iOS app management removed from iTunes (a first reaction)

Perhaps a bit lost in the noise of last week’s announcements was the release of iTunes 12.7, which removes iOS app management (oh, and ringtones, too): you can no longer buy iOS apps on the desktop, or update them, or sync the ones you bought to your device except in an ad hoc way.

I admit I was taken by surprise. I heavily use these features: in principle, I do not download apps or app updates directly to my iPhone or iPad (there are exceptions): if I am at home with WiFi, I consider I might as well use my Mac, and elsewhere I’d rather not eat into my WAN bandwidth cap, battery life, etc. Plus, I indeed find iOS app browsing in the built-in (iOS) App Store app to be a substandard experience. 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).


Now thinking about it more, I may be able to live without this feature. I don’t reorder apps on the iPhone screen from iTunes, app thinning means that even with two devices, my bandwidth use should even be lower (compared to downloading the “fat” app or app update as I do today), I haven’t tried to keep superseded version of apps just in case an update would ruin it, I will search and discover apps on the device if I have to (the main trouble in this scenario being, for me, the lack of free trials — that is not changing), I haven’t switched devices in a long time (though that might change in the next few months)…

So I’ll try it out. After one last sync, I will later today update iTunes and I will see if I miss anything. Maybe iOS 11 will help, maybe it won’t, maybe Apple will improve the experience (I wouldn’t hold my breath — iOS 11 features are already known, normally).


But as with yesterday’s post, my biggest worry is for historical preservation. What happens, in the long run, for apps that are no longer being sold in the iOS App Store? Will they only remain on devices where they were bought, with no chance of being able to transfer them on a different device? But I fear this is the last of Apple’s worries…

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