.

Client: Going back to music. I not only buy music in iTunes, but I listen to it here as well?

Me: Right.

Client: How do I get pictures from my Mac onto my iPhone?

Me: With iTunes.

Client: You’re kidding me.

This type of dialogue happens all the time in various forms. It’s not too unlike the legionary bit 

“Who’s on first”

 by Abbott & Costello. By this point, you’re probably realizing that despite Apple’s promises of simple technology, I still have many more years of job security ahead.

The Solution

Kill the iTunes app on iOS and move to the iBooks model for each media app. Each media store should be a button somewhere in the respective app. Thankfully, iOS 6 is heading in this direction. Both Music.app and Videos.app have a store button on their main screen. My point is that Apple should go the extra step and eliminate the iTunes app altogether. For new iOS users, especially ones who hail from the Mac, iTunes.app is a constant point of friction.

As for the Mac, I recommend the same exact thing. Instead of iTunes.app, have apps for Music, Videos, Podcasts, and iBooks. Each app would be able to “flip” over to its respective store. Furthermore, each app would be responsible for syncing its content to iOS. Under this model, iPhoto would be responsible for choosing which pictures get synced over to your device.

Back to iSync

The downside is that there is no centralized app for syncing your data to iPhone and iPad. Perhaps the answer would be to resurrect iSync. While the Mac’s media apps are able to sync their content to iOS, you could also use iSync as well. iSync would manage local iOS backups, iOS updating, iOS app syncing, and app file transfers. Because of iCloud, iSync would rarely be opened for most users. But for those situations where you want to make mass changes and manage your personal gear, it would still be available.