“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.