Along with the release of iOS 7, Apple has updated iTunes with several new features including iTunes Radio, Genius Shuffle, Podcast Stations, and a few changes to managing iOS devices.
All new upgrades are available for both the OS X and Windows version of iTunes, which can be downloaded here. As with our guide to iTunes 11, this article highlights what you should know about the desktop version of iTunes.
Provided you’re in the US, after you have downloaded and installed the new upgrade, iTunes opens with an invitation to iTunes Radio. This is Apple’s free streaming music service that works similarly to Pandora, coming to international users at a later date.
The service starts you out with DJ-curated or hybrid featured stations that feature a collection of songs in various categories, from iTunes Top 100, Pure Pop, Beatles Radio, to Pure Gold. You can also create your own stations based on artist, genre or song, but you don’t have complete control over which songs appear in the station playlist, nor can you fast forward through or replay currently playing songs, which are played in real time. However, you can skip up to six songs per hour on any given station.
iTunes Radio is a free advert-supported service, but users who subscribe to iTunes Match can listen to stations without interruption.
The currently playing radio song is displayed at the top of the screen, but unfortunately upcoming station songs are not listed. You can right-click on the Up Next icon in the Play window to link to the currently playing song in the iTunes Store, or create a new station from the song or the artist. You can also see a list of previously played station songs.
Placing your cursor next to the song name will reveal a drop-down selection for further customizing the station by selecting to play more songs like the current one, to never play the song again, to create a new station based on the song or to add the song to your Wish List. These same features can be accessed by clicking on the album stack of a radio station.
Note: As of this writing, many iTunes users, including myself, experienced bugs in the system which either excluded Featured Stations, or found editing features missing.
Clicking on Controls > Genius Shuffle in the menu bar (or pressing Option+Space Bar) tells iTunes to search your library and find a collection of songs that work together. It’s similar to Genius Playlist, but you don’t have to select a song to get it started.
You can reshuffle songs as well as create a new playlist based on the currently playing song. Genius is a great way to listen to your iTunes library, and to discover songs you haven’t played in a while.
Similar to iTunes Radio, the Podcast Stations feature allows you to create stations based on your subscribed podcasts. For example, you might create a station of related podcasts and listen to the current episodes one after another.
Managing iOS Devices
The latest iTunes upgrades also include a few changes for managing iOS devices when they are connected to iTunes. I’ve covered how to organize apps and folders on your iPhone before, but the layout for that iTunes-iOS device section has been revised. When your iPhone is connected to iTunes you can manage and re-organize your iOS apps using iTunes and the changes will be pushed to your device.
The new layout allows you to drag and rearrange entire pages, as well as apps and folders. To move an app to another page, you will need to double-click on it in order to drag it to a specific screen.
Though most iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users back up their devices to iCloud, it’s a good idea to back up devices to you computer via iTunes. You can do this by setting up a USB or Wi-Fi connection to your computer and clicking on the listed device in the Sidebar of iTunes. You can set up a wireless connection by going to Settings > General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync on your iOS device.
By default iTunes will automatically sync your selected songs, music, movies, podcasts, and photos with your connected device. To make a full backup of your device, click Back Up Now under Backups, which backs up the device’s content to your computer or external drive. You can restore this backup if need be through the wired iTunes connection.
Note: If you choose the This computer setting, iCloud backup will be disabled and your phone will use your computer as a primary backup location instead.
iTunes Delivers More
With these latest features of iTunes 11.1, the classic media player offers more ways to listen to music and podcasts. The streaming iTunes Radio in particular offers yet another way to enjoy music and discover new songs and artists.
iTunes may often feel bloated for many users, but its multiple functions offer a variety of ways to make use of the application. Let us know what you think of the new features and how iTunes is working for you.