How to Copy Apps, Ringtones, and Files to Your iOS Devices with iTunes 12.7

As I reported yesterday, the latest update to iTunes, version 12.7, has removed the App Store, and app syncing to iOS devices. You can now only access apps on iOS devices. You can neither browse the App Store on your Mac, nor download or sync apps directly. You can also not sync ringtones, and iTunes File Sharing has moved.

There are ways to sync these items, but it’s a kludge.

First, let me clear up some of the confusion that has been circulating on forums. Many people have been pointing to an Apple technical document, About tethered caching. They saw that this allows users to cache downloads and distribute them, but most people didn’t read the document, the part where it said that this process was for schools and businesses. Apple updated the document yesterday, adding a header that says:

This article is intended for users setting up a large number of iOS devices, including school or business administrators.

macOS High Sierra will have a caching feature – something that has been available in macOS Server for many years – which will handle caching of downloads, but I suspect not everyone is going to update to High Sierra. In addition, some people use their iTunes libraries to store large app files, especially for games, which can be several gigabytes, because they can’t store them all on their iOS devices. For them, the iTunes app library serves as a sort of media library. They may decide to play a game, and install it on an iPhone or iPad, but then delete it for want of space. This said, why didn’t Apple wait for High Sierra to be released before issuing this iTunes update? And think how much longer it takes to sync an app over wi-fi, if your bandwidth isn’t at Cupertino speed, than to sync from a local file via USB…

In addition, there’s the issue of restoring an iOS device that has had problems, or setting up a new device. Instead of being able to sync your apps from iTunes, you’ll need to download all of them. And you can no longer rearrange apps when your devices is connected to iTunes; if you have a lot of apps, this is much easier than moving wiggling icons around on your device screen.

Finally, it’s a lot easier to browse apps on a computer, with a large screen, than it is on an iPhone. Given the new layout of the App Store in iOS 11, which only presents a handful of apps, it’s likely that people won’t browse much at all any more.

You will be able to manually copy apps and ringtones to an iOS device with iTunes 12.7. These files will still be in your iTunes Media folder, under Mobile Applications and Tones.

Connect your iOS device, then select it in the iTunes navigation bar. At the bottom of the sidebar, you see the Devices section. Click the disclosure triangle next to the device, then drag the file – app or ringtone – and it will copy.

Copy app kludge

As for iTunes File Sharing, that has been moved from the Apps pane to a new File Sharing entry in the sidebar. Click File Sharing to see which apps you have that can accept files, then transfer them to your device as before (by dragging, or by navigating to a file to select it).

File sharing

While the change to File Sharing is minor, the removal of the App Store just doesn’t make sense. I know that Apple has metrics on who uses the App Store where, and probably most iOS users don’t download apps on computers, but most of them don’t sync music or videos either. This worries me as to the future of iTunes. If Apple had rolled out a new, separate app for syncing, and for the App Store, this would make sense, but as things stand now, I’m scratching my head. Removing the App Store does not, as some people are saying, may iTunes any less “bloated.” If you don’t use the App Store, it doesn’t get in your way.

One suggestion: if you want to retain the App Store functionality in iTunes, especially if you have multiple devices that need to sync apps, you might want to consider creating an installation of macOS Sierra on an external hard drive or on an older Mac. You can download apps, copy them to your current Mac, then manually copy them to devices via iTunes as explained about. But, seriously, should people have to go to that much trouble?

16 thoughts on “How to Copy Apps, Ringtones, and Files to Your iOS Devices with iTunes 12.7

  1. At first I was not surprised or unhappy that app sync has been removed from iTunes. But I now realise this is a BIG deal. With potentially hundreds of apps on a single device, is Apple seriously expecting users to lay out and arrange all those little wriggling icons purely on the small screen of the actual iOS device. Ludicrous.

    The iPhone 11 will be out by the time you get that done.

  2. Same problem removing books from itunes. #apple doesnt handle #epub ebooks. Refuses to distribute across devices or restore unless pdf. This change, removing books from itunes, makes it very tedious.

    • There’s a separate app called iBooks that handles this on the Mac. Will take ePub, sync to iCloud and keep your iOS devices synced with your book collection.

  3. Two more questions: What happens with the user-created data that is stored with some apps? Will this be somehow synched when an app is re-downloaded during a restore? If so, synched from where?

    And if I’m avoiding installing iTunes 12.7 for as long as possible, is there a way to avoid the daily nagging on my Mac from the App Store application to upgrade?

    • If the developer hasn’t set the data to store in iCloud, then deleting the app from a device deletes the data. And, no, you can’t avoid the nag.

  4. Have you found any information about removing custom ringtones from an iPhone in the new itunes that have been previously synced?

    • I’m not running 12.7 on the Mac I use to sync my iPhone, but I’m guessing that you can access it from Tones, at the bottom of the sidebar under Device. Just delete them from there.

  5. Irritatingly the previously synced tones are all now greyed on in the “On My Device” Tones section. Unless I’m missing something really obvious :)

    • Excellent point: you can’t sell an iOS app any more on the desktop. I’ve just written a thing about it. Thanks for pointing it out.

      • Wow — you are fast! I’ve chosen to “hide” this update in the Mac App Store. Not sure how much time that will buy me, but given that a new iPhone is coming, I’m hoping I will still be able to restore via the 20x faster iTunes method rather than over the air. Hmmm. I wonder if restoring via iTunes will be disabled on these new phones?

  6. Since my primary Apple ID is more than 10 years old, when I got my iPhone, I decided to use another Apple ID. As I am more Mac oriented, I knew I wouldn’t be downloading a lot of apps for the iPhone. I have always synced / stored my iPhone backups, music, apps on an external drive. (There are some very nice, small, stylish and inexpensive SSDs available online.) I created a partition, installed the current macOS and updated when necessary. While this will allow me to update my Macs to High Sierra, it will be a while before I update this drive. (Yes, I don’t allow my computers to automatically do anything!)

  7. You wrote:
    In addition, there’s the issue of restoring an iOS device that has had problems, or setting up a new device. Instead of being able to sync your apps from iTunes, you’ll need to download all of them.

    Yes, as someone else asked, what happens when you restore your device with iTunes, which I just did yesterday with 12.6 from a backup I had made just before. It freed up 30 GB of space on my phone, made it much more responsive, and brought back all my user settings (except, for some reason, I had to reenter one of my 2 Apple Pay credit cards (why?).)

    Will this work the same why after installing 12.7?

  8. I just demoed iMazing and it seems to restore some of this functionality, and does it bester to boot. I’m gonna demo WALTR next.

  9. When I drag and drop my ringtone into the Tones section, it’s just grayed out with the dotted circle?? I can’t get it to actually sync to my phone

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