iTunes in the Cloud is the other big download improvement. Within iTunes, click on the iTunes Store, navigate to the store's home page, and then tap the Purchased link in the Quick Links sidebar. This takes you to a page where you can re-download any music, music videos, TV shows, apps, and ebooks you've purchased. You can download items singly, by album or season, or--in the case of songs, apps, and books--all in one fell swoop. This feature is great for adding content on an iOS device that has limited storage when you're out and about, but it's a convenient thing to have with a laptop as well. If you're on the road and the hotel TV delivers nothing more than the day's Pilates schedule, you can re-download some of the TV episodes you haven't had a chance to watch at home.
On the horizon
The one shoe that hasn't yet dropped is iTunes Match. This is a $25-per-year service that will let you access the music in your iTunes library on other computers and iOS devices. Unlike services such as Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player, with iTunes Match you don't have to upload your entire library--it will look at a database of your music and allow you to download (but not stream) 256-kbps AAC copies of that music if it's in the iTunes Store's 20-million-track catalog, even if the original files were encoded in a lesser format. If the music isn't in the store's catalog, you can upload those tracks in their native format. You're limited to storing up to 25,000 tracks, but iTunes purchased tracks don't count against that total.
iTunes Match sounds like a great idea if you have a lot of music ripped at unimpressive bit rates or if you simply want access to the bulk of your music library from anywhere with a decent Internet connection. Of course, if you have a strict data cap from your ISP or on your iOS device, iTunes Match may not be an ideal match.
But we can only speculate about iTunes Match at this point: The service is slated to go live in the coming weeks. Once it does, you can bet we'll take a closer look at how it works and whether it delivers on what sounds like a promising idea.
Macworld's buying advice
The latest version of iTunes works hand-in-hand with iOS 5 to bring many cool new features to your iOS devices. It's easy to give "buying advice" for an application that's free, helps untether your iOS device from your computer, and is required if you hope to have a chance of running the latest version of the iOS at its best on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.
Christopher Breen is a senior editor for Macworld.