Do you still regularly sync your iPhone with iTunes?


Tomorrow at their annual special music event, Apple might announce a new version of iTunes (iTunes X?) -- maybe with $0.99 TV rentals or streaming cloud music -- and thinking about that made me realize I hardly if ever sync my iPhone with iTunes anymore.

Just before iPhone 4 came out the Apple Store swapped out my 3GS due to cracks along the dock that had been preventing me from syncing. Because I couldn't sync, I'd been downloading apps directly onto my iPhone, streaming podcasts via the iTunes app (iOS 4 made that rock solid), and otherwise existing pretty much entirely from the cloud.

When I got my replacement iPhone 3GS, I just stuck in my MobileMe, Exchange, and Google logins and all my personal and work data started syncing over the air (OTA). I re-downloaded the few apps I use regularly -- Twitter, RSS, online file storage, password management, etc. and I was fully operational before I left the store. (Though, yes, they did have to tether it to iTunes in the Apple Store to activate it, and if not I would have had to do so when I got home.)

When I got my iPhone 4, same thing.

Now I do sync my iPad to iTunes a lot and I have way more apps -- especially games -- on my iPad than I do on my iPhone. The introduction of iPad and iOS 4 for iPhone, however, let me change my habits enough that my iPhone is now pretty much iTunes free. I can't remember the last time I synced (probably for iOS 4.0.2 and it annoyed me when iTunes pulled off apps I'd re-downloaded because they weren't checked off on the desktop side -- can't we do a sync for most recent changes on that?)

How about you, do you still regularly sync your iPhone with iTunes? As much as you used to? Why or why not?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 88 comments. Add yours.

Andy Brown says:

I do the same. Only time I Ever hook up with iTunes is for the dreaded firmware updates. Everything else is thru the cloud. With rhapsody and pandora I don't feel the need to "buy" much music anymore and I only rent videos and with a strong wifi connection that happens pretty fast. Updating a large app like Navigon can take awhile on wifi but all in all I always hated syncing. It always seemed like the weakest link in the whole iPhone experience.

JNGold says:

I sync every day primarily for Podcasts and backups. I tried using Podcaster for iTunes-less downloading and playing of podcasts but the apps currently limitations and issues have relegated it to the occasional download of a podcast when I am away from my PC.
I am hoping Apple takes cue from the Jailbreak dev that implemented wifi sync. Somehow something tells me I shouldn't hold my breath.

fastlane says:

I probably sync once every two months now.
The only time I sync is to add/remove TV shows to watch while working out. And when I do sync, almost every app in iTunes is outdated.

Darkstar says:

I rarely ever use iTunes. It's so slow and clunky on my PC that it's not even funny. I actually hate iTunes with a passion, so the less I have to use it, the better.

Mart says:

I only sync it to get pictures out and into Aperture. Wish there would be a Wi-Fi way of doing that...

ack154 says:

I really only charge through my computer so I dock it before I go to bed and leave it every other night or so. Plus I check for app updates a lot... so those get installed ASAP. It's just habit.
My g/f on the other hand... I don't know when she last did a sync with her 3GS.

jasonphil says:

I used to sync every day, all the time, for no reason sometimes even, but for some reason I just all of a sudden stopped. It's not that I've been using the App store way more on the iPhone, I haven't really even seen any apps that have wow'd me recently. I suppose I'm at a point where I'm satisfied with the apps I have. That (apps), and music are the only reasons I ever sync, otherwise it's just a wall-charge for me.
Oh also, I find syncing to be kind of slow, and that alone just keeps me away from syncing.

pivale says:

I sync with itunes mainly because of contacts...
Some of my contacts have multiple mobiles or phone numbers and google sync (exchange) can't seem to handle them correctly and messes up my contacts...

audit says:

I sync mine daily just to back it up and update any apps that have updates waiting. My wife hasn't sync'd her's since the first time I set it up because her laptop went to toast.

parabel says:

I sync every day to have a backup and for app and music updates. Since apps I downloaded on the iPhone would be deleted upon sync if I already had them in my iTunes library (stupid iTunes!!!) I rarely ever download apps on the phone itself.

kilthelights32 says:

I sync every few days to backup my data (I haven't deleted a txt message in a very very very very long time) and I might have a couple songs that I got every now and then but I do sync a lot less than I used to.

Shrike says:

I regularly sync my 3GS with iTunes. I probably average 15 hours a week in podcasts. (I've got about 8 hours of commute per week). That's about 500 MB of data a week. The math for how much data is being used a month is easy.
This is where cellular data caps and streaming music and video don't mix. If you are a significant consumer of video and audio, I can't see how can live with any streaming solution. An hour of 480x272-ish H.264 music is about 200 MB. That's about 10 hours of video on a 2 GB per month data plan. Same with Facetime. Same thing with listening to music. One could be listening to music all day. It just doesn't make sense to stream in that situation.
It only makes sense if you have an unlimited bandwidth plan.

jakej914 says:

I sync about twice a week. Keeps everything up to date. This will be especially important to me once I get an iPad. Would OTA sync be nice? Of course.

jmadara says:

I wish Steve Jobs would read this:
iTunes is so bloated and doesn't work well for what it should do. It just works needs to apply to syncing your iDevice. I sync about once a month just to backup. I don't understand why I need to open a monstrous media player just to backup my apps and sync my data.
Plus "iTunes?" come on, it much more than tunes now. How about iSync? It just works.

JD says:

I use iTunes to get music onto my iPhone/iPad and do regular backups, or upgrades. Thats about it. I think its much easier to live without iTunes than people think.

Potsidewalkyum says:

Now that iPhone 4 syncing lightning-fast (at least for me, have a 32GB), I sync nearly every day. I listen to a LOT of podcasts (TiPB included), and truthfully I forget all the podcasts I listen to, so I sync in order to get the latest episodes. I do download some on the iPhone itself, but since I sit at my computer all day anyway it's just as easy to sync to get everything. Same with apps, I tend to download the app updates in iTunes first & sync that way. Just a habit. So yes, I sync QUITE often. At least every other day, sometimes every day. Just like it that way.

Daniel says:

Firmware updates only here.
There are now several apps on the app store for Podcasts without the PC, since I found a good one i have absolutely no need to sync with my PC.

RocketmanNY says:

I use iTunes for syncing perhaps once every month or two (usually only when there is a firmware update). Since I sync email, contacts and calendar data over the cloud, there is little need to use iTunes. I also find the iTunes experience for syncing to be excruciatingly slow. I have used syncing software for Blackberrys and Palm Treos in the past and they are so much faster. Apple should clean up the iTunes behemoth.

a1by says:

iTunes is da best, allz of u r h8ters!
All kidding aside, iTunes sync is the most annoying feature about iPhone, and probably Apple should either include wifi sync or allow the app in the app store that does it

mp says:

Guess I must be one of the oddities...I sync EVERYDAY, the only reason though is to update my playlists. I have play lists that are based on "last played" so that it rotates through all of my music.
If the iphone updated the playlist as they were being played then i would probably never sync.
But until that happens I guess I'll have to sync every day...unless someone knows how to get the iphone to update play lists (like "never played", "least played", "unrated")

MiGS says:

I sync my 3G every day - sometimes more than once. I can't afford to lose any info on the phone. And the older my 3G gets, the more it's starting to act like it's dying.

oilseeker says:

I sync my iPhone 4 every day now that it's my primary iPod, mainly to update my podcasts. On the other hand, I rarely sync my iPad - only when it needs a software update or I'm transferring movies/TV shows for a trip. I would LOVE it if Apple would finally come out with either WiFi/Bluetooth or cloud syncing for iTunes.

margin says:

My mail, contacts, and calendars are all synced over the air. If it wasn't for the music, I probably wouldn't sync with iTunes at all. With a 250gb music library and a bunch of playlists that use "last played" as a criteria, I sync almost daily. I like to keep my tunes fresh.

Scott says:

Only a couple of times a week for music changes.

stroppo fitto says:

Rene, you re-downloaded the apps as you were leaving the Apple Store, even though you'd already paid for them once? You couldn't wait until you got home where they were sitting in your iTunes already?
To me, that's a waste of money.

sting7k says:

I still sync every day for app updates and swapping out new shows I've recorded. I am pretty much only charge from my PC as well so it's normally connected already. Also it's not such a chore now that the iPhone 4 is around 27x faster at syncing, mostly the backup part, than any of my previous iPhones.

zero credibility says:

Everyday due to lots of podcasts. Superfast in ios4 so not a problem.

Mike says:

Every other day to keep both pc & iphone4 in sync - just in case something goes wrong & I have a backup

Bob says:

My iPhone is still primarily my iPod that just so happens to have some phone capabilities, so I sync every couple of days for music and backup. Lately I've been trying out more streaming, because one day I realized I'm paying Rogers for 6GB/mo; I might as well try to use as much of it as I can.

chaosking123 says:

i sync whenever i get a new app thats too big to download on my ipod or i get new music...and i actually much prefer the wifi sync jailbreak app to cables...even if its slow as hell...its just so much more convinient....i can sync from one end of the house to the other....

Tom says:

I would sync a lot less if I didn't have wifi sync on my jail broken iPad. Moving the cord from my nightstand to my computer is enough of a boundary to prevent regular syncing

ghostface147 says:

Y'all must have some really crappy machines if iTunes is slow. My 2.66 Ghz Core 2 quad, 4 gigs of RAM and Windows 7 loads in no time. No crashes, no slowness, nothing. However I only have about 1,100 songs and videos. I am sure if I had 10,000 songs it would be a little different. On the Mac I have no slowness either, unless at work due to our network policy.

deviladv says:

Reasons sync with iTunes:
1) I use gmail and sync my contacts, calendar, and email. However, due to a goofy bug in the Mac OS X contacts app, I use the iTunes sync to sync contacts, and I don't use "the cloud" to sync my contacts. If they fix the bug in the contacts app I'll go completely cloud in this regard
2) I'm addicted to podcasts. Downloading them at home reduces your data usage and helps me keep track of which ones I have and have not listened to. I'd rather not spend five minutes navigating the iTunes podcast directory to look for a podcast when I can have it refresh every so often and pick the ones I want to listen to regularly. However, I would like a better podcast manager than what iTunes currently offers.
3) BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP. Somethings you have simply can't do without and you don't have a cloud alternative. Game saves are a shining example of this, and sometimes even if I have the option I don't want to have a game save in a cloud because if I don't have a connection to the internet, how am I going to entertain myself in a dead zone? I'd also hate to have to rearrange all my apps and redo all the settings I have set. When I switched from my original iPhone 2G to the iPhone 4, I just had to restore the backup and viola it was perfect. It would suck if I had, for example, broken my phone and ended up having to redo everything.
This seems like a "duh" question to me. Everyone uses their phone differently so of course people are going to use syncing in different ways that suit their needs.

Hoffa says:

I hate using itunes, it always seems to take forever. If I didnt have to use iTunes I wouldn't. I only use it for firmware updates and restores. To sync music and video to my iPhone (don't know about pics) I use the program copytrans manager. Sometime I will wifi sync video to my fileapp app

Redshirt says:

I sync everynight to get new podcasts, backup, and charge.

bakerjam says:

Only for music and tv shows.

Josel says:

I sync everyday. Doesn't hurt.

Tre says:

I stopped syncing years ago.... mainly because I need a new PC and the sync used to take 5 hours or more. Was forced to finally sync my 2G when I upgraded to a 4.... the process literally took 20 hours. Yes i know i need a new PC

sting7k says:

@Tre, if it's taking that long then something is wrong with your backups and you should just start over.

Diane says:

I sync every day -- I plug my phone in to charge at my Macbook, making it easy to find when it's time to leave in the morning, and I might as well sync at the same time!

Dexter says:

I'm one of those rare people that absolutely LOVES iTunes on the PC and on the Mac. I have never had an issue with slowdowns or glitches on my Sony Viao PC, and it's over 5 years old with 2GB of RAM!
I constantly sync with iTunes to make sure I have current backups just in case something goes wrong later. I also connect to iTunes primarily to add and/or delete music as my collection is well over 100GB. With music and video, I keep it set to "manually manage" and not automatic as far as syncing goes. I like throwing on about 5 movies just so I have something to gander at on breaks at work or for those times I need to wait a long time in line like the DMV, for instance. (But that will change since I have the new Netflix app that does Instant Streaming! :D)
All in all, iTunes has been a godsend for me and I always marvel at how many people detest it but I can't figure out why. I guess it all depends on how you use it and what you need it for. Its served my purposes well through almost a decade.

OrionAntares#CB says:

I mostly daily sync with iTunes for backup purposes. I don't pay for the MobileMe and there aren't any real non-subscription services for real cloud backup syncing for iOS like there are for webOS without jailbreaking.

Jaire B. says:

I sync everyday in case I break/lose my iDevice.

DeathGrip says:

iTunes is crap. Create a playlist just to burn a CD? How about right clicking on an album - burn to CD. How about actually having album art for readily available CDs. I'll stop here but I can go on and on.

Bud says:

@ stroppo fitto: If you download an app (paid or free app) again with the same account it was originally purchased with, you don’t have to pay for it again. A message pops up saying it was originally purchased and will be installed for free. Good tip for sharing apps with friends. Just login to your/their account on the phone and download away. Although if your computer isn’t authorized to use the other persons account when you sync and choose the option to transfer apps that were downloaded on the phone to iTunes it will delete the app. But you can just say no to that option when it pops up in iTunes.
I HATE iTunes and only sync when I have it.

Carol says:

I sync via iTunes because I'm not paying yet more money for MobileMe.

Joe McG says:

If you have to use iTunes, you blew it...

dmstrom says:

I sync every day, because I generally charge my phone through my computer. I like updating my apps, and add podcasts through iTunes.
With that said, I hate iTunes. It is clunky, hangs every so often, and the app store is poorly organized. If I weren't looking for a specific app, I'd never find anything useful.
I'd love wifi syncing. No idea why it isn't an option. I would dock my phone in a charger (I have a griffin charger), sync by wifi, and be very happy to go cord-free.

Jordan says:

I sync every other day or so...I don't need a wire because I'm jailbroken and use Wi-Fi Sync, takes less than a minute, well worth the hassle to me.

Peter says:

I have MobileMe and I pretty much exclusively download my apps through the phone, but I do sync through iTunes every charge (2-3 days). If for no other reason, really, than to back up the phone. Plus, I find myself using it as my main iPod more and more, so I'll tend to update/change songs every couple of weeks (i love pandora, but sometimes i just like my own playlists).

Michael says:

I also use as an iPod and like backing up (a few great benefits already in a pinch) so do it every day or few days. Not really a hassle for me with my desk layout. Preferences vary, I suppose, but I find the features of iTunes work perfectly for me.

07eclipsegt says:

I sync every day or two. Moved to wifi sync with jailbreak to make it so much more convenient.

LuisPr says:

I do sync, i hate loosing important txt messages, pictures, icon/folder organization, i find so wonderful that i can save all those little details that i spend time in. In the other hand, i dont do it so much frecuently since i discovered google calendar <3. Definitely sync over the air is the true future.

Loco says:

Can I still sync to itunes when its jailbroken? And can/should I still backup too?

adeel says:

just about every day due to podcasts.

jakej914 says:

@Madara - iSync on Mac is part of the OS. It keeps Mac in sync with cloud services.
I keep iTunes running 24/7. If I wanna play something it's there, if I want to sync, it'll be a little quicker since the program won't have to load. But I have a Mac. Nonetheless, if you want to sync in a different manner, get another device and quit complaining.

Mike Q says:

I sync for backup and pocast only. I don't like having to remember to go see if a podcast has updated (like Bill Simmons) so I use iTunes that does it for me.

Josh says:

Every other day or so, for backup, podcast, and music playlist purposes. I have to charge the thing almost every day anyway. Why not do so and sync at the same time?

Cyrano says:

I have hundreds of podcasts and my entire music collection on my iPod classic so I still sync ipod, iPhone and ipad daily. Habit I guess.

SockRolid says:

I sync my iPhone 4 whenever it needs a charge. No big surprise there.

Ethan S. says:

Of course I sync. I like having all my music physically on the phone, just in the case that I happen to be in an area where I have poor or very bad reception, I still have my music.
Also, it's nice to have a backup of my apps, so if my phone dies (is destroyed), I don't have to go through all of my purchase history to locate which apps I have already purchased.

OmariJames says:

Yep. I mainly sync to update playlists on my Mac that I create on my iPhone.
I always see syncing as something important.

Boots says:

I sync about once a month.

Michael C. says:

Yes, I sync it every morning. On the other hand, I wrote the book on syncing:
As for over-the-air syncing: sounds great IF you don't put video on your phone. Otherwise, any over-the-air syncing method will eat your battery when syncing video. A USB connection (which also charges the phone) is much better for syncing data-heavy items.

James says:

I've hardly sync'd my iPhone4 at all since I got it. I manually manage my music so I just drag and drop any new music I want on my phone. But as for actually syncing I've only done that when there was an update. I should sync more just to make sure that all my apps from my phone are there but I've always used the app store on the phone to download apps.

M.A. Giardinello says:

I only sync my iPhone 4 if I have to. I'd say it gets synced every 3 weeks. I did pretty much the same with my iPhone 3GS. My iPod touch, however, was synced at least once a week.
I do pretty much the same thing as you: download apps right to my device, stream podcasts, email documents, etc.
Most of the time, I'm only syncing to back up. I love my Apple products, but I want to see some changes to the syncing process —wifi sync (dare I say Bluetooth sync?).

Calculus II says:

No computer so never sync. Ever.

Razouille says:

Unfortunatelly yes. The easy way to get my podcast's new episodes without being a really pain in the biiiip.
It sucks, but RSS Player does even more.

Glenn#IM says:

When I add more photos, music, or update apps, I try to sync to keep everything updated. It is a good practice to get into. In my old palm days, I did not sync for a month, and had a crash. It was a pain redownloading programs. After that, I always got into the habit of keeping updated.

Yanni says:

Am I missing something here?? Anyone else not able to preview/purchase ringtones? I have the latest software yet it's asking me to "upgrade" to 3.1

impaler says:

I sync every 2-3 days. First, I use Nike+ and the only way to get my workouts on the website (that I've found) is through a iTunes sync. Second, I want to have all my texts and configuration settings backed up in case I jack up the phone and want to do a restore. Also, the backups take forever if you don't backup often.

excaliburca says:

Yes I do... about every couple days. As my iPhone acts as my day-timer and Outlook on my computer syncs with my iPhone I tend to keep it up to date that way.

BootsMcGavin says:

I sync my iPhone 4 just about every night. I charge it with my MBP. Most of the content on my 32GB iPhone is music, so I like to keep that updated. This thing has my life stored on it, and backups are important.

PSM says:

I do sync pretty regularly. Every couple days maybe. I generally check for new apps a couple times a day through iTunes, and if there are any updates I really want, I will sync then.
Also I just do it to make sure my music and podcasts stay updated.
All my really important stuff is on the cloud though.

Michael Reynaga says:

not since i setup subsonic, full access to my entire library without syncing or taking any space on the phone. I LOVE YOU SUBSONIC!

Michael Reynaga says:

between subsonic, airvideo, web albums, evernote and dropbox not to mention all the streaming radio apps, all my contacts are stored in gmail so I dont see a need to sync anymore, I generally do once every couple of weeks but no real reason to

Phillyslickster says:

I sync once a week, but since using MobileMe, I wish that everything used clud syncing. It's nice when I get my new iPhone each year and all I have to do is put in my MobileMe account. It would be great if iTunes worked the same way.

SillyGoof says:

I sync both mine and my wife's iPhone with iTunes on my MacBook at least once a day, and more often if any apps get updated. I LOVE the convenience and peace of mind of using iTunes to backup my iDevices. I have had to replace and/or rebuild several iPhones over the years, and I never cease to be amazed at how complete the restoration process is. In fact, when I purchased my iPhone 4G, all my apps, songs, videos and notes were transferred in about half an hour.

Skidds says:

Can't sync since I always get errors. I love my iPhone, but hate apple/iTunes

Ben says:

Daily mainly for podcasts, and I never have to plug into a wall outlet for charging that way - not that I really ever come close, with the iPhone 4's battery as amazing as it is.

Fernando says:

I don't use Gmail (still using my 10+ year Yahoo Mail account); my job only supports Exchange on company provided Blackberrys (available to VPs and higher only); I don't use MobileMe. I don't have a cloud to sync with, so the desktop it is. Beside, I really don't see the hassle in Syncing with a iTunes unlike many tech bloggers. But, that being said -- I would appreciate wi-fi syncing without the need to jailbreak.

Crayolaboi says:

I tend to sync maybe once a week or asap if I have a change in my contacts. Then whenever there's new music videos I want I have to plug in of course. Don't sync music to phone, have an iPod for that.

Leon says:

I still use iTunes to change around music. I think if my iPhone had 64gb I would not use it as much.

Geo Coldz says:

@Leon if your iPhone had 64gb it would cost $1000+ no contract!

Bill says:

Sync on average once a week. Use googlesync for contacts and calendar. Mobileme for bookmarks and notes but ya can't beat having an actual backup file in case you smash your phone to the ground in a drunken stooper.

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Lakeesha Zapico says:

I always knew the 2nd gen would have better specs so i resisted the temptation to buy a 1st gen. I imagine the 2nd gen will have a gyro in addition to the cameras and perhaps better display and battery life. never buy the first gen of a new or major redesigned product. apples to cars, consumer electronics, etc.