Do You Have to Use ITunes With an IPhone or IPod?

Alternatives to Apple's Popular Music Store

iTunes logo
Apple, Inc./Wikimedia Commons

For many years, iTunes has been the key piece of software that iPhone, iPod, and iPad owners have had to use in order to sync music, video, ebooks, and other content to their devices. But as iTunes has changed over the years, it's accumulated a lot of critics, which leads a lot of people to wonder, do you have to use iTunes with your iOS devices?

The answer is: No. You have many choices.

Alternatives to ITunes Software

Most people use iTunes to manage the music, movies, and other content on their Apple devices because it’s the easiest thing to do and it takes advantage of the software they already have on their computers.

After all, setting up your iPhone or iPod requires installing iTunes. Since Apple combines the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and iTunes into a well-integrated ecosystem, most people are just going to stick with that.

But, just because most people do that doesn't mean that you have to. There are many programs that provide similar functions to iTunes—managing your music, syncing it to your iPhone, etc.—but they all have some limitations:

  • In many cases, the alternatives are paid, whereas iTunes is free.
  • They don't have built-in access to the iTunes Store for buying music, movies, and other content.
  • They lack some of the more-advanced features of iTunes such as podcast subscription, renting and playing movies, or streaming radio.
  • They aren’t supported by Apple and you won't be able to get support from Apple for using your device with them.

And yet, if you’re frustrated by iTunes or just curious to see what else is out there, you may want to consider some of these iTunes alternatives:

  • CopyTrans - Easy to navigate and reliable program for transferring files between iOS devices. 
  • Syncios - Works with both iOS and Android devices and is integrated with a few video services like YouTube. It's free and easy to use to quickly backup and share media files between devices and a computer. 
  • Wondershare TunesGo - One of the best options for managing iOS and Android devices and all of your media files. Paying the price for this one is worth it and there's a free trial. 

Alternatives to ITunes Store

While the desktop iTunes software is what people usually want to replace, there's another component of iTunes to consider: the iTunes Store. Luckily, there are more and better alternatives to it than there are to the desktop program. 

If you don't want to buy music, movies, or ebooks via the iTunes Store, your options are bountiful, including:

Is Leaving ITunes Behind Worth It?

While there's no reason to tie yourself exclusively to the iTunes Store, it's worth remembering that the iTunes/iPhone/iPod/iPad ecosystem is tightly joined and it's the easiest way to get content to your device. Many of the other options require installing additional desktop software or iOS apps or require multiple services to replace what iTunes offers in a single place.

That said, the alternatives to iTunes offer things that it doesn't, including different kinds of sales, exclusive content, and greater flexibility in some cases. Unless you're fully satisfied with iTunes, it's worth trying some of the other stores and services to discover what best fits your needs.