iTunes App Syncing is Back (Kinda)

2 minute read
| Dr. Mac's Rants & Raves

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #249

It appears iTunes app syncing may be back.

As you may recall, last month I ranted about iTunes 12.7, which no longer includes the iOS App Store or iOS App management. I said that once you upgraded, you would only be able to buy and manage iOS apps on your iOS devices, with no way to manipulate them with your Mac or PC anymore.

That may not be the case anymore. Shortly after that column ran, Apple quietly posted a support article entitled, Deploy apps in a business environment with iTunes, which states that, “certain business partners might still need to use iTunes to install apps.”

iTunes App Syncing: The Good News

The big deal is that the article includes a link to “downgrade” (my word, not Apple’s) to iTunes 12.6.3, a new release that revives the App Store and app management functionality (and ringtone syncing), and is also compatible with iOS 11. The article notes that you will no longer be prompted to download new versions of iTunes 12.7 after you install this version and includes instructions for updating when you’re ready.

iTunes App Syncing: Use iTunes to manage iOS apps again!

Use iTunes to manage iOS apps again!

The article notes that you will no longer be prompted to download new versions of iTunes 12.7 after you install this version and includes instructions for updating when you’re ready. That’s the good news, but…

iTunes App Syncing: The Bad News

Before you go off thinking that iTunes 12.6.3 is gonna solve all of your iOS app troubles, here’s the bad news: The iTunes 12.7 library file is not compatible with iTunes 12.6.3. The first time you launch it, you’ll be invited to either open a compatible (older) iTunes library file or create a new one.

I happened to have a backup of that file handy, so I tried using it first. That brought back my music and TV shows, but not my movies, apps, podcasts, or ringtones.

I was about to begin a troubleshooting session when I had an epiphany—I don’t care about that stuff. All I wanted iTunes 12.6.3 to do was let me rearrange my 12 home screen pages and quickly and easily delete dozens of apps I no longer want or need on my iPhone. And that’s just what I did. I’ve reinstalled iTunes 12.7 and am resigned to moving forward without managing iOS apps on my Mac.

My Recommendation

If you do decide to downgrade, I recommend you create a new iTunes Library in a folder other than your Music folder. Don’t worry about your media—you don’t need to worry about it if you just want to work with iOS apps.

Now, rearrange your home screens, apps, and folders, and delete unwanted apps. Finally, when your iPhone (in iTunes) looks just the way you like, click Sync (or Apply). When the sync is done, follow the instructions to upgrade (re-upgrade?) to iTunes 12.7, delete the iTunes Library folder you just created, and get on with life.

When the sync is done, follow the instructions to upgrade (re-upgrade?) to iTunes 12.7, delete the iTunes Library folder you just created somewhere other than your Music folder, and get on with your life.

There you have it: If you want to manage apps with your Mac or PC, you’ll need to install iTunes 12.6.3. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than what we had a few weeks ago  (i.e., no solution).

I suspect Apple is working on a more intuitive, elegant answer. I mean, Apple must know that discovering and managing apps is a much better experience on a computer with a large screen and movable windows with scrollbars than on an iPhone or iPad screen…  Don’t they?

I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this issue yet, so stay tuned!

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