Apple releases iTunes 12.7, removes iOS app backups

Mac Observer:

Apple rolled out iTunes 12.7 on Tuesday with support for iOS 11—the new version of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch operating system that will be publicly available on September 19th. The update also makes some interface changes and does away with saving backups of the apps installed on your devices.

Many of us have complained about iTunes bloat and wanted Apple to do something about it but, in my opinion, this isn’t it. I like having backups on my Mac. Apple says:

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. And the new App Store makes it easy to get, update, and redownload apps—all without a Mac or PC.

Except I almost never “get, update, and redownload apps” without my Mac and I never buy apps directly from my iPhone. When I want to buy an app, I read reviews and check out the developer’s web site on my Mac, not on my iPhone. All of this leaves aside the fact many of us have bandwidth caps. Forcing users to use up bandwidth re-downloading apps, for any reason, seems user unfriendly. I recognize I may be an extreme use case but it would be nice if Apple simply made this an option for those users who don’t want to do it this way.



  • Master of Thumbs

    Also, the days of keeping an older copy of app locally in case the update sucks, are gone. We can’t even copy apps off the iDevices onto our Macs anymore.

    In addition, restoring a device will now take longer because instead of reloading apps off a local Mac at USB2 or 3 speeds, it will have to depend on wifi/cellular speeds and their interruptions.

    • Lay

      Apple Configurator 2 is the only way right now to make an ipa backup (but you need to copy the ipa after the download and during the installation from the cache folder because after the installation Apple configurator 2 delete the ipa) ~/Library/Group Containers/K36BKF7T3D.group.com.apple.configurator/ Library/Caches/Assets/ . you can still install ipa with a cmd+c cmd+v on itunes.

  • I’m really annoyed with this. I manage my kids and wife iPads / iPhone from my Mac. Now I will have to go to each device individually to add apps etc.

    I hope al the podcast tossers who have been calling for iTunes to be broken up are happy now. Reminds me of when they called for RSS to be ended just because they have all day to sit on Twitter. At least when Google Reader got shut down we needed up with better things like Feedbin.

    • Lay

      Try Apple Configurator 2 ~/Library/Group Containers/K36BKF7T3D.group.com.apple.configurator/ Library/Caches/Assets/ (here you will find ipa files)

      it only works on mac

      • Thanks for this. I’ll have to check that out.

  • Anthony Reimer

    In my case, 12.7 also lost access to my previous backups (although they were still in place).

    It had been my intention to backup my primary iOS device on my Mac so that when I updated to iOS 11, I could also restore an old device with my 32-bit apps so that I wouldn’t lose them or their data. This ends that unless I can revert to 12.6.2.

    And yes, I strongly prefer backing up to my Mac, such that none of my personal data is stored on servers in the United States.

    • Lay

      Try Apple Configurator 2 ~/Library/Group Containers/K36BKF7T3D.group.com.apple.configurator/ Library/Caches/Assets/ (here you will find ipa files)

      it only works on mac .

    • Anthony Reimer

      I need to walk back my claim about backups going missing in the iTunes UI. I found out my issue was related to a recent hardware swap. iTunes made a backup after initial restore and I hadn’t backed up since. It reported that it had never been backed up, which was not true, but after I reverted to 12.6.2, it reported the same thing. So I’d argue that there’s a bug in iTunes, but it is unrelated to 12.7.

  • Apple’s “Apple Configurator v2 App” has some of the features which have been removed from iTunes. You’re able to update software, install apps, rename and change wallpaper on devices, export device information and documents, saved apps on your iOS device, and most important you can back up and restore your device. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/apple-configurator-2/id1037126344?mt=12

    • Thanks!

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      • Update: Apple has updated its Apple Configurator 2 App. It is now possible to rearrange app placement on your screens.

        Choose Info and right click on the iOS device image shown and choose Modify >> Home Screen Layout.

        It is also capable of configuring ATV’s. It requires Sierra or higher.

        Apple has also increased the cellular download limit from 100 MB to 150 MB per app, so that customers can download larger apps from the App Store over their cellular network.

  • rb763

    I’m with you on this. I always buy, load and sync apps though iTunes. I now have to figure out how to transfer files to my GPS apps and Goodreader when it was a simple matter to just drag in iTunes. The only ray of light in this bad move by Apple is that I don’t have to have iTunes loaded and taking up memory anymore.

    • David Robeson

      I haven’t “upgraded” to 12.7 yet but my understanding is that iTunes Sharing is still available, so you should still be able to put content into apps that support it. And in the case of GoodReader, they make a standalone app that allows you to put content into it without iTunes at all: http://www.goodreader.com/goodreader-usb.html

      • rb763

        Thank you David!

    • Mo

      I believe iMazing can fill some of the duties that iTunes has relinquished. We had to buy a copy of it almost a year ago while on the road to manage capacity on two iPhones; it works well.

      • rb763

        Thanks, I’ll check it out!

      • rb763

        I discovered I had a copy of iMazing which I bought with a bundle. I tried it but didn’t go further as I was comfortable with iTunes. Now this may be a very useful app. I’m considering upgrading to iMazing 2. Have you done this?

        • Mo

          Yes. Version 2 was the one I bought while in London. One of us ran out of storage space for photos on an iPhone, and our bandwidth was too limited to completely back up each day’s photos to Dropbox in time for the next day.

          iMazing might not have been the best solution, but it’s the one I found relatively quickly (after a comparison with the updated Phoneview, which I originally got in 2009 through a bundle).

          iMazing worked well, but next time I’m taking at least one Sandisk iXpand with us.

          • rb763

            Great, thanks!

  • Have never purchased an iOS app on my Mac. Do not care.

    • Fair enough but you obviously care enough to post twice about it….

      • i come to this site to read and write comments. if you’re suggesting i shouldn’t do so, The Loop holds less value. less value means less readership.

        as for my comments. one was to remind you that normals dont care about this. indeed, even many techies dont as I’m a software developer and i dont bother with it.

        my other comment was to point out the hypocrisy we routinely see on anything Apple does. this is a prime example.

        • Mike Burger

          I’d say that you’re misinformed, mdelvecchio, about “normals” and “techies” alike.

          I’m a techie who has to manage my and my childrens’ devices. My wife is a “normal” who has to manage her own.

          Your circle of acquaintances must be rather small, if you don’t know anyone who cares about this issue.

          Having backups of these things on a computer, instead of having to redownload in the event of a device replacement, corruption or even a need to restore to factory default because support suggests it, are conveniences that aren’t niche.

          Hell…my 75yo mother-in-law relies on her PC based backups for her apps, as she makes little to no use of her iPad’s network connectivity.

          • Mike Burger

            Additionally, “Apple now expects users to redownload purchased apps through the App Store”.

            Which would be great…IF you happen to remember which apps you had previously left installed on your device (as opposed to the myriad of apps that you may have removed due to obsolescence, boredom, lack of usefulness).

  • “iTunes is too bloated!”

    “I want my features back!”

    ….yyyyeahh.

    • Not the same thing at all. But nice strawman you’ve set up there.

      • says you. i say its a perfect example of the internet’s hypocrisy — people whine that iTunes is too bloated and should be slimmed down, and people whine when iTunes is slimmed down.

        sorry you dont like being the evidence.

        • rb763

          There’s different kinds of bloated, I would say. I have trouble navigating iTunes but always found the switch from Apps to Music a fairly clean break.

        • James Hughes

          The only thing that would make me happy is if when I connect my device I could see it on the desktop and open a Music folder. I could copy all of my music to that folder and be done. That’s it.

  • Glaurung-Quena

    I know this seems like a ridiculous workaround, but you can keep an out of date copy of Itunes installed in Boot camp, in a VM, or using Wine, and use that old copy to download your app purchases for local backup.

  • lkalliance

    According to the Apple help document here…

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208075

    …all the apps, ringtones, etc. that you have on your Mac are still present in the Media folder, and you can still move them over to your iPhone when it is plugged in by cable.

    But, until I see how seamless that is, I agree that this is a step backwards, unless the same functionality is moved to a separate app. In fact, a dedicated “iOS Sync” app for Mac would be lovely; it could even handle the syncing functions of music.

    EDITED TO ADD: I think I’m going to avoid updating to iTunes 12.7 (and, if necessary, High Sierra), until it’s clear how to proceed on this.

    • Lay

      one thing you can do is update and try to use Apple Configurator 2 ~/Library/Group Containers/K36BKF7T3D.group.com.apple.configurator/ Library/Caches/Assets/ (here you will find ipa files)

      you can still remove itunes 12.7 from terminal and reinstall it by make a download of the old version.

  • invinciblegod

    That’s why I thought people who always say itunes is too bloated don’t understand the implications of what they want.

    • Glaurung-Quena

      Itunes needs to be splintered into a device backup and synch app (one of those utility apps that hardly anyone will use but which needs to be available in emergencies) and a media purchase/library management app.

      Really most of the headaches I have had with Itunes have been from synching and backup. As a media library app with bolted on media store, it works fine and that half of it doesn’t strike me as being very bloated at all.

      Oh, right, the other half of the headaches I’ve had from itunes have all been with the store’s backend failing to function properly. Which we can’t really blame on the Itunes app. Dear apple: hire some people away from Amazon and fix your internet store infrastructure so it just works instead of having hissy fits at random intervals.

    • alandanziger

      We would like it split into more targeted, focused apps on the desktop. The current app tries to be all things to all people, and ‘fails’.

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  • Brandon

    I guess I am the poster child for this decision. I completely divorced my iPhone and iPad from my Mac years ago. The one and only time I ever connect an iPad to my Mac is to transfer videos to my son’s iPad, and that is only because you can’t do it through the cloud.

    Perhaps, Apple should have folded the iOS App Store functionality into the App Store app on the Mac. Makes the “bloat” people happy but leaves the functionality in place for the ones that want it in a more logical place.

  • Brandon Pamplin

    “Forcing users to use up bandwidth re-downloading apps, for any reason, seems user unfriendly.”

    I was reading this article on my iPhone… the one that’s connected to my 802.11ac wifi network using my home’s Fios internet connection…and had to go grab my MacBook Pro so I could post this comment since your comment system doesn’t work on Mobile Safari.

    I think I’ve said enough, but just in case I haven’t… your iPhone can connect to wifi to download apps, just as your Mac likely does. Being disappointed about Apple’s half-hearted change to iTunes is one thing. Ignoring that wifi exists is a little…strange.

    • Why? As I said in the piece, many of us have bandwidth caps. If I have my iOS devices backed up on my Mac, when/if I need to reinstall, I can do it locally. This new method forces me to redownload apps, thereby using up bandwidth and going against my cap. Sorry if that wasn’t clear to you.

      • Aren’t you using more bandwidth that way by not getting patch updates? I’ll grant you it’s useful if you need to reinstall everything at once, though!

  • Dave Wood

    I get the sense this was done entirely out of laziness. Apple just didn’t want to spend the time/money to update the iTunes version of the store to match the new design/content in the new iOS 11 store. Easier to just delete it and ignore the problems it causes for users.

    Note: iTunes 12.7 can still create/restore local device backups though. I just backed up a device in it successfully. App file sharing still works, and is actually a little cleaner since it has it’s own menu now.

  • bdkennedy

    The biggest thing that stands out to me is that if I buy a new iPad, I have no way to transfer my apps. If I have to re-download them on my new iPad, I loose all of my settings.

    I’ve got 6 years of Angry Bird’s and re-downloading it will loose all of the levels I’ve played.

    • Janak Parekh
      1. You can still do a full restore of your iPad.

      2. Virtually all of the Angry Birds variants sync now, either via a Rovio account or via iCloud. I have years of progress on Angry Birds 1, and I recently set up a new iPad Pro from scratch and got all my progress back. (Although I’m finally tired of AB1…)

      3. Did iTunes App Management actually install data along with the app? I thought it just managed the app bundles.

  • garrett coffey

    In my case, 12.7 also lost access to my previous backups (although they were still in place).It had been my intention to backup my primary iOS device on my Mac so that when I updated to iOS 11, I could also restore an old device with my 32-bit apps so that I wouldn’t lose them or their data. This ends that unless I can revert to 12.6.2.And yes, I strongly prefer backing up to my Mac, such that none of my personal data is stored on servers in the United States.

  • alandanziger

    I completely agree, Shawn. I almost ALWAYS buy apps on my computer, and then download them to a phone/ipad. This is pretty awful.

    As for backing up, I THINK they’re either keeping that or replacing it with a new app, though not doing so simultaneously with the iTunes change is problematic…

    I ALWAYS back up my phone before I update to a new iOS. I guess they have a week to explain how that’s going to work with this new iTunes?

    • alandanziger

      OK it seems that you can still back up & restore in iTunes (I don’t have a USB-C – Lightning cable with me so I didn’t test this yet.)

  • Luke MacWalker

    This move is strange from Apple since their “Apple Media Services Terms and Conditions” specifies that “It is your responsibility not to lose, destroy, or damage Content once downloaded. We encourage you to back up your Content regularly.” and also that “Content may not be available for Redownload if that Content is no longer offered on our Services.”

    See: https://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/itunes/us/terms.html (section B. USING OU SERVICES, paragraph SERVICES AND CONTENT USAGE RULES, about All Services; and REDOWNLOADS)

    So… how do we (easily) backup our content and ensure that something no longer available for redownload can be reinstalled?

    I’ve read that installing ring tones from iTunes is still possible by drag & dropping a .m4r file onto the device in iTunes. Is something like this possible apps and full backups? Both ways?

    • Lay

      yes it’s possible (I was only able to do that with cmd+c and cmd+v, not with drag & dropping). but it’s not possible to download ipa from a windows pc, and on mac you will need Apple Configurator 2 and look at the cache folder, after the download but before the installation on the device. If they wanted to remove the app store from itunes that’s fine, but they need to add a way to download ipa from the app store (a way to look at the list of bought apps).

  • Gary

    iTunes no longer syncs music. That means the name of the app is now wrong.

    • Kip Beatty

      Since when did “iTunes” mean “syncs music.” iTunes was an app before there were devices like iPods to sync with. I use iTunes daily to listen to and stream music and can’t recall the last time I synced anything to a device. Name works fine for me still.

    • You CAN still sync music. Who says you can’t?

      • Gary

        As it turns out, the new version changed my settings. Still not a good way for Apple to shove the app down our throats. The company has shown it wants to sell its streaming service instead of letting people listen to their own music.

  • Mo

    Agreed. This wastes mobile bandwidth and eliminates functionality that I rely upon. I’ll be holding off this update for as long as I can.

    • Kip Beatty

      Why does it “waste mobile bandwidth?” Just download on your home wifi network just like you did with your computer. For all the whining about that, why are you all finding it so necessary to keep re-downloading apps? I rarely have to re-downlaod an app so I’m not sure why that’s such a sticking point for everyone.

      • Mo

        Call me crazy, but I also prefer a wired connection for large downloads.

  • Curmudgeon

    Pretty certain if you place a copy of the app on the Desktop that you can install in onto a connected iPhone by dragging the app onto the iPhone in the iTunes sidebar. I just did it in fact with my own phone.

    • Kip Beatty

      You can. All of the data is right there in the media folder still. Panic first, then look.

      • lkalliance

        I tried this last night and it did not work…but I may have dragged it to the wrong location. I will try again tonight.

  • anthony

    Fair enough but you obviously care enough to post twice about it….

  • dmc007

    Try Apple Configurator 2~/Library/Group Containers/K36BKF7T3D.group.com.apple.configurator/Library/Caches/Assets/(here you will find ipa files)it only works on mac

  • lkalliance

    Though I’m OK with the terminal command line, it feels uneasy to have to resort to that. This has been a basic function of the Mac for a long time, going back to the iPod. I never had a problem with it being in iTunes, but if it lives in a separate app that’s fine too.

    I saw here on this thread that one can drag the .ipa file from the Media folder onto the iPhone in the iTunes left hand pane, and will try that to check…and will also see if I can do something similar with homemade ringtones.

  • Pat A

    Hi. I’m trying to find an easy, non-technical answer to my question. First, I have only ever purchased apps on my iPhone or iPad (not through iTunes), and then downloaded onto the other device via the Purchased section of the App Store on the device. While my devices are backed up automatically to the Cloud, my main use of iTunes has really been for backing up my devices to my PC, and for iOS updates (which I prefer to do from the PC, rather than wirelessly). So whenever there was an iOS update, I would first do a backup to the PC, followed by the update.

    Like a lot of people, I’m now planning on getting a new iPhone. In the past I would make sure to first back up the iPhone that was going to be replaced, then connect the new iPhone, go through the initial set-up process, then do a restore from backup which would get everything transferred to the new iPhone just as it was on the old iPhone and everything was nice and easy and made me very happy. I can’t seem to find an answer as to how this process will work with this latest iTunes upgrade, that I installed yesterday (then, like most people, saw the message about no App Store access after the update).

    Does this mean that all of the Apps on my old iPhone will no longer get backed up to my PC and will no longer “restore” to a new (or existing,) iPhone, and the only way to get them onto the new device will be to download them from the purchased section of the App Store, which means they will all need to be arranged and new groups created for those I keep together? I would find it to be a bit preposterous if this ends up being the case (as will everyone else), but I have not yet been able to find a straight answer to how this scenario will work. Hopefully someone out there has already tested this and can reply!

    • Adrian

      Looks like this update doesn’t remove iOS apps saved on my PC? So it makes it harder to give them money and doesn’t save me any space? What is the point?

  • morbius

    Yup, looks like my usual only reason for using iTunes at all just disappeared. On to Configurator.

  • JF

    12.7 sucks

    I back up my iPhone and apps to my macbook pro and update all apps during may sync.

    12.7 IS A HUGE POS

    I WANT 12.6 BACK

    I’m not sure why they did this, but Tim Cook basically closed the men’s rooms and is forcing everyone to use the ladies room.

    My phone and computer are business tools and this change impacts productivity, and treats iPhone and iTunes like toys.

    Tim Cook you suck.

  • Robert

    Here’s a major problem with this reconfiguration. My iPhone kept running out of room after updating apps via wifi. A Mac techie explained to me that I should be updating via iTunes because the wifi version includes the entire package, whereas the iTunes download only included the “skinny” version, i.e., just what was necessary for my particular iPhone.

    I followed his instructions, and lo and behold I reclaimed almost 2G of space on my iPhone.

    So, the question is, has Apple had the foresight to use the same principle with the wifi download? Judging by the way they simply removed the app update feature from iTunes, you would think they might have…but I’m guessing…no.

  • GiveMeABreak

    Agreed – I am on to Apple support as we speak. There is now no way to browse and review apps on a Desktop. I am looking for a few apps and am simply NOT prepared to spend hours browsing on a bloody iPhone screen to find what I want. I too like to read and review and browse many apps at a time – not practical on an iPhone.

    Even the links on the itunes site for apps – now tries to open up iTunes on your PC and surprise surprise shoves Apple Music in your face if you are using the latest version. Grrrr.

    So I’ve just come off the phone from Apple Support. They have said you can uninstall the latest version (as this is the only one that has the App Store removed), then go here and pick the version you want: https://support.apple.com/downloads/itunes

    All these version have the App Store back in – so don’t panic – yet!

    I hope this helps others!

  • Victor Riley

    I really only have 3 questions for Apple…

    1) Who came up with that bright idea? 2) Have they been fired yet? 3) When are they fixing it?

    Because no company would be so monumentally stupid as to REMOVE functionality from their customers. Right?

    Jesus… I was already annoyed when they pulled the audiobooks into its own app, which made the functionality worse, because now there’s a delay between tracks that is super-annoying.

    Have they at least been getting complaints so they know this was a dumb thing to do? The whole reason I preferred my ioS devices over my Android was because I could back up and manage my apps ON MY COMPUTER!