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Is iTunes Match Worth It?

In this week's Ask Walt column, Walt Mossberg answers readers' questions on iTunes Match, the Microsoft Surface and the latest Motorola smartphone.

You have some tech questions, I have some answers. Every Friday, I try to resolve these mysteries, succinctly and in plain language. Please send questions to Note that I won’t be able to diagnose your personal tech glitches and problems. I also reserve the right to edit questions for length or clarity, and to combine similar inquiries.

Q. Is iTunes Match worth it? I’m confused about it.

A. If you have fewer than 25,000 songs and are willing to spend $25 a year, iTunes Match has some advantages. The biggest one is that it stores all your music in the cloud with little or no uploading. That’s because it scans your iTunes Music library and only puts into your account the songs in your library that match the songs Apple has the right to sell through the iTunes store, without having to fetch your files. Another big plus: It will do this for songs in your library regardless of how you got them. That includes songs you ripped from CDs or downloaded, legally or not, from sources other than iTunes.

You can then stream or download the music in your Match account from any Apple device, including Apple TV, and from iTunes running on Windows. This allows you to store fewer song files on, say, an iPhone, while still having access to them.

However, iTunes Match hasn’t performed perfectly for some people. In my own case, for instance, when it first launched in 2011, it presented me with missing album art, and duplicate or mislabeled songs. These problems have improved, at least for me, since then.

Q. I see that Microsoft has introduced a new version of its Surface Pro Tablet. But they also sell another, cheaper type of Surface. What’s the difference?

A. The $800 Surface Pro, now in version 3, is essentially a full Windows laptop in tablet form. It uses Intel processors, and thus can run not only the apps in Microsoft’s tablet-like Start Screen environment, but also most standard Windows programs that run on the desktop.

The $450 Surface 2 uses a processor from Nvidia of a type similar to the most common processors in smartphones and tablets like the iPad. It uses a variant of Windows called Windows RT. Desktop Windows programs can’t operate on this combination, so you can’t install them on the Surface 2. It is limited to running the Start Screen apps, plus a specially modified version of desktop Office, which comes with the device.

Think of the Surface Pro as mainly a competitor to laptops, and the Surface as mainly a competitor to tablets.

Q. In your review of the new low-priced Moto E smartphone, you mentioned that it has a removable back. Does that mean it also has a removable battery?

A. No. The only things you can remove or insert when you remove the back cover are the SIM card and a memory card.

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