iTunes. The mere mentioning of the word is enough to make even the most die-hard Mac user cringe. It’s bloated and it’s slow; it tries to be everything to everyone, but it fails. Miserably.
The situation is even worse if you’re a Windows user. For a long time, iTunes benefited from its position as being the “original” modern music player, but there are now so many fantastic alternatives it’s hard to understand why anyone would still use it.
Often, the reason boils down to one thing: iPhone and/or iPad management. But did you know plenty of Windows apps (and Mac apps ) let you play music and manage your iDevice? Here are five of the best.
Visually, doubleTwist looks like iTunes. But under the hood, it’s a lot faster and a lot easier to use.
The doubleTwist software package is an amalgamation of five different apps. You can install as many or as few of them as you wish.
- Classic Player — Classic Player is a typical media player and management platform. It supports music, video, and podcasts, and can stream directly to AirPlay devices and DLNA devices.
- Sync — Sync integrates with Classic Player and adds functionality to allow you to sync content with your iDevice. It works over Wi-Fi or USB and is bidirectional.
- Cloud Player — The same as Classic Player, but can play files saved on Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive.
- Alarm — Integrates with the media player to play your music at pre-set times.
- AirPlay Recorder — The recorder can record AirPlay streams in real-time. It’ll even save album artwork and associated metadata.
You only need the Classic Player and Sync to enjoy your media and manage your device.
For $8.99 you can buy the pro version. It adds AirSync and AirPlay support, automatic album artwork retrieval, ad-free podcasts, and an equalizer.
There is a drawback to using doubleTwist for managing your iDevice: it only lets you manage your media, not your apps. For most people this is enough, but if you want something more holistic, keep reading.
Let me make it clear: the CopyTrans suite is a management tool — it does not offer a way to play your media. Like doubleTwist, the suite is broken down into several subsections. You do not have to download all of them for the software to function.
CopyTrans Manager lets you transfer music and videos, and you can also send over pre-made playlists, podcasts, audiobooks, and ringtones.
It’s slightly more powerful than doubleTwist when it comes to managing media that’s already on your device. You can edit the metadata of files without transferring them off your device and you can create and edit playlists on your iDevice directly from the desktop app.
CopyTrans Apps gives you a way to backup data on your phone. Apps, documents, and settings are all covered. It will even back up games while retaining your progress and scores.
The Contacts plugin can sync and save your iPhone contacts, calendar, SMS, notes, and reminders.
The app also works with Outlook, Gmail, iCloud, Excel, Windows, Android, BlackBerry, Thunderbird, Hotmail, and Yahoo. This means you can pull contacts from several locations, organize them all into one single address book, and export them directly onto your phone.
The Photos app provides bidirectional syncing of your photos, but it also lets you edit, manage, create, and tag pre-existing photo albums on your device.
The app also comes with a backup feature. You can back up directly to your desktop or an external hard drive.
The CopyTrans suite works with all iPhone, iPad, and iPod models.
Like many of my colleagues, I’m a dedicated MusicBee user . In my opinion, it’s comfortably the best music player available on Windows.
It natively supports any iDevice running iOS 3.11 or earlier. Yes, that’s ancient, but if you’ve got an old iPod at the back of a drawer somewhere, it should work.
Luckily, the thriving MusicBee community is constantly creating new plugins, and there’s a plugin that’ll enable support for all versions of iOS. It will synchronize all your audio files, playlists, play counts, song ratings, and metadata information from the app to your iPhone.
There is one drawback: the plugin requires you to have iTunes installed on your machine. But don’t worry, you’ll never need to either open it or interact with it.
Unlike MusicBee, PodTrans has built-in iPhone support. You don’t need to have iTunes installed on your system, and you don’t need to set-up any complex additional plug-ins.
PodTrans also has a way to manage multiple iDevices at the same time. It’s useful if you want to move your music library onto your iPhone and iPad, or want to share the same group of tracks between friends or family members.
Operating the software is simple: just install the app, plug in your phone using a USB cable, and follow the on-screen instructions. You can either export music to your phone or import tracks from your phone.
If you want to transfer more than audio, try AnyTrans. It has an iTunes backup tool and can sync photos and text as well as your music.
MediaMonkey is like MusicBee. Its focus is on media playback rather than iPhone management.
That said, it is much easier to sync with iDevices than MusicBee, you don’t need any plugins, and you don’t need to have iTunes installed. So why don’t I think it’s as good as MusicBee?
Because of the cost. There is a free version available, but if you want to unlock the true power of the app, you need to part with $24.95 for a lifetime “Gold” subscription. The subscription adds support for on-the-fly conversion, advanced searching, unlimited MP3 encoding, and artwork/lyric lookup . All those features are included for free in MusicBee.
Which Software Do You Use?
I hope my article has made it clear there is no perfect solution. Some apps excel at transferring and syncing but their media players lack features, some apps excel at music playback but need work to make them sync efficiently.
In contrast, iTunes can do everything to an average standard. If you’re one of the few people who needs all iTunes’ features, perhaps it’s best to bite the bullet and stick with Apple’s software. Or buy an Android.
Which apps do you use to listen to music and manage your iDevice? Let me know in the comments below.
Image Credits: Drpixel/Shutterstock