Solving the iTunes Match Conundrum
Ecoute for iOS is a third party music player that looks great, and functions beautifully. It has scrobbling to last.fm, a play queue (one of my favourite features) and with its latest release a fresh coat of paint that's well suited on iOS 7.
But more important than all that, it may have finally solved my iTunes Match conundrum.
If you're like me you're iTunes library is big. Really big. Huge even. And while that can be manageable on the Mac, on the smaller screen of the iPhone it can be daunting. When you have a library as large as mine finding that one album you want to listen to is painful, as is simply finding tracks you've already synced to your phone. Since it first debuted I've longed for iTunes Match to function like purchased music from iTunes; available as a separate tab in iTunes Store.app or Music.app. For almost two years I've tried to find a useable solution, only to quickly abandon it in favor of selective sync through iTunes (which is a whole different world of pain, but one that I'm used to).
But I think I've finally licked it...
In iOS 7 they introduced a feature that allowed you to "show all music" - that is everything synced to iTunes Match as well as purchases in the cloud - or to simply show music synced to the phone. This was a good start, but with that toggle buried in the settings app it was a lot of clicks every time you wanted to switch. Moreover every time you turned it back on there was a considerable lag as the music app rebuilt your library.
The newest version of Ecoute added a similar feature, also available from the setting application - you can choose to show everything synced to your phone as well as purchases in iCloud (in a beautiful interface I might add), or you can opt to simply show what is synced to your phone.
See where I’m going with this?
Now you can use Ecoute as your primary music player (which is a much better designed, far more elegant player than the built in iOS 7 default), and whenever you want to pull down something new from the cloud quickly switch over to Music.app, do a search (and with a library of my size even that is painful) and pull down the new stuff you want. Wait for it to download, then swap back over to Ecoute and you're free to listen. And one of the nice benefits of this method is that your music will also scrobble to last.fm, a feature I've wished Apple would build into the default player for years.
You probably could work out a similar solution with any number of third party iOS music apps, but for my money Ecoute really does seem to be the best of the numerous ones I have tried. Its interface is different, but familiar enough that you never feel lost. I’ve tried a couple third party music players that look “cool”, but functionally are a mess because they spent too much time thinking about what looks cool and not enough time on what actually makes sense to a user. Ecoute is that perfect blend of form and function.