This Is Where iTunes Is Bloated

“iTunes is bloated,” many people say. It’s a foolish statement, which I have discussed in this article. But it led Apple to “focus on music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks,” and make one of the stupidest decisions ever with this app. Removing the iOS App Store is short-sighted, and shows a lack of reflection on the part of Apple. Here’s just one example why it’s stupid. (And I don’t use that word lightly; I am often critical of things Apple does, but I rarely call them stupid.)

Naturally, this decision has led to much consternation. I even had a chat with a senior AppleCare advisor last week, during a call about an issue with my new iPhone 8+. This person said that they felt it was a very bad decision to remove app syncing, and that they were fielding complaints and queries about it. And some people who have long bleated “bloated” when talking about iTunes have expressed dismay. (Kind of like those who say, “Well, I never thought he’d be elected…”)

Here’s the thing. iTunes does suffer from performance issues. But they’re not related to some perceived “bloat” caused by the number of features in the app. If you don’t use the features, they don’t get in the way; and if some do perturb you, you can hide many of them. Don’t use iTunes for movies? You can hide the Movies entry in the Media Picker, and never see them again. Never listen to podcasts with iTunes? Hide that too, and don’t pretend that the existence of podcast in iTunes affects your music listening.

There is one place where Apple could trim down iTunes, and they will never do this, no matter how many people complain: it’s the tight integration of the iTunes Store in your media libraries. When iTunes 12 was released three years ago, Apple wove the iTunes Store into every part of the app. Your media libraries – even if they only contain music you’ve ripped from CDs – communicate with the iTunes Store constantly. They show you whether something is in the cloud (even if you don’t use iCloud Music Library), and they display your purchases by default. The only way to get rid of this is to turn off the iTunes Store entirely.

In my Macworld review of iTune 12, I predicted what we’re seeing now:

I’m not on the “split iTunes because it’s bloated” bandwagon. It makes more sense to have one app manage all my media. But I think these changes — particularly the tighter integration of the iTunes Store — will incite more people to campaign for the dismemberment of iTunes.

Since then, the clamor to rip apart iTunes has intensified, and Apple listened to these complaints. They just didn’t make the changes that would improve iTunes; they hacked at it with a machete, ripping out useful features that have no effect on performance, annoying some people, and pretending that the issues with iTunes have nothing to do with the iTunes Store. And this is something they’ll never change.

10 thoughts on “This Is Where iTunes Is Bloated

  1. Given that users don’t really need to use iTunes to manage their iOS devices anymore, it would make some sense for Apple to roll iOS app management into OS X’s App Store. All your apps in one spot, whether they be iOS or OS X (and it could allow for device management for apps for those that need it… music would stay in iTunes).

    • Fair enough. But they didn’t do that. If they had rolled app download and management into the Mac App Store app, that would be okay. But removing it does absolutely nothing to improve the performance or simplicity of iTunes.

  2. Worst decision ever, or maybe ever, from Apple, as there have been a few over the past couple of years! . Yes, I gave in and updated iTunes as I was updating to iOS 11. After having to download Pages twice (iPhone/iPad) it’s going to be very selective app updates for me from now on, which is bad for security, bug fixes and functionality. I just don’t want my devices out of action for so long downloading app updates. I don’t want to waste that time. I just want to get on using my devices. I have slow internet and caps to be mindful of and deal with daily. I’ve complained to Apple but doubt it’ll do much good.

  3. I’m not so sure Apple eliminated app syncing from iTunes as a way to reduce “bloat,” as some have claimed. Rather, I suspect it’s to further, albeit in a small way, Apple’s step-by-step march towards having iOS devices stand completely on their own apart from macOS.

    When the iPod was released, it was basically a satellite device to Macs. The first iPhones, I believe, had to be activated through iTunes. And iPhones and iPads, in their initial releases, could be synced to computers through a USB cable only — later came WiFi syncing with iTunes.

    initially, you could only watch a movie or listen to music on an iOS device after syncing media through iTunes. Now, movies and music can be streamed.

    With a few exceptions, the only function you need iTunes for in relation to iOS devices is for local backups.

    • “When the iPod was released, it was basically a satellite device to Macs.”

      No it wasn’t. It was a device that could mirror your iTunes library (all or part of it) to provide portable playback. No different from iOS devices today. Sure, you can stream all this content, but many people don’t have the bandwidth to do that, pzrticlulary when using a cellular connection.

  4. “No it wasn’t. It was a device that could mirror your iTunes library (all or part of it) to provide portable playback. No different from iOS devices today.”

    It’s true the iPod mirrored your iTunes library, but it had to be synced through iTunes on a Mac, and later a Windows machine. It couldn’t obtain media files without an iTunes connection — a cable connection at that. That’s what I’m referring to when I call it a “satellite device to Macs.”

  5. My kingdom for a podcatcher on macOS that JUST downloads, saves and then can play files from feeds, and an iOS podcast player that JUST plays files transferred directly from said podcatcher.

    when iTunes 10.2(ish) introduced this dog’s breakfast of auto-deleting, auto-playing, auto-streaming, and FFS requiring manually saving every file you want to protect from auto-delete (because “episodes to keep” is both the control for auto-delete, AND how far back in the feed it will repeatedly auto-download ANY changed files).

    iTunes 10.0, that was a good tool.

  6. I just finished battling against Apple to load back to my iTunes 12.6.1 (not even 12.6.2) through backup and restore my iTunes library file. I don’t know when this will end but I doubt this will become my new norm as I try to update iOS in the future.

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