I’d like to start with a brief test. All those who have more than one Apple ID, please raise your hands. Now look around you; if you’re in a group of people who use Apple products, you’ll see a lot of hands in the air. And if you’re not, well, you can lower your hand now…
If you’ve been using Apple products for a while, you may have multiple Apple IDs. One might be a user name, and another an email address. Or you may have set up one Apple ID for the iTunes and App Stores and another for your personal data, such as your email and other iCloud services. (And this is fine; Apple even explains how to do it.)
Some people may have set up a second Apple ID because, for some reason, they couldn’t access the account with the first one, and simply gave up. Or they used an email address they no longer use, and created a new Apple ID with a more current address. In either of these cases, they cannot download apps or media purchased with the older Apple ID.
A reader wrote in with a suggestion for a topic for this column:
“Coming from a Windows environment I find that uninstalling a Mac OS application to be very difficult. My understanding is that in some cases you can simply remove the app from the Applications folder, but that is not always the case. There are other cases where the software vendor will provide an uninstall application. How can I easily uninstall apps on my Mac?”
Uninstalling apps has never been easy on the Mac. You can sometimes just delete the app from your Applications folder, but that rarely deletes all the files that app has created. Or you can delete apps installed by the Mac App Store from Mission Control: click and hold on an app’s icon. When all the icons wiggle, you can delete any app with an X at its top left corner by clicking the X.
Long-time Mac users remember how software was distributed before the introduction of the Mac App Store five years ago. You could buy boxed software in retail stores, and you could download shareware that you could try out and pay for if you liked. There was also freeware that developers gave away. Some developers still practice the shareware model, but the Mac App Store has become the sole provider for much of the software people use on their Macs.
This has its advantages: users are protected, since Apple validates the software; they don’t have to trust their credit card numbers to potentially dodgy websites; and it’s easy to re-download apps and get updates, all through a single app that serves as a storefront. Developers pay Apple a 30 percent commission, but Apple manages fulfillment and billing, and exposes their software to tens of millions of Mac users, so it’s not a bad deal.
But two things are missing from the Mac App Store: demo versions and paid upgrades.
Bloomberg is reporting that Apple plans to revamp App Store searching to include paid search placement.
Apple Inc. has constructed a secret team to explore changes to the App Store, including a new strategy for charging developers to have their apps more prominently displayed, according to people familiar with the plans.
As Bloomberg points out:
Paid search, which Google turned into a multibillion-dollar business, would give Apple a new way to make money from the App Store. The growing marketing budgets of app developers such as “Clash of Clans” maker Supercell Oy have proven to be lucrative sources of revenue for Internet companies, including Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc.
So, if I search the app store for, say, “task manager,” I’ll see Clash of Clans. If I search for “fitness tracker,” I’ll see Clash of Clans.
Apple has done some dumb things in the company’s history, but this stands out as particularly stupid. Let’s be honest; Apple really doesn’t need the money that they’d be making from paid search placement, and all this will do is make the customer experience worse. It’s already very hard to find anything on the App Store, since Apple is so lenient about clones, and about apps using misleading keywords in their names and descriptions. Adding paid search will turn the App Store into a random morass of crap.
Not that many people download apps; many iOS device users are very happy with the stock apps, plus a few (for them) essentials, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others. If this is an attempt to get people to buy more apps, I can’t imagine it will sway those users. If it’s an attempt to lure regular App Store users toward lucrative in-app-purchase-scam apps, then Apple is treating their users like cash cows, something the company only does regarding its own products.
Either way, this is simply the wrong thing for Apple to do.
iTunes used to have a Power Search feature, but it has been removed from the iTunes app (though you can still access it this way). Power searching is really useful when you want to home in on something in the iTunes Store, App Store, or Mac App Store.
In the absence of a real power search, you can search another way: with Google. A Google search works because Apple has Web pages for all its iTunes Store content. With Google, you can search for more specific keywords and use quotes to search for specific phrases.
Perform a search like this (replace the terms in brackets with the item you’re searching for):
[artist] [title] site:itunes.apple.com
You can add other keywords, such as the name of a record label. So, if you wanted to search for Steve Reich’s album Music for 18 Musicians on the ECM label, you could run the following search:
"steve reich" "music for 18 musicians" ECM site:itunes.apple.com
(The quotes narrow the search to the exact phrases that are quoted.)
Google returns a lot of results, the first of which should be the album you’re looking for. You’ll see results from several countries, so look at the URL: after itunes.apple.com, if you see /us/, that is a U.S. store page; /gb/ is for the UK; /de/ for Germany, and so on.
Click a link in your search results to open its iTunes Store Web page, complete with a View in iTunes button that you can click to open that “page” in the iTunes Store.
You can also use the same technique to search for apps, using keywords, specific app names, and more.
Search the App Store for “confederate,” and you’ll find a number of apps displaying this symbol:
To be fair, not all of these apps are using the flag as a symbol of racism; many discuss the Civil War, where it is certainly justified to display this image (just as displaying a swastika in an app about World War II is valid).
But if Mr. Cook is serious about wanting the symbol removed, it’s a good idea to have a look at the App Store.
Amazon announced that they would remove all such items from their store, but you can still find a few, such as this flag and this mousepad.
With iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple introduced Family Sharing, a way to allow multiple users in a family to share the same iTunes Store account. This way, they can easily get access to all the music, movies, TV shows and apps that anyone in the family buys.
“Family Sharing makes it easy for up to six people in your family to share each other’s iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases without sharing accounts. Pay for family purchases with the same credit card and approve kids’ spending right from a parent’s device. And share photos, a family calendar, and more to help keep everyone connected.”
I have not even tried setting up Family Sharing, even for testing, because of the way it works. Once a device is added to a family group, your device may be in limbo. As Apple says, “After you leave a family, you can join or set up a new one. However you can only switch to a different family group once per year.”
David Chartier has pointed this out, especially as far as free apps are concerned. He points out that there are issues downloading apps that are shared, but even more so with apps that don’t allow sharing. Because this feature is an opt-in feature for developers. Frankly, if the feature doesn’t work for all the content of a given type, it’s not worth using. Imagine if iTunes Match only worked with music from certain record labels; that’s what’s happening here with apps.
David Sparks is quitting family sharing. He highlights the fact that app developers must opt in, that in-app purchases are not included, and that iTunes Match doesn’t get shared. He concludes:
“Family Sharing is not ready for the Sparks family. I’ve spent way too much time trying to make this all work and this weekend I’m officially throwing in the towel on Family Sharing until it gets better. Now I am about to sit down at the dinner table to figure out which 10 of our devices get the full benefit of our shared account. Let the negotiations begin.”
And the same is the case for Jason Snell, who says ” Family Sharing is a good idea, but between the limitations and the bugs, it’s making my family agitate for a return to sharing a single Apple ID.”
Yet again, Apple comes up with a good idea, but has a very poor implementation. It reminds me of iTunes Match, which still has the same problems (not matching tracks, not updating tracks and playlists, and a limited number of tracks) several years after it was introduced. I don’t know why Apple is so incompetent at making things like this work, but it doesn’t tempt me at all to try any new features with so many hoops to jump through.
You use your Apple ID for a lot of different things. It’s your email account, if you use iCloud email; it’s your iMessages connection (though you can also use your phone number); and it’s especially the key to any content you’ve bought from Apple. You use it to buy from the iTunes Store, the Mac App Store, the iOS App Store, and the iBookstore.
But what happens to all that content when you die? Since your Apple ID is the key to all of this, if you haven’t given someone the password, then it becomes orphaned. In fact, according to Apple’s terms and conditions:
You agree that your Account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or Content within your Account terminate upon your death.
This means that, not only do your next of kin not get access to purchases you’ve made from Apple, but also to your email, photos and documents, as long as they’re protected by an Apple ID.
Apple does say that “Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate your Account may be terminated and all Content within your Account deleted,” and, in this case, it finally deleted the account. But it seems like a very big hassle to go through, and one you might want to avoid.
For this reason, I strongly recommend that you leave your Apple ID password in a safe place for your next of kin, just in case. It could be written down and stored in a safe deposit box, or it could be stored in a password manager, if you have one, as long as your spouse, partner or children know the password to access that app.
Another point to make is that Apple’s terms and conditions make it clear that you do not own any content you purchase from the company, but are only granted access until your death. That’s a much more complicated issue that may, one day, have to be dealt with by the courts.
In any case, make sure you have a spare set of keys – your Apple ID password – in a safe place. Just in case.