Wednesday, September 13, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

iTunes 12.7 Drops Apps and Ringtones

Apple:

The new iTunes focuses on music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks. Apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch are now exclusively available in the new App Store for iOS.

[…]

If you have an iOS app, ringtone, or book that’s no longer available for redownload, you can move that content to your iOS device while plugged in to a computer with a USB cable.

Apple:

With iOS 11, you can redownload purchased tones that you bought using your Apple ID.

I suppose this has been a long time coming, but I will miss the lost functionality. I preferred to browse the App Store from my Mac, and I liked the automatic app backups. Now I’ve lost the ability to revert an app if a new version introduces a problem or limitation. And, presumably, restoring a device from backup will be slower and impossible offline because it will have to redownload all the apps.

See also: Nick Heer, MacRumors, Kirk McElhearn, Jeff Johnson, Rob Griffiths.

Jason Sims:

New feature in iTunes 12.7: the column browser no longer remembers its height; it resets to 3 rows tall every time you view a playlist.

I see this bug as well.

Update (2017-09-15): Alexandre Colucci:

If your “iTunes Media” is an alias to an external unplugged disk, iTunes 12.7 will crash at launch.

Paul Kafasis:

Today, we’re releasing Fission 2.4 with revamped ringtone saving. Using Fission, you can once again save custom tones for use on your iOS device. While the new iTunes makes it much less obvious, it is indeed still possible to load custom tones onto your iOS device, right from your Mac.

See also: Hacker News.

Update (2017-09-19): See also: Kirk McElhearn.

Craig Grannell:

Apple should steal an idea from Google. It should be possible to buy apps directly from iTunes Preview, and choose where to send them. Better: iTunes Preview should grow to become the entire iOS App Store online, giving greater visibility to apps, and freeing browsing and buying them from the confines of iOS.

Pierre Lebeaupin:

Yes, some of us still don’t buy into the idea that the handheld device is necessarily self-sufficient; I mean I’d very much like to see you add freely distributed music (which as a result is not in the iTunes store) to your iPhone music library, or back up your iPhone to a non-Internet backup location, using solely the iPhone itself. As long as I can’t do that and have to sync, might as well use sync for everything (and honestly, I don’t mind sync per se).

And of course, speaking as a developer-adjacent person, I have to wonder what the impact is when potential customers who come across a link to an iOS app while browsing the web on their desktop… can no longer buy it there. There will be lost sales until Apple improves the situation (QR codes would be a start, for instance).

Update (2017-09-20): Ted Landau:

Not a surprise, but its appears the new (app-less) Mac version of iTunes is required to recognize connected iOS devices running iOS 11.

Kirk McElhearn:

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.

[…]

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.

Update (2017-09-21): See also: John Voorhees.

Update (2017-09-26): Kirk McElhearn:

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.

Update (2017-10-09): Tim Hardwick:

Apple has quietly released iTunes 12.6.3, which reintroduces the ability to download App Store apps and ringtones from within the iTunes desktop software.

Apple is making this version of iTunes available because "certain business partners might still need to use iTunes to install apps", but the download is basically available to anyone looking to reinstate the functionality that was removed in iTunes 12.7.

Doug Adams:

I suppose that for people who felt ambushed by installing iTunes 12.7 and weren’t able to get their Apps and Ringtones in order, this will enable some extra time to do so. But I wouldn’t want to stick around on this version. Apple has warned that 12.6.3 won’t provide notifications for future updates and it presumably does not have 12.7’s new features and fixes. So once you’ve made any adjustments (say, getting your Fabulous Ringtones Collection uploaded in toto to your devices, extricated older iOS apps and so on) you may want to upgrade back to 12.7.

Update (2017-11-01): John Gruber:

But even putting that aside, it seems to me that managing these ringtones is something iOS should be able to handle on its own — especially now that iOS has a Files app. There aren’t many things left where you need to connect to a Mac or PC to manage on iOS, but ringtones are one.

7 Comments

Making it impossible to back up or restore apps is wholly user-hostile and worrisome for the future of software ownership and usage in general. It's frustrating to see this cheered on as "bloat-removal" from iTunes instead of recognizing it as a seriously significant reduction of user freedom.

This is just terrible. I personally use this feature because I have to, and I bet millions of others do the same thing — international students, people who travel and do businesses across countries, to name a few.

At the moment, I download banking apps, Netflix and some other Canada-specific apps from the Canadian App Store and Sync them to iPhone. Some Chinese apps are not in Canadian Store. I bought Darksky from the US Store because it is usable in Vancouver but is not found anywhere outside of US Store.

Now to update apps, I need to log into each account on my phone.

And every time I do that, I HAVE TO re-download my Apple Music tracks.

I get it that it’s hard to support multiple Apple ID’s for the Store. But how hard is it to separate Music from App Store?

So, you can get old apps back to the iOS device with manual drag and drop, but there's no way to backup apps going forward? Am I missing something....? I want a better iTunes, but I also want my stuff to be my stuff as much as possible given a DRM infested app store anyway.

I wonder what happens to iTunes File Sharing. That's the feature I need most, e.g. to regularly transfer movies to VLC. Of course, that's not in sync with Apple's idea of how I should acquire and watch movies...

Small clarification warranted.

To be fair, since I don't use iOS devices anymore, and haven't installed iTunes on my lone compatible device (Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10), it's no longer a personal quest for a "better iTunes".

My clients on the other hand. There's not a single one that actually seems to understand how iTunes works...it's rather frustrating. No, the whole fault isn't Apple's. Part of the problem remains a general populace computer problem as people don't learn their tools; yet, iTunes has been a bit of a mess in "recent" years, so cleaning up functionality is theoretically welcome as well. Just not at the expense of helpful features such as app backup (defacto versioning if you remember to pull out any updated apps from the trash and file them away). Apple could do better, I'm just not sure they care.

Thomas,
Oh man....good point. That's a killer feature too.

Looks like iTunes File Sharing is still a thing:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201301

I'd been scared to upgrade. Guess I'll give it a shot.

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