The Worst Mac Feature You Can't Turn Off

By Adam Clark Estes on at

Bluetooth is an incredible invention. iTunes is a mediocre media player. But if you use a Mac, you can't have one without the other. Any time you connect a Bluetooth audio device, OS X opens iTunes. This is a feature that you can't turn off, and it's annoying as hell.

You may have experienced this annoyance. As soon as you connect a set of Bluetooth headphones or any Bluetooth speaker to your Mac, that little iTunes icon starts bouncing on your dock. This isn't a huge deal if you have plenty of RAM, but will drag down your system for a few seconds if you're using an old banger of a MacBook like mine.

It also wouldn't be the end of the world if this just happened once, when you first connect. But depending on the device, even touching a volume button or receiving a notification can trigger the feature again. With some cans I was testing recently, iTunes would open every single time I touched the headphones. I spent hours trying to figure out how to make it stop, and I came up short, because it's actually impossible to turn this feature off.

Let me channel my frustration a bit. I'm not outraged that Apple built a feature that I don't want into an otherwise very elegant operating system; it's that Apple not only chose to ignore that people might prefer a different media player but also chose not to address the countless complaints that have stacked up on its forums for years. It's been getting worse as Bluetooth audio devices have become cheaper and better. Still, if you want to use these speakers or headphones without Apple strong-arming you into using iTunes, well, tough shit.

It's the principle of the thing. I don't want to use iTunes. I pay money to use Spotify. So why doesn't Spotify open when I connect my headphones? It's not hard to guess the answer to that question.

Apple has a bad habit of forcing its native apps onto users. Usually, there's a reasonable way to avoid this actually interfering with your life, though. Sure, there are a boatload of pre-loaded iOS apps that you can't delete, but you can always stash them in a folder and forget they exist. There are plenty of default iOS features that you might hate, but you can easily disable them. You can also stop iTunes from automatically opening when you plug in a camera. You can even disable the feature that opens iTunes when you plug in an iPhone. But like a turd that won't flush, this Bluetooth thing won't go away.

To make sure I wasn't missing something, I contacted Apple. When the support line wanted to charge me £20 for help — LOL — I marched down to the Apple store, where I was told what I already knew: you can't turn the feature off. One Apple Store employee suggested going into Terminal and tinkering with the code until it stopped. I'd already tried this, after reading Apple's own support forums. It worked until I restarted my computer. After that, that bouncing iTunes icon was back, just like before. I told the blue-shirted employee as much.

"Oh well in that case, I have good news," he smiled as wide as he could. "You can just close iTunes, whenever it opens. Let me show you how."

How do you kill the aggressive iTunes auto-open? Well, some developers say that you can actually write a program that prevents the application from opening, which is hilariously complex for something that should be as easy as a checkbox in iTunes preferences. You can certainly try tinkering around in Terminal until something works, which is a great way to screw up your computer if you don't know what you're doing.

Or, hey, how about just getting rid of iTunes once and for all? VLC is a better media player, and Spotify is a better music hub. Plus, you can sync your iOS devices over the cloud now. Why not just ditch it?

Because you can't.

The Worst Mac Feature You Can't Turn Off

All hail iTunes. The fascist application that won't let you escape its iron-clad grasp. Of course, bullying you into using iTunes is just a slap on the wrist compared to what Apple does to developers.

GIF by Michael Hession