Apple unveiled iTunes 12 as part of the beta build of Mac OS X Yosemite back in July, and has now released it to the public as an update to iTunes 11. It doesn't match our wishlist of improvements, but there are several welcomed changes nonetheless, all of which you could get on your Mac now. Here, we bring you everything there is to know about iTunes 12, including new features and rumours about upcoming updates.
Apple released a completely redesigned version of iTunes in November 2012 - iTunes 11. Unfortunately, it wasn't met by a positive reception. In fact, many users still use iTunes 10.7 because they dislike iTunes 11 so much.
Apple has released various updates since iTunes 11.0, providing tweaks, improvements and minor changes to bring the software to version 11.1.5, but there are still many irritations that we were hoping Apple would fix with iTunes 12. Following the release of iTunes 12, it looks like we'll need to wait until a later update for Apple to grant our wishes, though. See also: 6 Yosemite features you will love
It's been close to two years since Apple released iTunes 11, and since then, the company has unveiled both OS X Mavericks and OS X Yosemite, and iOS 7 and iOS 8. The new operating systems for both Mac and mobile bring huge changes for users, and we suspect that iTunes will get the same treatment eventually.
As mentioned above, iTunes 12 put in its first appearance in July as part of Apple's OS X Yosemite beta, and it was then to the public on 16 October during an Apple event that saw the launch of the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3, Retina 5K iMac and new Mac mini, in addition to the public release of Yosemite.
Plus, find out what's instore for next year: Apple rumours and predictions for 2015
iTunes 12: New design
As expected, Apple has changed the iTunes icon from blue to red(ish). This fits in with the design changes in OS X Yosemite, bringing a flatter, more minimalist design similar to the one found in iOS 7 and iOS 8. See: iOS 7 vs iOS 8 comparison.
It's not just the icon that has adopted the new design. Overall, iTunes 12 has taken on the look rolled out across the rest of Yosemite. See: 22 Yosemite icons compared with Mavericks counterparts.
You'll now see a line of icons for music, movies, TV, audiobooks and apps along the top left of the navigation bar within the iTunes 12 window, rather than the dropdown menu or left-hand column you'll find in the current iTunes, depending on the view you use.
There's a '…' more menu, which lets you see the other options such as iTunes U, Podcasts and more. You can change which icons appear outside of the drop down menu for easy access, depending on your preferences.
In the middle of the navigation bar, you'll now see 'My Music,' 'Playlist,' 'Match,' and 'iTunes Store.' That's in the place of the current 'Songs,' 'Albums,' 'Artists,' 'Genres,' 'Videos,' 'Playlists,' 'Radio.'
Those options are now found at the right of the navigation bar in a drop down menu, where 'iTunes Store' was previously.
The Apps screen and iTunes Store have adopted new designs, too, now flatter and more like the iOS 8 App Store. The storefront revamp emerged in October, later than the other design changes. Gone are the display cards in the carousel, which now appear as scrollable but completely flat banners. Shadows have been removed, too, and a slighty tweaked font has been introduced.
iTunes 12: New features
Apple has added its new Family Sharing feature to iTunes 12. You can find out more about Family Sharing here.
In iTunes 12, Apple has made some improvements to Playlists, too. You can now see your library and playlists side-by-side, so adding songs to playlists is much easier.
Aside from that, though, there are no other new features in iTunes 12 just yet. It's a bit disappointing, particularly after the rumours of a big overhaul for the application (which you can read more about below), but we're still keeping our fingers crossed that a proper update that meets our needs is in the pipeline.
iTunes 12: The rumours
Before iTunes 12 was unveiled, rumours suggested that Apple was planning a complete overhaul of its iTunes Music Store following significant declines in digital music sales.
Prior to the release of iTunes 12, Apple hadn't released a new version of iTunes since 2012, but 2013 did see the introduction of iTunes Radio, an Apple service (so far restricted to the US and Australia) that lets you set up and customise your own 'radio stations' that stream music tailored to your likes and dislikes.
iTunes Radio was part of iTunes 11, and now iTunes 12, but the rumours about the iTunes Music Store overhaul also suggested that Apple could be planning to release it as a standalone application.
What's more, the same rumours even claim that Apple is considering launching iTunes for Android. That might seem crazy, but back in 2003, Apple decided against the odds to introduce iTunes for Windows, so it's not completely outside the realms of possibility.
Of course, Apple's huge acquisition of Beats Electronics, which includes Beats Audio and Beats Music, is another big clue to the future of iTunes and iTunes Radio.
It's believed that the reason for the acquisition of the company is not about the popular Beats headphones, but in fact for the reasonably new Beats Music streaming service, which could mean we're going to get a vastly improved version of iTunes Radio that could be the future of iTunes. Find out more in our Apple and Beats Music: what you need to know article
iTunes 12 rumours: high-definition music
There have also been rumours to suggest that, as part of the overhaul of iTunes, Apple is planning to introduce high-definition music to the iTunes Store, with 24-bit tracks. Currently, iTunes offers 16-bit AAC tracks, which means lots of audio data is lost.
It will allegedly cost a little bit extra for those high-res audio tracks, though.
These HD audio tracks could work well with future headphones that use the Lightning port rather than the 3.5mm jack. Apple used WWDC 2014 to announce that it is introducing a Lightning headphone module that will mean richer controls and app enabled headphones. It could mean better noise cancellation and improved audio quality from headphones that use the Lightning port. Read: How to create playlists on your iPhone or iPad
iTunes 12 rumours: Mystery digital music format
Following Apple's iPhone 6 event on 9 September, the company exclusively released U2's new Songs of Innocence album for free on iTunes, much to the annoyance of many users who found that the album had suddenly appeared in the music library on their devices.
But it seems that Apple has been working with U2 on more than just the album release, as the band's frontman Bono has said that there will be a new digital music format coming soon to iTunes that will help encourage people to buy music again, instead of illegally downloading it or using a streaming service.
It really is a mystery, though, as Bono and Apple haven't said any more than that.
[See how to delete U2 album]
iTunes 12: Wishlist
While there is no evidence to support any of the following features, we know that many iTunes users are hoping that Apple will add them to a future version of the software.
First up, we want iTunes Radio in the UK! It's been available in the US since the release of iOS 7 in September 2013, and also arrived in Australia earlier this year, but there's still no sign of the service elsewhere. Find out more in our iTunes Radio UK release date article.
We'd also like to see iTunes Match improvements as some of our readers have found it unreliable at times. Many would also like to see the return of the Cover Flow feature, as well as the ability to open multiple windows for the various elements of iTunes 11 and 12 (there are so many!)
With iTunes 11, Apple also removed the sound bars, cover preview and iTunes DJ, all of which have been widely missed. The return of these features would please many users.
We'd also love to see iTunes split into two apps (or maybe even more), one for your music library and one for the store. We feel that there's a bit too much going on in iTunes 12, so separating the apps would be a welcome move by Apple. It began simply, as a music player and manager, but it's become overcrowded with new features squeezed in where there really isn't enough space.
If you take a closer look, there could actually be six different apps, one for music, one for videos, one for podcasts, one for the App Store, one for the iTunes Store and one for iTunes U. Apple has already created iBooks, so why not create new apps for the different features we've listed here.
It would be great if we could also allow common music folders to be shared by all of the users of a computer to prevent the need for multiple folders of the same music taking up precious space.