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Beware Nasty Auto-Download Music Bug in iOS 9

Apple Music, iCloud Music Library, and iTunes have plenty of problems already, but this latest bug is proving costly. Many iCloud Music Library and iTunes Match users are finding that, when they add their own music to their cloud libraries (as opposed to adding tracks from the Apple Music library), these songs automatically download to iOS devices linked to their accounts. If you have a lot of music and that download happens over a cellular data connection, it could get expensive.

I use a test library for Apple Music, on my MacBook, that links to my iPad and iPod touch. (My main library syncs to my iPhone via USB because I don’t trust it to the cloud.) I first spotted this issue a week ago, when I saw that 4 GB of music that I had added to my test iCloud Music Library had appeared on both my iPad and my iPod touch without my choosing to download it. Since the music downloaded locally over Wi-Fi, it had no effect on my mobile phone bill. However, other users have reported costly data overages on their iPhones, as new music has eaten up their monthly allowances. And even for those people with very large or unlimited data plans, downloading a lot of music could drain your battery at an inopportune time.

If you use Apple Music or iTunes Match, and add music manually to your library, you should protect yourself against surprises on your phone bill. Go to Settings > Music and turn off Use Cellular Data under Streaming & Downloads. Many people have left this option on in the past, in order to be able to grab an album from the cloud from time to time, or to stream Apple Music. My advice is to leave the setting off until Apple fixes this bug, and turn it on temporarily for those specific purposes.

If you’re perturbed by the amount of space that’s being occupied by this automatically downloaded music on your device, you can recover space. Go to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage. Under the Storage header, tap Manage Storage, and then Music. You can swipe All Songs from right to left to delete all locally stored music, or you can delete the music for particular artists in the same way.

One user posted a comment to the article on my Web site explaining how he was able to stop these downloads from happening. It’s a multi-step process that involves unlinking the device from iTunes in the Cloud, and performing some other operations. I haven’t tested it, so try it at your own risk.

I’ve filed a bug report with Apple, and the iTunes engineers have contacted me to collect log information from my devices. I hope they get to the bottom of this bug soon, although it still exists in the beta of iOS 9.3. For me it was just an annoyance, but it’s hitting many other people directly in the wallet.


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Comments about Beware Nasty Auto-Download Music Bug in iOS 9
(Comments are closed.)

Raymond Osborn  2016-01-14 09:52
I had this problem a week ago, but I think a temporary solution is fairly simple. Click on the "Downloading ... songs" bar in the Music app, scroll to the bottom of the listed songs and keep clicking "Cancel Downloads" until no songs reappear on the list. I'm guessing that uploaded music gets added to a cached downloads list on the iPhone, so it's only necessary to clear the cache whenever you upload new music. I've had no new downloads in over a week. Of course, Apple need to fix this bug soon.
Yes, keep clicking. And when you add more music, you have to do it again.
Peter Meyer  2016-01-14 10:55
Great catch!! This is why being a Bits member is a great value! Thank you.
cposey  2016-01-14 22:47
I filed a bug report on this issue over a month ago. Apple engineers have contacted me for logs, but so far no resolution. Lots of grumbling on Apple Support - some mentioning class action since Match has been unusable since iOS 9.2. This bug and another serious bug with iOS apps getting stuck updating, and causing actual data loss - really has me questioning Apples current quality control.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2016-01-22 08:38
Apple's quality control has been out to lunch for years now—presuming it even still exists. It took them almost a year to get (most) of the bugs out of Yosemite after it was released to the public. I've not seen any final report on OS X 10.10, so I have no faith that it was ever up to snuff. It was far and away Apple's worst OS X upgrade ever—and I've been upgrading the Mac OS since 7.2. iTunes, of course, has been a basket case for so long no one remembers when it wasn't a hot mess.

Apple's cloud services have never been anything but half-baked. Now, unfortunately, they're all but useless except for basic features like syncing calendars and address books. In the present case iCloud is worse than useless, it's downright dangerous. Steve Jobs had a vision of everything working smoothly and seamlessly through the cloud. The company has betrayed that vision by continuing to bolt features to iCloud without proper testing (quality control). The proof is in the pudding and the pudding is rancid. Like their OS X upgrade schedule, they're obviously trying to do too much too fast, doing few things well and many things very badly.

The problem isn't just that they're not fixing stuff in a timely manner; it seems like they are oblivious to the fact their procedures and processes are failing—have failed. It's that blindness to their own incompetence that scares me. How do you recover from your own ignorance? How long can they continue to fool the world that Apple is a great company? And what happens to their market cap (not to mention their sales) when the public finally realizes the emperor has no clothes on?

Jason Snell of SixColors (and late of Macworld) recently surveyed various Apple writers and experts for a year-end report card on Apple ( Some Apple products did well enough, but among the results Apple's cloud services got a grade of C-/D+; software got a C+. Perhaps most remarkable was the grade the panel gave developer relations: D. For a company of Apple's stellar reputation these grades are pretty dismal. So I'm not the only one who takes issue with how Apple is doing things these days.

While it might be comforting that Apple's engineers have responded to Kirck's and cposey's bug reports, there is no indication that they know or care about how these problems came about in the first place. Absent any serious fix for this ongoing quality control nightmare, any solutions they come up with for the immediate problem will just be of the finger in the dike variety.

Like Microsoft, Apple has more than enough money to cary it over a serious rough patch. But not if they don't even know they are making mistakes. You cannot fix a problem you don't acknowledge exists, much less prevent it from doing you in.
Randolph West  2016-01-14 23:56
This has been an expensive month.

I used my monthly 2.5GB data cap in a day. Then another 2GB. By the next morning I'd had the privilege of 2.55GB of overages. And this was on day two of my billing cycle.

Glad it's not just me.
I just installed the beta of iOS 9.3 on my iPod touch, and I can confirm that this bug has not been fixed yet. Given that Apple has asked several people for logs regarding this bug, it seems they don't have a handle on it yet.
C Posey  2016-01-15 11:01
The Apple Support discussion is here:
Guenter Plum  2016-01-18 19:44
I've been billed $AU350 for excess data use, which was a total mystery to me until I read your article, Kirk. Apple support staff have no idea about this - I've visited the local Genius Bar and spent two hours with Senior Support staff in the US via phone. Their solution was to reinstall iOS, surmising that the iOS had become corrupted. Storage drained to zero at least three times, and no Apple staff has the foggiest idea. After reinstalling iOS it happened twice more. However, attempting to follow your advice now, there is no Music listed under Manage Storage of Storage - does this mean there is none of my own music stored on the iPhone now?