Why Can’t Apple Fix iOS Syncing?

Here we go again. Yet another problem syncing an iOS device. It’s gotten to the point where syncing an iPhone or an iPad is a perilous task.

Today, I wanted to remove a couple of music playlists from my iPhone and add some others. I checked the capacity bar in iTunes, which showed me that I had a couple of GB of free space.

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But when I went to make the change – removing more content than I was adding – I was greeted with this message:

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This isn’t like the problems where iTunes suddenly doesn’t recognize the audio files as being music, and shows them as “Other;” this is different. The music is clearly recognized as such, but iTunes – and the iPhone – simply aren’t communicating correctly.

I’ve written about this recently, discussing the huge problems that many users experience syncing their devices. I get lots of emails about this, and Apple’s support forums abound with tales of syncing woes.

I know the solution (which is often just temporary) is to restore the device; to take a couple of hours to copy all my media content and apps. But I’m tired of doing that. I’m fed up with having to do that repeatedly with iOS devices. I really wish Apple would pay more attention to this issue, and fix syncing; or at least offer some guidance as to what’s going on when something like this goes wrong.

I used to think that the ability to have iTunes sync to iOS devices was what made Apple’s products work so well; it has now become the thing that prevents them from working.

26 thoughts on “Why Can’t Apple Fix iOS Syncing?

  1. Yes, yes, yes.

    It is odd that something that worked almost flawlessly 10 years or so ago now doesn’t.

  2. Yes, yes, yes.

    It is odd that something that worked almost flawlessly 10 years or so ago now doesn’t.

  3. If iPhone users could actually brag about iTunes being a positive experience and a true plus about iPhone ownership, it could be enough to cause a perceptible increase in phone sales over time. Just think of what a 0.5% increase in smartphone market share would mean in revenue. Hundreds of millions?

    • I think the majority of iPhone owners never sync their phones. In fact, I’m going to set up a survey…

  4. If iPhone users could actually brag about iTunes being a positive experience and a true plus about iPhone ownership, it could be enough to cause a perceptible increase in phone sales over time. Just think of what a 0.5% increase in smartphone market share would mean in revenue. Hundreds of millions?

    • I think the majority of iPhone owners never sync their phones. In fact, I’m going to set up a survey…

  5. Yes. The overall quality of iTunes and sync continues to degrade. iTunes used to be simple and intuitive, now it’s complex, buggy and intrusive. It’s basically become a conduit to the Store, rather than a way to manage content. The bug ridden sync just compounds the problem.
    The Apple ecosystem used to ‘just work’. Now, it seems less reliable than my laptop I used for work – a Win 7 Lenovo X1 Carbon. Never thought I’d say that.

  6. Yes. The overall quality of iTunes and sync continues to degrade. iTunes used to be simple and intuitive, now it’s complex, buggy and intrusive. It’s basically become a conduit to the Store, rather than a way to manage content. The bug ridden sync just compounds the problem.
    The Apple ecosystem used to ‘just work’. Now, it seems less reliable than my laptop I used for work – a Win 7 Lenovo X1 Carbon. Never thought I’d say that.

  7. I’m just not having your itunes syncing issues. I did when I had a faulty iPhone 5S, but Apple replaced it and I haven’t had a hitch since, fingers crossed. Like you/many I sync a lot of music and apps. I only ever update apps the once, on my MacBook Pro, then sync to iPhone/iPad. My experience, even with itunes 12 running has been trouble free. I do accept that a lot of people hardly ever sync their device(s). None of my friends do, so there’s some anecdotal info to be getting on with. The new and laters MacBook Pro (August 2014. 15″/16GB Ram/1TB solid State drive/i7 processor) also works a treat with my Apple TV. My previous 2010 13″/i5/HDD Struggled with my large library. This gets me to wonder if Sync issues are largely hardware related? Either device or Mac profile issues or clashes. Does new hardware talk better to new hardware? Is more SSD storage now essential? No answers, sorry to say. I only know since I got the iPhone replace and bought the latest, greatest Macbook I haven’t had any issues.

    • I had lots of sync problems with my 5s near the end of iOS 7. They greatly improved with iOS 8. When I had an iPhone 6 – for a week – it was horrible; I restored it several times just to get a first sync to work. I think it’s a combination of both hardware and software.

  8. I’m just not having your itunes syncing issues. I did when I had a faulty iPhone 5S, but Apple replaced it and I haven’t had a hitch since, fingers crossed. Like you/many I sync a lot of music and apps. I only ever update apps the once, on my MacBook Pro, then sync to iPhone/iPad. My experience, even with itunes 12 running has been trouble free. I do accept that a lot of people hardly ever sync their device(s). None of my friends do, so there’s some anecdotal info to be getting on with. The new and laters MacBook Pro (August 2014. 15″/16GB Ram/1TB solid State drive/i7 processor) also works a treat with my Apple TV. My previous 2010 13″/i5/HDD Struggled with my large library. This gets me to wonder if Sync issues are largely hardware related? Either device or Mac profile issues or clashes. Does new hardware talk better to new hardware? Is more SSD storage now essential? No answers, sorry to say. I only know since I got the iPhone replace and bought the latest, greatest Macbook I haven’t had any issues.

    • I had lots of sync problems with my 5s near the end of iOS 7. They greatly improved with iOS 8. When I had an iPhone 6 – for a week – it was horrible; I restored it several times just to get a first sync to work. I think it’s a combination of both hardware and software.

  9. You ask “Why Can’t Apple Fix iOS Syncing?”. I think the question is better posed as “Why Won’t Apple Fix iOS Syncing?”. Seems to me they are so hung up on iCloud and its ilk that local sync is simply not a priority.

  10. You ask “Why Can’t Apple Fix iOS Syncing?”. I think the question is better posed as “Why Won’t Apple Fix iOS Syncing?”. Seems to me they are so hung up on iCloud and its ilk that local sync is simply not a priority.

  11. I agree that iTunes is a mess, especially around syncing. Under both iOS 7 and 8, “automatic” syncing to iCloud stops at random intervals, and must be restored manually. But, of course, there is no warning of a problem.

    Shortly after upgrading my iPhone 5S to iOS 8.1, I had various syncing problems. I backed up carefully, to both my computer and to iCloud. At the direction of AppleCare, I erased, and restored my phone. I ended up with 3 GB less data. I called AppleCare again, trying to find out what to do about my missing 3 GB of data. I was told: There is no way to tell what data was on your phone, what data is now on your phone, or to compare any lists for files. There is no way to tell whether a backup is complete or not, nor whether a backup is functional or corrupted. The AppleCare rep told me I “should just see if anything seems to be missing, over the next few days”, as the only way to tell if the restored data is complete. He asserted that the 3 GB of data was probably just junk, such as cache files, that I didn’t really need, which got deleted in the restore process.

    Bad design decisions, mysterious problems, an interface that takes more clicks to do what I want with each upgrade, and a general tolerance on Apple’s part for massive customer difficulties, all seem to constitute the new normal for iTunes/iPhone.

  12. I agree that iTunes is a mess, especially around syncing. Under both iOS 7 and 8, “automatic” syncing to iCloud stops at random intervals, and must be restored manually. But, of course, there is no warning of a problem.

    Shortly after upgrading my iPhone 5S to iOS 8.1, I had various syncing problems. I backed up carefully, to both my computer and to iCloud. At the direction of AppleCare, I erased, and restored my phone. I ended up with 3 GB less data. I called AppleCare again, trying to find out what to do about my missing 3 GB of data. I was told: There is no way to tell what data was on your phone, what data is now on your phone, or to compare any lists for files. There is no way to tell whether a backup is complete or not, nor whether a backup is functional or corrupted. The AppleCare rep told me I “should just see if anything seems to be missing, over the next few days”, as the only way to tell if the restored data is complete. He asserted that the 3 GB of data was probably just junk, such as cache files, that I didn’t really need, which got deleted in the restore process.

    Bad design decisions, mysterious problems, an interface that takes more clicks to do what I want with each upgrade, and a general tolerance on Apple’s part for massive customer difficulties, all seem to constitute the new normal for iTunes/iPhone.

  13. Funny timing on your article, I have been a “WiFi Sync-er” for years and decided to give it up yesterday. Spotify’s $3 trial got me to try it on my phone and it is just so much easier of a workflow than syncing to the Mac (in practice for me, at least). So, I’ll continue to use my iTunes library around the house, but Spotify on devices (I also use Google Play Music too)

    On a possibly-related note, earlier this week there was a lot of writing about Jobs’ testimony about DRM and label-forced coding changes that Apple had to implement to stay within their agreements. I’m wondering how much of iTunes many issues are related to decisions coming from the legal department rather than the coding department? For me, that seems to be a more believable reason for the current state of iTunes than the idea that Apple doesn’t know how or doesn’t care to fix some of the “quirks” in iTunes.

    Either way, I find myself relying less and less on a “Master” iTunes library, replacing it instead with different services for different uses. iTunes still has a place in my media consumption (I have 5 Apple TVs, so let’s just say I’ve “bought in” to the Apple strategy) but I find I’m doing searches to find out how I can stream things other than iTunes to them more and more

  14. Funny timing on your article, I have been a “WiFi Sync-er” for years and decided to give it up yesterday. Spotify’s $3 trial got me to try it on my phone and it is just so much easier of a workflow than syncing to the Mac (in practice for me, at least). So, I’ll continue to use my iTunes library around the house, but Spotify on devices (I also use Google Play Music too)

    On a possibly-related note, earlier this week there was a lot of writing about Jobs’ testimony about DRM and label-forced coding changes that Apple had to implement to stay within their agreements. I’m wondering how much of iTunes many issues are related to decisions coming from the legal department rather than the coding department? For me, that seems to be a more believable reason for the current state of iTunes than the idea that Apple doesn’t know how or doesn’t care to fix some of the “quirks” in iTunes.

    Either way, I find myself relying less and less on a “Master” iTunes library, replacing it instead with different services for different uses. iTunes still has a place in my media consumption (I have 5 Apple TVs, so let’s just say I’ve “bought in” to the Apple strategy) but I find I’m doing searches to find out how I can stream things other than iTunes to them more and more

  15. Operator error?! The warning message indicates that you were trying to add 38GB!! So, of course, it had to balk!

    Now, if it is a glitch, why not just do a two-step process? Delete the items first, then add what you want!!

    My problem is with the checking of the Sync button for books–it warns you it’s going to delete all that’s on your iPhone, then sync! So, there go notes, bookmarks, etc.

    • I was removing two playlists, and it told me that, because I was removing a bunch of music, it needed an additional 38 GB. So, no, it’s not user error.

  16. Operator error?! The warning message indicates that you were trying to add 38GB!! So, of course, it had to balk!

    Now, if it is a glitch, why not just do a two-step process? Delete the items first, then add what you want!!

    My problem is with the checking of the Sync button for books–it warns you it’s going to delete all that’s on your iPhone, then sync! So, there go notes, bookmarks, etc.

    • I was removing two playlists, and it told me that, because I was removing a bunch of music, it needed an additional 38 GB. So, no, it’s not user error.

  17. If the error don’t get fixed I’ll spend my two + hours of syncing every time find a better device that syncs properly. This has got to be a joke. I paid how much for a device not to work? Makes me wonder how long people Apple watches are going to sit on their nightstand till they work out the bugs

  18. If the error don’t get fixed I’ll spend my two + hours of syncing every time find a better device that syncs properly. This has got to be a joke. I paid how much for a device not to work? Makes me wonder how long people Apple watches are going to sit on their nightstand till they work out the bugs

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