A Closer Look At iTunes Match vs. Home Sharing vs. Web Streaming

Bakari Chavanu 07-12-2011

itunes matchWith the recent launching of Apple’s iCloud How to Set Up iCloud For Your iOS Devices No doubt the most welcomed feature of the latest iOS 5 update for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad is Apple rolling out iCloud and wireless Wi-Fi connectivity for its smart mobile devices and Macs. Many... Read More and the music streaming service iTunes Match, cloud computing seems to be the future of Apple and other computer companies. If you use multiple Apple devices like I do, you no doubt welcome the recent upgrades for wirelessly syncing data between your computer and iOS devices.


But after subscribing to and exploring iTunes Match, I find the paid service not as useful as Apple’s wireless iTunes syncing, its Home Sharing feature, and music streaming service sites like and Spotify.

iTunes Match

iTunes Match is a music streaming service ($24.99 per year) that essentially allows you to sync all the songs (including the ones you purchased in the iTunes Music Store and ones you imported from other sources such as CDs) from your iTunes Music Library to your iCloud account over Wi-Fi or 3G. In turn, you can access your songs in the cloud from any iTunes supported Mac or PC and on your iOS devices.

Itunes match

With iTunes Match, your song files are not physically uploaded to the cloud. Rather, iTunes scans your iTunes Library and matches your song content with the vast catalog of songs in the iTunes Music Store. The matched music is added to your iCloud account. Songs in your library that are not found in the Store don’t of course get matched, and thus don’t appear in iCloud.

If you’re an avid user of iTunes and customer of the iTunes Music Store, iTunes Match may very well be a useful subscription service for you. In addition to having access to your music in the cloud, the paid service backs up your music to cloud; and if your songs are ever deleted on your local drive they can be re-downloaded from your iCloud.


But there are problems with iTunes Match that you might want to consider. First off, though you can stream your music from your iCloud account over Wi-Fi onto your iTunes supporting computer(s), you can’t stream music in the same way to your iPhone and other iOS devices. You have to actually select and download those songs from your iCloud account to your device, which means that it will take up memory space in your device. In fact, when you turn on iTunes Match on your device, it replaces the iTune library set up for your device prior to iTunes Match.

Wireless iTunes Syncing

With the release of iOS 5 for the iPhone and other Apple devices, you can now sync data between your device and the iTunes library on your computer over your local network.

With this wireless syncing, you can add and delete songs and playlists in your iTunes library for your devices and sync those changes without having to make a wired connection to your computer. In fact, after the initial setup, your iOS device will automatically sync your iTunes library when you have the device plugged into a charger and connected to your local Wi-Fi network.

itunes match review


You can also manually execute wireless syncing in the Summary page of your iTunes or in the Settings app of your iOS device (General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync > Sync Now). I prefer this approach over iTunes to managing music on my iPhone. This method allows me to select and deselect songs in my iTunes library instead of having to download them (and manually remove them) individually from my iCloud account.

I even use a Smart Playlist in iTunes that automatically removes songs I’ve played on my iTunes and/or my iPhone in the last 2 weeks. When songs are dropped off they are automatically replaced with new tracks from my library.

itunes match review

This wireless smart playlist requires no manual downloading on my part and it keeps my iPhone updated with different music from week to week.


Home Sharing Features

iTunes Match may be most useful to iTunes users who travel frequently and want to have access to their music in the cloud. However, for the rest of us, the Home Sharing feature of iTunes (see here How To Set Up Home Sharing On Your Apple Mobile Device Well, it took Apple long enough, but now you can finally stream the contents of your iTunes library on your Mac or PC to your iPhone or iPad without using a third party application. Read More for how to set it up) will probably be sufficient for sharing and accessing all the content in your iTunes library with your computers and iOS devices. With iTunes Match, on the other hand, you can only share your songs, not your other content such as downloaded movies and TV shows.

itunes match review

Streaming Music Services

Lastly, I would argue that streaming music services like Spotify, Rdio, and MOG may be a better and much more affordable option for those of us who have a good Wi-Fi connection.

itunes match


An affordable $5 per month subscription to one of these music streaming services allows you to stream, commercial free, all the songs and albums in their catalog. For $10 per month you can stream music from these sites to your mobile smartphone. These music streaming sites also have free ad-supported options as well. See my article, The Pros and Cons of Streaming Music vs. Downloading MP3s The Pros And Cons Of Streaming vs Downloading MP3s I've been a long-time user of streaming music services – from Pandora, to the now defunct online music locker, and now as a monthly subscriber to If you have a computer and a... Read More for more about this option.

So what is your view of iTunes Match, iCloud and other streaming music services. Which do you prefer and why?

Explore more about: Cloud Computing, iCloud, iTunes.

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  1. David
    May 26, 2012 at 4:59 am

    If I have I tunes on several machines, all connected with my I tunes account, does it matter if I sign up for match on my iPad, iMac or pc?

  2. Gary Hayes
    February 4, 2012 at 8:03 am

    " though you can stream your music from your iCloud account over Wi-Fi onto your iTunes supporting computer(s), you can’t stream music in the same way to your iPhone and other iOS devices. You have to actually select and download those songs from your iCloud account to your device, which means that it will take up memory space in your device."

    This article is inaccurate as you can stream music from the cloud onto all ios 5 devices such as iPad and iPod touch.  Gary J Hayes UK

    • Bakari Chavanu
      February 4, 2012 at 8:48 am

      Hmmm, okay, I re-enabled iTunes Match–now almost a month after writing this article, and it certainly works as you subscribe. But when I first used the service, I had to download songs instead of them streaming to my device. Not sure if there was an upgrade since then or not, but I carefully went through the process when writing this article.

      Thanks for the update and correction.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      February 10, 2012 at 7:54 am

      You know, i just checked this again the other day while driving in my car. I had forgotten that I turned off iTunes Match on Mac. So when I got home and turned it back on, it matched back up on my devices when enabled. However, I learned that when I'm out running on 3G, not Wi-Fi, you have to download the songs that are in Match on the device. If I'm home on my network, then yes the songs do play over the network. But when I tap on a song on iPhone iTunes library, it will download to my device, though it will start playing as it downloads. It does not stream to the device. 

      I also did some FAQ research on this subject, and found this:

      "On a computer, any songs stored in iCloud will stream over the air when played, though you can download them at any time by clicking the iCloud download button. iOS devices will start playing tracks from iCloud as they download and will store them so that you can listen to them later even if you don’t have a network connection. Apple TV only streams songs."

  3. muotechguy
    December 9, 2011 at 2:31 am

    Bakari, I'm pretty sure you can stream from iTunes cloud to your iOS device. Initial reports from July said it wasn't a streaming service, but the most recent reviews I've read have indicated you can actually. 

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm

      Hmm, it doesn't seem to stream well for me. I still need to take some time and test it out more. It seems to download the songs instead of stream them.

  4. Robert Rowe
    December 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Itunes Match will allow songs that are not matched in the iTunes to be uploaded to the cloud.  In fact that hey have a strict 25K limit for any songs not purchased from iTunes.  You may want to update your article to correct that. Thanks, RR.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm

      Hmm, okay, thanks for letting us know that. Do the non-matched tracks get  uploaded automatically?

      • Ctownbos
        December 8, 2011 at 4:24 am

        Yes they do. And you can replace all your matched music with high 256 bit rate quality songs to upgrade your collection. That pays for itself right there. I created a smart playlist to upgrade all my music at once.

  5. Kelly
    December 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I use google music

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm

      Kelly, I don't know anything about Google Music. Can only listen to it in a Google web player app?

      • Kelly
        December 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm

        you can listen at as well as through the android music application