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Confused about iTunes Match? Apple tries a new explanation

Apple has launched a new Web page with a step-by-step description of its cloud-based music service, complete with video and FAQ.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Hey, iOS users! Are you still scratching your heads over what exactly iTunes Match is supposed to do for you? Apple has done its best to come to your rescue with a new Web page designed to answer your lingering questions about the service.

Launched last month, the $24.99-per-year iTunes Match service lets you store your iTunes collection in Apple's cloud-- even content you've ripped from CDs or purchased from other music sites. From the cloud, you can then sync and listen to your music across an array of devices, including an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, PC, and Apple TV.

But there's at least one area of confusion that Apple has attempted to address on its new page: Does iTunes Match stream songs or download them? Well, it depends.

iOS devices will start playing songs from iCloud as they download, though they'll also store them locally for you to play without a network connection. PCs and Macs will stream your songs, but you can download them by clicking on the iCloud download button. And Apple TV will only stream your songs.

Further, you can store as many as 25,000 songs in iCloud, or more if you buy them from iTunes. But only the tracks you want to play are stored on your device.

Apple also explains that iTunes Match can handle any music format iTunes itself uses, including AAC, MP3, WAV, and AIFF. The service will support up to 10 different devices.

You also have the option of downloading and playing music via your 3G connection or only Wi-Fi.

And for people who purchased or ripped songs at a low quality, iTunes Match will automatically match your music with a higher-quality 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free format.

To learn more about setting up and using iTunes Match, you can check out CNET's helpful how-to guide.