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My post-iTunes life

At long last, iTunes 11 has become available. I can't tell you that much about it, because I really haven't used it. Here's why.

Scott Stein/CNET

iTunes 11 is finally here. I hear that it's a step in the right direction, correcting many of the missteps and redundancies that have crept into the bloated software over the years.

But I can't really give you a full opinion on iTunes 11 because I really haven't spent that much time with it on a personal level.

That's because I don't use my Mac for media.

Instead, my pocket-size iPhone handles my music, and I watch most videos on my iPad or my TV.

Yes, my Mac still handles my photo library and home movies, but that's what iPhoto, iMovie, and other applications are for.

And thanks to the improvements to iOS and the increasingly cloud-based iTunes service over the years, I don't need to sync my devices with the desktop version of iTunes anymore.

I hate syncing via iTunes...so I don't do it.
As a heavy iOS device user, I'm happy to say that my previous intense reliance on iTunes has diminished to the point where I use it infrequently, and only when absolutely necessary. I use the iTunes Store on iOS, and iTunes Match, but not iTunes.

I own a third-gen iPad and an iPhone 4S. I've reviewed the iPhone 5, fourth-gen iPad, iPad Mini, and new iPod Touch. And I can safely say that I rarely, if ever, used iTunes on any of them.

I like you, desktop iTunes 11, I just don't want to sync with you. Apple

Thanks to recent iOS updates, nearly all core iOS functions no longer need the iTunes desktop software.

Take music. If you use iTunes Match or some other music-locker service, like Amazon Cloud Player: cloud-store and download or stream your music as needed, redownload your apps from iCloud, and you're off and running.

Or just scrap the whole idea of a "music collection" altogether, and opt for a music service instead: Spotify, Mog, Rdio, Rhapsody -- there are plenty to choose from.

Video is no different. You can redownload movies and videos from the cloud via iTunes or services like Amazon Instant Video, or download or stream video via other services, like Netflix and Hulu.

Backup? I do that via iCloud. (Just make sure your account has enough storage space.) I prefer the freedom: I've restored iPads from backup via iCloud, and while the process has often taken a whole night, it saves having to plug a physical cable into a particular computer.

Even the initial setup of an iOS device used to require tethering to a computer running iTunes. But no longer. That's critical for folks who are now using the iPad as their primary computing device -- and may not even have a computer to sync it with.

Does anyone still need iTunes? Or a PC?
Sure, one reason I've particularly given up on desktop iTunes has to do with my older computer. My circa-2008 MacBook and its limited hard-drive space make syncs particularly painful.

And let's give the devil its due: iTunes still performs some essential iOS functions, such as syncing and organizing music you haven't purchased via the iTunes Store, and sideloading large video files or documents like PDFs and EPUBs.

The docs are downloaded from the cloud, and for sideloading I use e-mail. Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

But, again: you don't actually need iTunes for these services. You could organize your music elsewhere, and upload your library to another cloud-stored service. And I'd rather e-mail myself a PDF and open it in GoodReader than plug in my iPad and sync again.

You can't pull your pictures and videos off your iPhone, iPad, or iPod easily without connecting to a computer, but at least that process doesn't need to involve iTunes -- those files will show up just as they do with a standard USB drive.

Yes, you still technically need a PC: to store all your photos and media and documents on, in some localized place where those objects can be edited with greater freedom.

Or, then again, you could always just borrow someone else's computer to upload all your files into the cloud. That wouldn't be my choice at the moment, but my opinion could change in a year or two.

iTunes: No longer the iOS hub it once was
There was a time when I'd use iTunes as a sync tool and home-base application for my various iDevices. No longer; now, it's really just a hub for media that sits on my Mac. That's OK, but it's just not important for me.

Of course, some people don't use iDevices. They're using iTunes for media playback on a computer. In that case, hats off to iTunes 11 -- it does a great job, especially for a free piece of software.

But I'm not one of those people. If there were a future where I didn't even need a program like iTunes at all, I'd be all for it. Sorry, it's true. Even with iTunes 11. I use the mobile version of iTunes and iTunes Match. But I don't use computer-based iTunes, or my computer, as much as I used to.