Here’s Why Removing Apps from iTunes Is Stupid

I’ve written about how Apple has removed apps from iTunes in version 12.7. I’ve pointed out that this is problematic for people with slow or limited internet connections, especially if they have multiple devices.

Here’s a concrete example. Apple has updated its iWork apps – Pages, Numbers, and Keynote – for iOS. I am still running iTunes 12.6.2 on my main Mac, and I see the updates this morning. These updates are large; here’s how big each one is:

  • Pages: 412 MB
  • Numbers: 385 MB
  • Keynote: 607 MB

That’s a total of 1.4 GB.

Keynote update

I have a 15 Mbps connection, and here’s how long it will take to download Keynote (I took this screenshot just as the download was beginning):

I have four iOS devices, and if I had to download these updates individually to each device, that would saturate my bandwidth for about an hour (15 minutes or so for each device). Not long ago, I had a 4 Mbps connection; the same updates would have taken four hours for all my devices. And this doesn’t count the many other apps that I have to update.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m sure that a) most people don’t download many apps, and b) most people don’t use iTunes to download and sync apps. But removing that functionality for those who do is simply bone-headed. Simplifying iTunes is a noble effort – though the simplification most users want is less iTunes Store integration – but doing so at the expense of usability is simply stupid.

If Apple won’t restore app management and syncing to iTunes, they should add it to the Mac App Store app, or create a new app for syncing all content. Punishing those users with sub-standard internet connections is wrong.

15 thoughts on “Here’s Why Removing Apps from iTunes Is Stupid

  1. Totally correct, as usual. I’ve moved house recently and my internet in this area is worse than the one I left. I’m not updating iTunes because I just don’t have the bandwidth to make updating several devices convenient without the facility of using an update hub like the current (now old) version of iTunes. The question is; how long can I hold out? I’m holding off iOS 11 to see how it works, or doesn’t, but I’ll have to update in the next week or so. Wil,that force me to update iTunes on my computer? What about when High Sierra comes out? I’ve much more to be interested in than spending hours updating and checking iOS devices for their app updates. I want to use them, not have them updating numerous app overnight. Get real Apple if you want to serve people across the world and across varied internet connections and services. Someone mentioned the possibility of using configurator as a clunky option. Is that a possibility? Or just another layer to a silly, enforced, unnecessary defecit in iTunes functionality? Sad to live I an age of Apple isolationism from global reality.

  2. I update apps when sync’ing and connected iTunes. I thought maybe this change is about bandwidth. If you’re like me, and for many reason I truly hope not, you have many, perhaps dozens, of zombie apps–they’re on the devices, we’re updating, but we’re not using them. Now we may choose not to update the app or even delete it when we notice it needs updating. Will the bandwidth saved when I don’t update zombie apps be greater than the additional bandwidth used when I update the apps I use on my home’s six devices?

    Will the developers get a better idea of their actual users as zombie apps are removed? Is Apple trying to make sure every bit of used bandwidth could generate revenue?

    I probably won’t update apps until they don’t work on my device. If I’m not alone developers might choose to make apps obsolete more quickly. Of course, the masses and I rarely do the same thing.

    I certainly won’t update my device’s software until it is required. Can we update a device’s software without being wired? I’ve never tried it.

    Is Apple simply bring to reduce iTunes’ size by removing U, Ringtones, and Apps? Separating Movies and TV would seem to be more troublesome, but perhaps not.

    Are they moving toward a time when users won’t be able to sync video, either? In my worst nightmare (that doesn’t involve nuclear war) we won’t be allowed to put any video, let alone those files we’ve ripped, on our devices. “Just download or stream your (purchased) content from us when you need it!”

    Congrats, Apple, you’ve got me wishing for alternative media databases. Of course you wouldn’t allow them to do stuff iTunes wouldn’t do. The time to look at Windows might be drawing near.

    I’ve thought about this too much.

  3. I’m not excusing Apple’s misguided removal of App syncing, but there is an alternative that avoids multiple downloads. Run MacOS Server and make use of the ‘Caching Server’ service. This could ensure that each item is only downloaded once.

    Having said that, this service is a bit half baked (like a lot of Apple’s plans seems to me) as it provides no feedback on what’s going on which is hopeless when it decides to not actually cache something. Well in truth, you’d never know as you have to watch for specific network traffic to determine what’s going on and how many users will do that.

    Anyway, not the great solution it could be, but in theory, if working correctly would avoid the multiple download of apps scenario.

    • Lots of people are saying that, both by email and Twitter. This is a power-user solution; it requires a dedicated Mac.

      I actually run a Mac mini server, mainly for my Plex library. Caching has never worked reliably. There is currently 45 GB cached on the server – about half is Mac software, half iOS – and I never see iOS apps load more quickly. I’ve tried to troubleshoot it, but I’ve given up.

  4. This move re app management in iOS, plus a basket of other software and hardware changes Apple is making, mark the end of the road for me doing updates. They are actively kicking out those they don’t perceive as fitting their model of forcing ways of working on users, taking away options for users to interact with devices in ways that suit the user.
    A dedicated Apple user since the 1980s and former employee, I’m getting off the bandwagon and making my homestead at iOS 10 and Sierra. Until the hardware breaks for good or something. Actively going back to local management of data, paper calendars, etc.
    I get the business case but it’s still sad to be told your way of working for 30-odd years is not allowed on the platform.

  5. I laughed yesterday when I got the upgrade notices for those apps.

    7 minutes? Seriously? And you’re complaining? Try four hours! We have 2.8mps in the backwoods of Virginia, which is enough for most everything we do online. Except the update you refer to will take 4 hours. And with blurps and burps in the service, it would probably fail over and over. That’s why I don’t do it.

    Arrogant Apple, as usual thinks everyone on the planet has a T5 connection. When iTunes (11.4) stops backing up my iPhone, I’ll switch to another company.

    So far it still works just fine, but I back up to hard drives and do NOT have a cloud account. Nobody should have a cloud account. I still adhere to one of the original laws of the internet that most people ignore : “If you don’t want it public, don’t put it there.”

    • I was using my example as one for someone who does have what I would consider decent bandwidth, showing how long it takes. But, as you see, I also mentioned how it would have been if I still had 4 Mbps internet, as I did a couple of years ago.

  6. As the App Store was always HTML-based, it’d be nice if Apple simply made it accessible in Safari now. And allow us to select which device we’d like to “push” app downloads to. (This is how the Google Play Store has been handling its app downloads for years now, and it’s elegant, easy, and intuitive. Much better than Apple’s system!)

    Since the introduction of the App Store, I’ve done most of my app browsing, research, and purchasing on my MacBook Pro. Having to switch to a different device to buy an iOS app that I read about on my laptop, seems really inefficient and silly. With this interface completely removed from macOS, I will be buying less iOS apps.

    Apple removing the iOS App Store from macOS iTunes is a major step backwards in usability and I hope they reconsider this, or provide us with a reasonable alternative.

  7. My experience matches Kirk’s – two iPhones and two iPads – Download speeds not too flash.

    But worse for Apple – I have a friend that has a few apps in the App Store – he gets about 25% of new sales from the web – a click or two and they are at the iTunes App Store and download it. If these people (I’m one of them) stop downloading apps because it’s not our habit – our phones will have fewer apps – so why spend the premium on an iPhone??

    A bad decision from Apple

  8. For what it’s worth, I hid the 12.7 iTunes update in the Mac App Store before installing the High Sierra beta, and I’m still on 12.6.2. Not sure if that capability will vanish with the official release.

    • The official release of High Sierra doesn’t remove the ability to hide various updates, but it does install iTunes 12.7, from what I’ve heard. I don’t believe there’s a way to customize the macOS install anymore, or “opt out” of this terrible update to iTunes. (If we upgrade to High Sierra, we get iTunes 12.7, regardless.)

      I guess the next question is, can we manually downgrade back down to iTunes And will that still work with newer devices, like the iPhone X? (Probably not.)

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