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On the removal of iOS apps from iTunes: I hate it

The recently-released iTunes 12.7 removes access to the iOS app store, as well as management of iOS apps. This is bad on any number of fronts; here are just a few things that bother me about it…

  • Migrating installed apps to a new device will now require you download all of them from the iOS device itself. This will be slow, and if you have capped internet, eat into your bandwidth. In my case, my iPhone holds 248 apps. So I’ll have the joy of waiting for 248 apps to download over the internet? And, heaven forbid, if I have issues as I did with my iPhone 6, I’ll get to do that over and over and over…
  • You can’t organize your apps in iTunes any more, only on your iOS device. If you have a lot of apps, this is perhaps the most painful task to do on an iPhone—dragging icon by icon, across screen after screen. Ugh. iTunes offersoffered a much better method…

    But no longer, because Apple knows better, right?

  • Developers, I think, will hate this change. Why? Because not only can users not browse apps in iTunes, they can’t purchase apps on a Mac or a PC at all! I spend all day at my desk, on my Mac. When I read about an interesting iOS app, I can see its web page, and then jump right into iTunes and buy it. But as Kirk McElhearn notes, this is no longer possible (temporary issue, maybe?). As a developer, losing access to anyone browsing from a non-iOS device would be deeply troubling.

But the above issues are only part of the reason why the removal of iOS apps from iTunes bothers me. An equally concerting issue is this: Browsing and buying apps on an iPhone is an absolutely horrid experience.

There’s just no comparison; using a Mac (or PC or anything with an actual full-sized display) and iTunes is a much better experience.

Here’s a quick demonstration; let’s say I’m interested in soccer stuff in the App Store, so I search on soccer. First, let’s do that on the iPhone, and then look at some of the results…

On my screen, I can see one ad, one full game, and part of the title of a second. Let’s be generous, and give the iPhone credit for showing three matches for my search, including the ad. If I want to see more, I have to scroll…and scroll…and scroll, with roughly 1.5 apps visible per scroll.

Now let’s run the same search on my iMac, with the iTunes window set a bit smaller than I normally leave it…

In that view, there are nine iPhone apps…but also nine iPad and iMessage apps, and close to full icons for nine Apple Watch apps. That’s 36 results, and each category has a See All link to let me see all of the matches in one spot.

Now let’s tap into one of the apps on the iPHone…

I can see some summary game info at the top, the editor’s notes, and a bit of the first graphic/movie. But that’s it. Now on the Mac…

Program info, two full graphics and part of a third, editor’s notes, desscription, part of what’s new, and the top in-app purchases, plus links, including one to the developer’s web site. The advantages of the big screen are really obvious when looking at one app.

And none of this gets into the advantages of a true multi-window capable OS—I can easily open the web site for any of the apps, use a browser window to search for reviews outside the App Store, open Mail to forward a link to a friend, etc.

In short, the shopping experience for iOS apps is so much better on a Mac (or PC) that there’s no comparison: I’ll use the Mac every time. The rare instances I buy directly on my iPhone are when I happen to be away from my desk and I know exactly what I want to buy—so I don’t need to search for it, nor do I need to research the app before purchasing. Beyond that, though, I’ll wait and search/research from my Mac.

I’m hoping we’ll soon see an integrated “All App Stores” app from Apple, but I seriously doubt that’s the case. They clearly know best, so we’re stuck with an iOS-centric approach from here on out. Sigh.

14 Comments

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    1. This won’t help with the actual downloading of the 284 apps. Those have to come from Apple to the local machine first.

      -rob.

  1. Silly Rob, doncha know all the Kool Kidz have been telling us for years “The Mac is Dead” and all we’ll ever need in the future are our phones!

    Heavy sarcasm aside, this is truly bad news, because I did not know this and one of the things my wife’s been asking is to help her re-arrange the eleventy-kajillion screens she has on her iPad.

    And now iTunes has updated itself on everything ARRRRRRGGGGHHH!

    while (Pain == TRUE) {Head->Desk}

  2. The disappointment which is apple computer in this millennium knows no bounds. The most important thing I do every bloody day is make sure none of my devices update. Thank you for confirming the value of my obsession.

    I wish I understood why they hate users like us so much they go out of their way to remove the reasons we were almost happy paying them thousands of dollars every year.

  3. Agree completely. Maybe I’m not in Apple’s target audience any more, but they’re making it awfully hard to remain a customer. The only thing they really have going for them at this point (and maybe this is the cause), is that the other ecosystems available suck even worse than Apple’s.

  4. do you think a petition in Change.org would gather enough support to get Apple to consider restoring this feature?

    1. I doubt it—Apple probably has stats showing how few people use iTunes on a Mac/PC for iOS app store stuff, so they made the change. It’s just annoying there’s no seamless replacement for the deskbound among us.

      -rob.

  5. I agree somewhat, but I’m not sure about your complaint that migrating apps will be slower. I’ve restored/migrated a number of times in recent years, and all that seems to get restored is the fact that the app belongs on that device. The restore is thus extremely quick, but the device then downloads all the apps from the App Store. This part is as slow as you feared, but I don’t think it’s new.

    1. To be clear, I 100% agree with your other complaints. Particularly the pain of rearranging the icons one by one on the screen vs in iTunes.

      On the other hand iTunes itself wasn’t THAT good at letting you browse your purchases. I’m happy they are willing to take features out of iTunes, which had become ridiculously bloated. Maybe one day the features we most want will return, new and improved, via a tool that’s not iTunes. Is this something third party software could help with, I wonder. But maybe it’s too locked down.

  6. Absolutely HORRIBLE decision by Apple. I will wager that developers will see a decrease in downloads. My family all find iOS apps on their Macs. The ONLY good thing about this is I gained 30 gigs of space on my MacBook Pro after deleting all the iOS apps in the iTunes Media folder.

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