Monday, August 23, 2010

iPhone 3Gs / A replacement for iTunes

As I've been mentioning, I've been dissatisfied with my Gravity T and really wanted an iPhone instead. I just went on a vacation for a week with the family and came home to find my used, iPhone 3Gs waiting for me. I slipped in my SIM card and it works. It's in great condition, and with the hope it will not explode in the next few days, the seller will receive very positive feedback.

Now comes the tricky part: moving over. I really hate iTunes. I'm still using iTunes, mostly because I'm stubborn, but also because I'm not sure there's a replacement that can sync everything that iTunes can. So here's a list of things that I think an iPod/iPhone manager should absolutely have, in order of importance (IMO):
  1. Music
  2. Library management 
  3. CD Rip (to MP3/M4A)
  4. Smart Playlists 
  5. Video Type (Movie/TV Show/Music Video) 
  6. Ratings
  7. Play Count
  8. Podcasts
  9. Album Art 
  10. Lyrics
  11. 'Remember Position'
  12. 'Skip when shuffling'
  13. Photos
  14. (Touch/Phone only) App Sync
  15. (Touch/Phone) Contact Sync
  16. (Phone) Ringtones Sync
  17. (Touch/Phone) Books?
  18. iTunes U?
I honestly can't find anything that can do all of those. My friend and I were IMing about it a while ago and I didn't really have an outright list of things I wanted a replacement to do, besides "syncing everything." (That was actually back when I was looking into buying my iTouch.) My friend suggested Winamp, which actually probably is one of the top three in terms of music sync. But music is only a piece of the puzzle. I'm pretty sure that everything except the shuffle can play videos, have photos, etc, and frankly, Winamp can't do that (to my knowledge). So I'm in search of a replacement.

My guess is that after a couple days of intense searching, I'll come up short and stick with iTunes, which is a damn shame. I'm even willing to "piece together" an iPhone manager, for example, like one program for music, another for photos, and another for videos. I've found a pretty amazing music manager called MusicBee that is everything I wanted; the only thing it lacks is iOS4 support. But as for video and photo, I've come up blank. The only -literally only- Video Manager freeware I've found is called Pump, and is unstable, to say the least; additionally, although it does claim iTunes sync, I don't think it has separate sections for TV shows/Movies/Music Videos. And I can't find a freaking photo manager anywhere.

So I'm kinda stuck, which sucks, because I was all mentally prepared to switch. I've been using iTunes, the same iTunes library for years, so it's got all my ratings, playcounts and whatnot, and I am a stickler when it comes to playcounts. But I decided to start fresh, and actually rebuild my library tossing out songs I don't want. It's a big step for me, and all I need is a few programs to make it work. Here's what I believe I'll need, separating everything into it's own section:
  1. Music: Really self explanatory, except for the few things I mentioned above. Also needs to keep and organize the library.
  2. Video: Needs to be able to handle iPhone compatible formats, differentiate between types (movie/tv show/podcast/music video), and needs to be able to sync only certain videos in your library.
  3. Photo: Two way sync, that's all.
  4. Apps: Need to be able to back-up and restore iTunes store (and possibly Cydia) apps. This may not exist, so iTunes may be acceptable for only this.
I honestly don't see how there are so many music managers out there when it is by far the hardest job. For photos, all you'd have to do is (a) choose a folder to sync with, (b) copy photos to the iPhone if they don't exist there, and (c) copy new photos on the iPhone to the PC. That's all. If I new anything about how syncing / connecting with iPhones worked, I could probably write a very crude one in under 20 minutes.

On a side note, I'm still trying to sell my Gravity T and iPod Touch 3G 32GB, so if anyone in the Denver area wants either or both, e-mail me:


Ok, I'm caving and going back to iTunes. I actually did search for several days before my trip and most of today, and I'm just convinced that nothing is up to par with iTunes, possibly even including shareware. The list I posted above isn't even complete, as I found out Ringtones and other things need to be added to the list.

Basically there just isn't enough demand to get certain things like an iPhone photo manager or a video manager, or even a ringtone manager. It used to be that there were no replacements for iTunes for even music, but now you have your choices, even though with every firmware update, freewares seem to become less and less motivated to follow Apple's stupidity.

I think I've come to realize something that I've actually learned firsthand several times: I don't hate iTunes entirely. Because honestly, the apps I love the most -Songbird and MusicBee- are laidout and perform similarly to iTunes, and I tend to bend away from apps that break that mold like MediaMonkey or foobar2000 (though both of those look amazing). The reason I say that I hate iTunes and I really do is because it's a good idea done absolutely terribly wrong. Here's why:
  1. Slow as hell: On Windoze, it just runs slow, period. Everything takes a few seconds to respond.
  2. Resource intensive: It just eats up CPU and RAM with all of its services and the program itself.
  3. Invasive: Perhaps the most annoying. It does things like steal focus when there's an update and install Quicktime every time you install an new version.
If Apple slimmed down iTunes alot and made it work for the user instead of the other way around, I might love iTunes. But the fact is, there are dozens of better music managers out there, Apple just makes it too damn hard to keep up with the ridiculous hurdles they keep creating to keep people caged in iTunes. It seems like freeware and even shareware are several years behind iTunes and so it will probably be a few years before there's a good complete iTunes replacement.

I started a wiki called "Alternatives to iTunes" that I might try to write very thoroughly about every program that can be used as an iPod/Phone/Pad manager, but I don't know if I will ever get it off the ground. This is definitely one of those times I had enough programming knowledge to write my own.


  1. Hmmm.. did you considered MediaMonkey?

  2. At last! Someone comments! :P MediaMonkey is one of the best alternatives I've seen and definitely one I would try...for audio. I'm not entirely sure it has things like video or photo. I know that it doesn't currently support iOS4, though 3.2.2 is planned to do so. The nice thing about MediaMonkey is that it's so well designed that it should be extremely easy to move from iTunes if I ever feel the need since it has an Import option.

  3. I'm surprised you're not getting comments since the blog is interesting and informative.

    Mediamonkey now supports iOS4... but if you've grown confortable with iTunes I'd say stick to it.

  4. i'm with you, bud. I friggin hate itunes. i'd just as soon drive nails through my knees as deal with this bloated, insidious snake of a program. i can't stand it. i'm on a windows machine and i have a TON of music. I also have a lot of video. and I WANT a lot of apps for my ipod touch and iphone 4. that's actually the biggest problem i have with these two devices, and with itunes. i could manually transfer/sync my media to the devices, and even manage playlists and the like with a different program, but it seems like there is no program that will manage apps for the two devices. my wife uses the touch and i use the phone. we like a lot of the same music and a lot of different music, so i have to manually sync music for each device. That's not a big hassle, but it's annoying. pics and videos are fine. but the biggest problem is the apps. i get a lot of apps directly, on my phone, from the app store. the wife likes a lot of them, but it's such a hassle to transfer them to itunes and then to the touch, especially since there is often an issue getting itunes to recognize the devices. they show up fine in windows, but itunes seems a little confused and won't recognize that the devices are connected. frustrating to say the least. i hope you find what you're looking for. Good luck!

  5. Have you found or are even trying to find anything else. I have gotten to the point, basically within the last month or so where iTunes constantly hangs, sometimes for minutes. Bout to throw my laptop or iphone through the wall!

  6. @Josh,

    The fact of the matter is, there's no application to entirely replace iTunes. Beyond being able to sync music, there is nothing that can sync the photos, videos, apps, or ringtones. At all. I've just given up.

    If you ever find anything else, post it here, and I will be ecstatic.