Apple Releases iTunes 12.7; Removes iOS App Store

Apple has released iTunes 12.7, which features a major revamp of the content types available from the app. Notably, the App Store is no longer include in iTunes. You can now only download apps to iOS devices.

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Apple says the following about this update:

  • Apps: Looking for your past iOS app downloads? Learn how to redownload apps on your iOS device.
  • iTunes U: Collections of iTunes U content appear in the Podcasts section of iTunes.
  • Internet Radio: Your Internet Radio stations appear in your music library’s sidebar. Click Edit in the sidebar to show or hide Internet Radio.
  • Ringtones: iOS 11 supports redownloading ringtones directly to your iOS device, without the need to use iTunes on your Mac or PC.
  • Books on Windows: Books on iTunes for Windows are managed in iBooks for iOS. Learn how to redownload books on an iOS device.

This change will be problematic for many users. Since you can no longer sync apps from iTunes, if you have multiple iOS devices, you’ll need to download apps to each device individually. This means that if you have limited bandwidth, or bandwidth caps, you may have problems getting your apps and updates. Also, if you have a bunch of apps that you don’t keep on your devices, you will no longer be able to sync them when you want to from iTunes. I have about 20 GB of apps on my iMac, that I have downloaded at different times, some of which I occasionally put on one of my four iOS devices. While those apps are still in my iTunes Media folder after updating iTunes, there is now no way I can sync them to my devices.

This is also problematic if you have to restore an iOS device. You now need to re-download every app on your device, rather than syncing from iTunes. This could take a very long time for some users.

I think Apple is going to get a lot of flak for this. Not everyone has the luxury of fast, unmetered internet access, and this will lead to problems for many users. I generally found it easier to update apps in iTunes, then sync my devices, and this is no longer possible.

I strongly suggest that you hold off updating if you need to sync apps from your computer. This could be problematic for many people who don’t have the bandwidth to constantly re-download apps.

Update: in this article, I discuss other new features in iTunes 12.7.

29 thoughts on “Apple Releases iTunes 12.7; Removes iOS App Store

    • It looks like you have to redownload every app. I can’t see this lasting for a long time. I think they haven’t thought out the ramifications of this.

      • Restores have not replaced apps for several years, I’m quite certain. I’ve done many encrypted backup restores (pre-12.7) and they download the apps rather than syncing them from iTunes.

        My downloading of apps is helped by my macOS Server which caches the apps as they are downloaded, much quicker to “download” them again to the next iOS device.

  1. I see what you’re saying but I really don’t think many people rely on this feature any more. Surely they have metrics that let them know what people have been doing.

    We’ll find out soon enough I guess.

  2. The Restoring of Apps after a Backup Restore or Factory Reset has been problematic for a while now. Most users who were even AWARE of using iTunes as a faster/less-bandwidth-intensive Restore aren’t aware that since iOS 9’s change to App Thinning iTunes no longer sync’d app updates back from devices. So if you update your apps on your iOS devices but don’t religiously also update them in iTunes, they’ll get out of sync. When doing a iTunes Backup Restore, ONLY apps that exactly match version numbers will reinstall to the iOS device; otherwise iOS will pull the rest of the apps from the cloud. It took me a few time of trial and error to figure it all out, and it is pretty disappointing. Outside of a few apps that no longer appear in the App Store, it made my iTunes “backup” app collection mostly worthless.

    • Yes, but if you do back up regularly, you’re fine. I back up my apps once a week or so, because I have four iOS devices, and it makes it a lot easier. But also, I have tons of apps I’ve gotten to test, which I remove from my devices, but may want to refer to later, when writing an article comparing apps. Now there’s no easy way to see them, because the Purchased list on iOS cannot be sorted.

  3. I have a macOS Server, so apps get cached on a “local” machine. The bits are closer to home, but not in iTunes. I thought I read that macOS High Sierra has a new feature in “Sharing” that is basically the caching part of the server.

    This does nothing for management of apps in the old way, but deals with the download problems (maybe). I have used iTunes for ALL of its features since the beginning. I only recently stopped using my Mac to do iPhone updates of apps for a small period of time, coincident with my starting to use a cache with macOS Server.

    I have 731 apps in my iTunes library (the one that isn’t connected to Apple Music or iTunes Match) which will probably stay at iTunes 12.6 for the foreseeable future.

  4. So I can sign-in and put the store back, ok.
    And I can backup all devices, excluding apps, as always.
    Only thing missing is syncing devices from iTunes.
    I want that back.

  5. I load a lot of PDFs onto my iPod Touch for use in Adobe Acrobat iOS via iTunes.
    Will I lose this ability if I upgrade?

  6. Does this mean I can’t rearrange my apps and move them from screen to screen in iTunes, where it’s much easier to do without overshooting? And what about the File Sharing feature, where you can copy data from the device to the mac, and install new data from the Mac into various apps? Is this gone? I use it all the time to keep four iOS devices coordinated. Some apps may allow file sharing using Dropbox or Google Drive, but I don’t like to share my data with the cloud!

    iTunes needed to be simplified, but I was hoping for a new separate Mac app to handle the same things iTunes has been doing.

  7. I don’t understand why Gruber reports this without comment and Dan Moren actually says it’s a step in the right direction. Are they too caught up in the wonder of a 4k Apple TV and a cellular Apple Watch to give this any thought at all?

    Ever since they made the multi-gigabyte Logic a download-only purchase years ago, Apple has been steadily marginalizing those of us with slow or metered Internet connections. Installing Logic on a second computer means re-downloading the installation a second time, an 8-10 hour proposition. Now it’s the same for iOS apps. Downloading them once on my Mac and syncing them to my iPhone and iPad saves a lot of time and bandwidth.

    Here’s something that happened to me recently that will now be impossible: I have an iGrill bluetooth thermometer. Weber bought the company a little while ago and have since released newer models. A couple weeks ago they released a re-written version of the iOS app that eliminated a lot of features and also dropped support for my thermometer. I was able to delete the app, grab an older version from the Safety Net in a Carbon Copy Cloner backup, put it back in iTunes, re-sync, and have a functioning thermometer again. Say goodbye to one more piece of control we have over our data and purchases.

    (I will be fair to Weber and say that in the app review I pointed out that making a perfectly functional device obsolete is a terrible way to treat customers. They replied and directed me to contact support. I did and they sent me a newer, supported model at no charge. But the updated app is still terrible.)

  8. I have about 200 apps, mainly games, that I swap on and off my four iOS devices as and when I like/need. Many of them are old and no longer on the App Store as the developer has pulled them or they have been superseded by a newer version that I don’t need.

    Does this mean if i get a new iOS device or do a restore and have to download from iCloud I will lose the old apps?

    Also updating apps on each device will destroy my bandwidth cap. I have one game, Asphalt 8, whose updates are always over 1Gb in size. That means approx 5Gb to update my devices instead of one update to my Mac and then a sync to all my devices.

    Finally, this removes a big chunk of my backup routine. I do an encrypted backup to my Mac of all my devices, then a Time Machine backup. I also have an off site backup as well as iCloud. If I can’t backup to iTunes this now means my sole backup is to iCloud. This is not good.

    • Backups won’t change. They have never backup up apps, only their data. They store pointers to the apps. But now, those pointers won’t be local any more, so if you need to restore or set up a new device, the apps come from the cloud.

      • Thanks for the info.

        “…the apps come from the cloud”
        That’s one of the things I’m not happy about, if an app I have on my iDevice is no longer in the cloud/App Store and I need to set up a new device or do a restore will I lose the app?

      1. This is not intended for average users. It links to the Tethered Caching page, which I mention in another article, which states:

      This article is intended for users setting up a large number of iOS devices, including school or business administrators. And it requires that the computer doing the caching be connected via Ethernet, and the other devices via USB.

  9. How to save a list of all the apps in your iTunes 12.6 library folder:

    If you still have iTunes 12.6, open your Apps Library, choose the Library view at the top, then choose Show View Options under View and add all items you want (Seller, Version, Size etc.), sort by Name (or desired criterion), select Print, choose Song List and then Custom, hit Print and Save as PDF. This will give you a PDF listing all your apps, including Version, size, type and other information.

  10. If this turns out to be the last straw for me, how can I begin to leave the Apple eco system? Most importantly, can I transfer my iTunes music library elsewhere without agony?

    • The actual audio files aren’t going anywhere. There are a number of Windows apps that can manage audio. You’ll lose all your ratings, playlists, etc, but nothing else.

  11. I ordered the iPhone 8 which will be delivered tomorrow. Am I to understand that I will have to download all the apps I currently have on my phone? If so, deal breaker.

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