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macOS Catalina’s Music App Rocks: iTunes Isn’t Really Dead

My favorite thing about macOS Catalina isn't exactly new. I've been testing the Catalina beta for weeks and after playing with its most ballyhooed features, and my favorite thing about this OS update is how the new Music app doesn't break any of iTunes' functionality.

Music retains all the iTunes features that power users love. Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Music retains all the iTunes features that power users love. Credit: Tom's Guide)

As I'm someone who grew up with iTunes, I can't begin to explain how much of a relief this is. Music retaining this features is also an important thing to know if you are considering installing the macOS Catalina public beta, which just came out today.

When I rolled macOS over from Mojave to Catalina , I changed the album titles of a few digital downloads to see if iCloud Music Library still worked. Thankfully, I saw that the version of James Blake's recent album "Assume Form" joined the Apple Music version in not just the Music app on the MacBook Pro I was testing Catalina on, but also my iPhone.

Compatibility with user-owned MP3 files is important because of the underlying message of an app named Apple Music. When the new app was first announced, I was worried Apple would pivot to an app built only for Apple's own streaming media service, nixing iTunes' past history as a service-agnostic app.

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Support for uploading your own songs to Apple's cloud server is important for anyone who still holds onto music that hasn't been released commercially. If Apple were to ditch the ability to upload your own tracks, such as live concert recordings (talk to Phish fans and Radiohead devotees) or mixtapes with unlicensed samples, some users would switch to Google Play Music, the only other big name with a Cloud Locker feature. (Amazon dropped this feature in 2018.)

Next, I verified that Apple's own Smart Playlists, another of its strong, unique features, were still around. I have my own "Top 50" playlist, a constantly updating playlist of the 50 songs I've listened to the most, so I can go back and hear gems I haven't blasted in years.

Now that I've seen that Music keeps everything that makes iTunes special, I'm more positive about the death of iTunes. To find out more about macOS Catalina, including iPad-specific reasons to update — and how the death of 32-bit apps might be a dealbreaker — check out my review of the macOS Catalina beta.