How to Copy Apps, Ringtones, and Files to Your iOS Devices with iTunes 12.7

As I reported yesterday, the latest update to iTunes, version 12.7, has removed the App Store, and app syncing to iOS devices. You can now only access apps on iOS devices. You can neither browse the App Store on your Mac, nor download or sync apps directly. You can also not sync ringtones, and iTunes File Sharing has moved.

There are ways to sync these items, but it’s a kludge.

First, let me clear up some of the confusion that has been circulating on forums. Many people have been pointing to an Apple technical document, About tethered caching. They saw that this allows users to cache downloads and distribute them, but most people didn’t read the document, the part where it said that this process was for schools and businesses. Apple updated the document yesterday, adding a header that says:

This article is intended for users setting up a large number of iOS devices, including school or business administrators.

macOS High Sierra will have a caching feature – something that has been available in macOS Server for many years – which will handle caching of downloads, but I suspect not everyone is going to update to High Sierra. In addition, some people use their iTunes libraries to store large app files, especially for games, which can be several gigabytes, because they can’t store them all on their iOS devices. For them, the iTunes app library serves as a sort of media library. They may decide to play a game, and install it on an iPhone or iPad, but then delete it for want of space. This said, why didn’t Apple wait for High Sierra to be released before issuing this iTunes update? And think how much longer it takes to sync an app over wi-fi, if your bandwidth isn’t at Cupertino speed, than to sync from a local file via USB…

In addition, there’s the issue of restoring an iOS device that has had problems, or setting up a new device. Instead of being able to sync your apps from iTunes, you’ll need to download all of them. And you can no longer rearrange apps when your devices is connected to iTunes; if you have a lot of apps, this is much easier than moving wiggling icons around on your device screen.

Finally, it’s a lot easier to browse apps on a computer, with a large screen, than it is on an iPhone. Given the new layout of the App Store in iOS 11, which only presents a handful of apps, it’s likely that people won’t browse much at all any more.

You will be able to manually copy apps and ringtones to an iOS device with iTunes 12.7. These files will still be in your iTunes Media folder, under Mobile Applications and Tones.

Connect your iOS device, then select it in the iTunes navigation bar. At the bottom of the sidebar, you see the Devices section. Click the disclosure triangle next to the device, then drag the file – app or ringtone – and it will copy.

Copy app kludge

As for iTunes File Sharing, that has been moved from the Apps pane to a new File Sharing entry in the sidebar. Click File Sharing to see which apps you have that can accept files, then transfer them to your device as before (by dragging, or by navigating to a file to select it).

File sharing

While the change to File Sharing is minor, the removal of the App Store just doesn’t make sense. I know that Apple has metrics on who uses the App Store where, and probably most iOS users don’t download apps on computers, but most of them don’t sync music or videos either. This worries me as to the future of iTunes. If Apple had rolled out a new, separate app for syncing, and for the App Store, this would make sense, but as things stand now, I’m scratching my head. Removing the App Store does not, as some people are saying, may iTunes any less “bloated.” If you don’t use the App Store, it doesn’t get in your way.

One suggestion: if you want to retain the App Store functionality in iTunes, especially if you have multiple devices that need to sync apps, you might want to consider creating an installation of macOS Sierra on an external hard drive or on an older Mac. You can download apps, copy them to your current Mac, then manually copy them to devices via iTunes as explained about. But, seriously, should people have to go to that much trouble?