iTunes 10.5 (MW) full review

You can set your iPod nano’s clock-like interface by it: when Apple ships a major update to iOS, an updated version of iTunes isn't far behind. The basic features of iTunes 10 haven’t changed at all; what’s most exciting about iTunes 10.5 is that – thanks to iCloud and wireless syncing of iOS devices – you’ll have to sit down in front of the application far less frequently.

Syncing sans wires

You can now sync your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with iTunes 10.5 without the aid of wires – at least after the first time you sync your device. For this to work your mobile device must be using iOS 5, but your Mac need only be running Mac OS X 10.5 or later – Lion isn’t required.

To enable wireless syncing, you must first plug your iOS device into the computer you wish to sync with. Once syncing is enabled, when you unplug the device from your computer its name will remain in iTunes’ Source list as if it were physically connected to your Mac. To sync it later, just tap Sync Now in the Wi-Fi Sync setting screen or select the device in iTunes’ Source list.

iTunes' basic features haven’t changed; what’s most exciting is that – thanks to iCloud and wireless syncing of iOS devices – you’ll have to sit down in front of it far less frequently

With iTunes' Wi-Fi Sync enabled, the device will also automatically sync when you plug it into a powered cable, provided that iTunes is running on the computer you’re syncing with. Regrettably, Wi-Fi Sync doesn’t have the power to auto-launch iTunes when you initiate syncing and you can’t make changes to the content you’re syncing from your iOS device.

Your device will remain in iTunes’ Source list even after you’ve quit and restarted iTunes or rebooted your Mac. However, if you unmount the device by clicking on the Eject icon next to it, you have to physically tether it to your Mac to mount it again. This is somewhat confounding at first, but it does make sense. Suppose you’ve attached your iPhone to your iMac and set up wireless syncing. A few weeks later, you decide that you’d prefer to sync the phone with your MacBook Air. By ejecting it from the iMac’s copy of iTunes, you’ve freed it to establish a syncing relationship with another computer.

And, of course, there’s data syncing. If you have an iCloud account and have switched on iCloud Backup within iCloud’s Storage & Backup screen (which requires OS X Lion) or in iTunes’ Summary, much of your data is backed up to the cloud, meaning one less trip to iTunes.

More flexible download options

Downloads are another area where Apple is helping you to spend less time with iTunes. First is the Automatic Downloads feature. The idea is simple. When you buy music, apps or books from Apple’s online stores, that purchase can be set to be automatically downloaded to your other devices – iOS-based or iTunes-running. Subsequent purchases from the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore will automatically download to any computers and devices configured to take advantage of Automatic Downloads, regardless of where you make the purchase. For iPhone, iPod touch and iPad owners, this makes for far fewer trips to the iTunes Store, App Store and iBookstore, or to the copy of iTunes on their Mac.

iTunes in the Cloud is the other big download improvement. Within iTunes, click on the iTunes Store, navigate to the store’s home page, and then tap the Purchased link in the Quick Links sidebar. This takes you to a page where you can redownload any music, videos, TV shows, apps and ebooks you’ve purchased. You can download items singly, by album or season, or – in the case of songs, apps and books – all in one fell swoop.

This feature is great for adding content on an iOS device that has limited storage when you’re out and about, but it’s a convenient thing to have with a laptop as well. If you’re on the road you can redownload some of the TV episodes you haven’t had a chance to watch at home.

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