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Apple iOS 6 Gains True Music Streaming

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Taking a page from the Mac OS X iTunes playbook, the upcoming iOS 6 version of Apple's mobile operating system will allow true streaming of content in a user's iTunes Match library.

"We confirmed the feature," said Trevor Sheridan with applenapps.com, "by enabling iTunes Match, listening to about five songs and then turning off iTunes Match."

Sheridan demonstrated the streaming ability in a YouTube video that walks through the steps to show that streaming playback doesn't require downloading, nor does it retain a copy of the streamed music once iTunes Match is turned off.

"Previously, if you did this [in iOS 5], you'd have those five songs stored in your music app," Sheridan said. "After turning off iTunes Match in the iOS 6 beta, we went back in to the music app and none of the five songs was stored."

Sheridan points out that the cloud icon, used by iTunes Match to indicate if a song is on the device or in the cloud, has been removed from next to each non-downloaded song on an album. That may lead to some confusion for those who used the cloud icon to know which songs to download. However, the "download all" cloud icon still remains at the bottom of each album's song list for those who want to download the songs for offline playback.

If the whole idea of streaming in iTunes or iCloud sounds familiar, that's because we've been here before: Apple previously introduced this feature in the Mac OS X version of iTunes, but it wasn't readily apparent to users, and iTunes kept the cloud icon -- perhaps because of the larger screen real estate -- to allow a single-click option for downloading. It appears, in iOS 6, that downloading individual songs requires a tap-and-hold to select the download option.

In addition, the beta of iTunes 5 had some streaming capabilities, which we covered at the time.  One of the areas that the iOS 5 beta covered was streaming of TV shows rented or purchased from the iTunes Store, although Apple quickly did away with both the streaming and rental options, which we also covered as a possible technical limitation.

So will Apple let users, even those on cellular data, stream music content in much the same way they can in apps like Pandora, Rhapsody, or Spotify? The initial answer appears to be yes, assuming that the listener actually owns the content and has stored it in iCloud as part of iTunes Match.

Sheridan, however, cautions that the version of iOS 6 currently being used on iPhones and iPads is beta software, so features are subject to change.

"This is beta one [of iOS 6], so it could change down the line," he said. "But, for now, it's great to see streaming actually built into iTunes Match."

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