What will Apple killing iTunes mean for your music?

Posted: 4 June 2019 6:03 am

macOS Catalina Apple Music App

Apple has confirmed the death of iTunes, but what happens next to your content?

At its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote overnight, Apple confirmed the rumours. iTunes is on the way out, to be replaced with individual apps for music, video and podcasts in the upcoming macOS 10.15, aka Catalina.

It's a step that Apple has already taken with its iOS platform, but what's the practical effect going to be for everyday iTunes users?

It's not quite dead yet

Before you panic, iTunes isn't actually dead as of today. It's living on borrowed time, to be sure, but it won't become an official reality until the public version of macOS 15.5 ships later in the year.

Even then, Apple is fully aware that many users won't jump towards the new version of macOS immediately, so it will need to keep the iTunes servers humming along for some time after that.

What happens to my existing iTunes content?

Any content that you've legally purchased through the existing iTunes infrastructure should survive the switch to individual apps just fine. Apple's press release for macOS Catalina makes this rather explicit:

"...users will have access to their entire music library, whether they downloaded the songs, purchased them or ripped them from a CD."

The same should follow for any movie or TV show purchases. While Apple's focus is clearly switching more towards streaming services such as its existing Apple Music service and upcoming Apple TV+ video service, its investment in paid platforms is a little too big to simply cut and run.

Will I still be able to buy music?

Yes, you will. While iTunes as a distinct application is going away, it seems that the branding – and access – will remain for those who like to purchase their music through Apple. In its release, Apple notes that

"...For those who like to own their music, the iTunes Music Store is just a click away."

Will I still be able to buy TV shows and movies?

Again, the answer is yes, but here you'll be doing so via the new dedicated Apple TV app that will take over the video functions of iTunes when macOS Catalina appears later this year. If you've used the existing Apple TV 4K or bought or rented shows on an iPad, this should be a familiar experience.

Will I still be able to do a local backup of my iOS devices?

You will, but in a new way. iOS itself is splitting slightly, with iPads now getting "iPadOS" with a slew of new tablet features, but for iPhones and iPod Touch devices, local backups will be handled directly through the macOS Finder, rather than through iTunes. This will be an option in Finder when you plug your device in via Lightning or USB C cable, depending on your device model.

I'm on an older Mac or iOS device. What happens to me?

Apple's track record when it comes to supporting older versions of macOS isn't terrible, but it's not really said what happens if you're in a situation where iTunes is your only option. On the iOS side, the push to upgrade is a little stiffer, with the new iOS 13 coming for iPhone 6s or newer phones, for example. You're definitely living on borrowed time there, and we're chasing Apple for comment about what happens to folks on much older Mac devices for clarification.

I'm on a PC. What happens to my iTunes?

That's a very good question and one that Apple didn't directly address at its WWDC keynote. Then again, it was talking to a rabid crowd of macOS developers, and mention of Windows might not have gone down well there. We've asked Apple for clarification around what happens to the PC version of iTunes and will let you know once it's clear.

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