No more iPhone app browsing in iTunes on Mac makes me sad

Some might call me an app junky, an @appaholik if you will. I love browsing and downloading apps just to check them out. If they're awesome, they stay on my iPhone or iPad. If they don't keep my interest for more than a month, I might move on. It's like record shopping, but for apps.

Almost every day, I spend some time in the App Store in iTunes on my Mac, just browsing what's new and what's hot. I'm window shopping ... looking for something that piques my interest. If I find something, I download it on my iPhone or iPad.

With the update to version 12.7 of iTunes, Apple has completely obliterated iPhone and iPad app shopping on Mac. It's left a hole in my heart and it's not even 24-hours gone yet.

In iTunes 12.7, Apple has removed iOS apps, iTunes U, iBooks, and ringtones, focusing instead on music, movies and TV shows, audiobooks, and podcasts. iTunes 12.7 also adds the social feature we saw in iOS 11. If you haven't been playing with the beta, you can finally join in the reindeer games by setting up your profile on your Mac and following your friends.

Your purchased apps can be found in the App Store on your iPhone or iPad. If you don't see the cloud icon, you may need to sign into the App Store. iTunes U has been folded into Podcasts. Ringtones are available in the Tones section of iTunes on your iPhone. You can find ringtones you've purchased in the Purchased section. You can find your iBooks in the iBooks app on your Mac. The iBooks Store can be found there, as well.

Admittedly, I love the cleanliness of iTunes on the Mac now. It's more focused and doesn't feel like a dump of every service Apple offers. I used to hide most of those services in my menu anyway.

But not the iOS apps. The App Store on iTunes was always at the top of my list. Now, it feels like something is missing, like maybe I accidentally hid the App Store section and I can just unhide it and everything will be OK. But I never find it. The apps never come back. Not in iTunes anyway. Not on my Mac.

I can understand why Apple made the change. My colleague Serenity Caldwell has been outspoken about wishing iTunes on the Mac would get streamlined and that's exactly what Apple did. For all intents and purposes, iTunes on the Mac is definitely a more pleasant experience now.

I imagine that most people don't look for iOS apps on Mac, anyway. I mean, why would you? It used to be that you could download an iOS app onto your Mac and then connect your iPhone or iPad via iTunes and all of those apps would sync to your device. But who connects their iPhone or iPad to their computers anymore (I know, there are still some of us ... me included)?

Shopping for iOS apps on Mac makes so much less sense than just browsing the App Store on iPhone and iPad. Apple probably looked at the numbers and decided that there were too few of us using the App Store on Mac to make it worth the effort to keep it maintained. Totally reasonable decision.

But my heart doesn't use reason. All I see when I open iTunes right now is a hole where my apps used to be (yes, I'm exaggerating my emotions, but you get my point). I know I'll get used to not browsing the iOS App Store on my Mac every day. I can still do so on iPhone and iPad, and with iOS 11, the mobile experience is absolutely wonderful. Heck, I may even switch to browsing the Mac App Store every day instead. That makes more sense.

Your thoughts?

Are you happy to see the iOS App Store section in iTunes on the Mac go or are you going to miss it?

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

34 Comments
  • I agree. I thought looking at the apps in iTunes was very convenient, since I was usually coming from a link I'd found in some blog or tweet that I'd been reading on my Mac. Granted, I usually downloaded directly on my iPhone or iPad, but I liked reading the reviews and comparing similar apps on my Mac. It's too bad Apple didn't decide to let us do all of that in a new OS app, but they can't please everyone.
  • I'm going to miss having updated copies of the apps stored locally when restoring an iPhone, iPad or when setting up a new device. I've got 23GB of apps stored locally - and although it would not be likely I would be putting all of them on any given device, downloading them again will cause delays and suck up bandwidth!
  • I'm indifferent. For me, as far as apps were concerned, the only thing the desktop iTunes program was ever good for was cleaning up my purchases list on the iPhone.
  • Make it like the Google Play store. Access it in a browser and allow you to download directly to your phone.
  • +1 I love how easy it is on Android to browse and download apps from my computer even when I'm away from my phone while it's charging.
  • Apple should have published an iOS AppStore Mac App at the same time. Long descriptions are so much more readable on a big monitor!
  • I'll miss custom ringtones more
  • By doing this, Apple removes the possibility of keeping copies of apps that are no longer in the App Store, and reloading them onto devices in the event that that the copy on the device is lost for whatever reason. I only a few such apps, but I'll be taking steps to ensure that I don't leave this faclility. Taking a longer view, Apple seems to be ****-bent on erasing any historical trail of iOS and of its apps by moves such as this. Future historians and revivalists will have an even harder time than those trying to resuscitate the games of the 80's.
  • I totally agree with the above people. I rarely use or buy music, movies, podcasts etc. I would bet your that the sales of apps only on your device will go down. I too would like to see what is available and then look at it on YouTube to preview it. Sorry Apple, but I think you did a disservice to your customers.
  • It was waisted space, I for one is ecstatic it's gone. now lets Clean out the rest of the junk from iTunes.. get rid of movies and Tv shows and podcast, make all sep apps would be fantastic (maybe movies / tv one app )
  • I totally agree with the above people. I rarely use or buy music, movies, podcasts etc. I would bet your that the sales of apps only on your device will go down. I too like to see what is available and then look at it on YouTube to preview it. Sorry Apple, but I think you did a disservice to your customers.
  • Apple does what is best for their design concepts. Not what is best for you. Have you not figured that part out yet?
  • Yet have a 97% customer satisfaction rate. Hmm…
  • First Apple removed the ability to sync apps back to iTunes from your phone in iOS9, now they've removed the ability altogether! I loved being able to update apps on my phone safe in the knowledge that if the new version of the app removed a certain feature I could delete it and replace it with the older version. There are three apps I love that aren't the current version that I always put on new devices so it's disappointing that I'm now not going to be able to update to the new mac OS. Thanks to Lori for drawing attention to removal of this feature which is clearly critical to some users however small a band we are!
  • You're a very small band unfortunately. If an app loses a feature that I really need, I move to another app. Using old apps only works for so long until you run into an issue which you won't be able to fix because you can't update, or until it becomes unsupported on a new iOS version
  • Makes it impossible to manage multiple iPhones and iPads from one's Mac. It will be a definite problem for those with limited bandwidth, if one has to download the same app on multiple devices. A specific app on the Mac (or WIN Machine) that allows one to manage what apps are installed on each of a family members' iPads, based on their ages and needs is needed... something like a lite version of corporate management tools. Secondly, I find the IOS App Store on IOS 11 a disaster. I can't browse on my iPhone without wearing out my finger in futility. Searches are OK, if you know what to search for, but over the years I have purchased hundreds that I no longer have installed. Yes, one can access a list of previously purchased apps within one's account window, but it is just a list of icons with no details such as version or size. One can hide the icons from the list of purchased apps, but which one? I have purchased over twenty Shanghai/Mahjong apps, but only use four of them. So which of those twenty do I hide on the purchased list? Finally, after iBooks messed up my carefully built ebook library by author and series, I moved to Caliber. Then Apple Music managed to grunge up my playlists and album icons of albums I have ripped, so it it got switched off and I use another streaming service. Now IOS app management is looking for a new home. Hopefully High Sierra will have something useful.
  • I have about 40GB of apps stored on my computer, and the thought of deleting that 40GB and freeing up all that space is great. But, there is one BIG benefit of having apps stored on my computer and that is the ability to see when an app is updated even if the app is not currently on any of my devices. I have downloaded apps that I liked, but may have been missing a certain feature. I would delete the app from my device, but keep it on iTunes on my computer. Then, when that app is updated, I could see on my computer if they added the feature I had hoped for. If so, it would then get installed on my device. I now no longer get to do that. Once an app gets deleted from my devices, I will no longer be notified of updates. That's a bit of a bummer.
  • Add now there is no way to backup apps. I wish we could rate the admission of apps. Bug ridden updates should be shamed.
  • It is going to be painful and expensive to download the same applications as many times as idevices you have. Apple did not assess the impact of this change on its users.
  • It's a long time ago I used iTunes to manage apps on my iDevices but the use case you're describing is something I recognise. Simply browsing the App Store and deciding which is interesting and which isn't, that's something I used to do in iTunes as well. I do hope Apple releases an extra program for that somewhere down the road. Preferably with an option to manage the iDevices its software as well.
  • I always used iTunes to manage apps. This is so inconvenient That I am off to Windows and Google. My 8 year old Mac is just about done.
  • This kills sites like appshopper, appsliced, toucharcade, 148apps, appadvice that need the referral income. The whole app discovery ecosystem, with reviews and sales info will possibly disappear from the internet. As app-discovery always has been a problem for the app-store, this change seems ill-thought-out. What Apple *should* do is finally make a capable web-appstore (with optional login) and everyone will be happy ever after.
  • I love Appshopper and an not sure how this, unfortunte decision by Apple, will kill their site.
  • If, on a Mac, you click on an app-link from Appshopper, there's no app-store to go to anymore. Even if you haven't installed iTunes 12.7 (yet), the link is gone on the itunes.apple.com page (!). So no referral fee. On iOS, it still works, but I don't know how many people use Appshopper on a smaller screen. Even the iPad is a bit claustrophobic to me, for reading and comparing with multiple tabs.
  • But you can still use Appshopper to track applications that go on sale which is, by far, their most useful feature.
  • Without enough income, Appshopper may have to shut down.
  • They didn't streamline it, they made it much less useful. Have a full library of iOS applications on my Mac was very useful and I could easily download a developer's full compliment of applications. A, very unfortunate, decision.
  • I don't care either way. I'm only happy they did so people in the media and online stop crying about iTunes and how "hard" is is to use. Nothing more silly than tech bloggers saying how complicated it is while millions of casual users used it without a problem.
  • I have 2,952 iOS apps consuming 151.36GB on my main MacBook Pro. Space is not a problem on my Macs as I have a Synolgy 32TB NAS for backups along with a couple of 5TB external USB drives for Time Machine and SuperDuper! Extra nightly backups.
    The biggest problem now is how do I put VPN config files into open VPN clients, movies into 3D viewing apps and documents into editors that are in the order of 9GB in size?
    The next problem is the iPhone and iPad springboard is SO limited in number of apps that can be displayed (remember I have 2,952 and that count grows weekly). In the past I could use the Mac iTunes App to arrange my springboard layout by dragging apps from category on LHS to springboard screen (and folders) on RHS...This is impossible to do on an iOS device itself as far as I know, because as you can use spotlight to find and open an app invisible on the Springboard, you can not bring it into view on the springboard where you can jiggle the icon and move it! Arrrgh!!!
  • I upgraded to iTunes 12.7 and hated it so I went back to iTunes 12.6.2. The idea that I can't simply add my customs tones with ease or see my apps is not worth the upgrade. Bad move on Apple for doing this. It would seem that if Apple wanted to cut things out of iTunes than fine but at least supply a separate app for the things they have taken out. So I guess I won't be upgrading iTunes anymore until they come up with a better solution.
  • I also have gone back to 12.2.6.20, but as I'm sure you are aware there is no back up and Synch for IOS 11! So completely crippled that feature and instead of simply removing the apps store - they should have had a bit of a reality check and bundled a separate piece of software (much like they do with iCloud) for app backup and restore and allowing desktop browsing of the Apps store. I couldn't give a fig about Apple Music and all their other rubbish - I mean really - who is that sad that they rate their own music? If I didn't like my music it wouldn't be on my iPhone - get a grip Apple!
  • What gets me is that they did this without adding in the ability to select apps from my PC in some fashion. I read about an app on some website, I quickly click to have it load up -- like I do on my Android phone. Now I have to go to the iPad to load it. I wonder how this will affect the ability (down the road) to buy one app on one device and load it on multiple iOS devices that I own?
  • That was how I bought 90% of my apps. Especially given the poor usability and glacial rate of improvement to the mobile appstore. iOS 11's app store is only incrementally better, finally implementing only simple improvements that developers have requested for almost a decade (like no longer resetting the app rating with each minute update). I've been an independent app developer since 2008 and this has been the worst, most anti-consumer and anti-dev update cycle I've experienced. Instead of sending all of their 30% cut of gross app revenue directly to a bank in Ireland (all our rev from all countries goes through Ireland) they should actually invest some of it into making real improvements that don't take 7 years to complete.
  • What I will miss the most is the ability to rearrange apps from my computer (pc) screen. Doing this with my finger on my iPhone will/is a pain. Also switching from pc to iPhone/iPad when looking for new apps will also be tiresome. This will likely reduce my purchases in the future! Not a good move by apple.