I would think most Mac geeks (presumably people reading this weblog) already know how frustrating iTunes is to use. It’s one of those pieces of software in OS X that seems to be coated with thick veneer of UI, but has the underpinnings of a beat up old 1973 Ford Pinto.
You would also think by now Apple would have their shit together and would have released a version of iTunes that is — dare I say — pleasant to use. Not only is iTunes still one the slowest bundled Mac apps but it still seems to do some truly perplexing things when it comes to device syncing.
Recently I decided to try and remove most of my dependence on iTunes for syncing content to and from my iPhone. I decided that I could install and remove apps solely on my iPhone as I didn’t see a point in keeping local copies of my apps in my library. The only thing that I really ever need iTunes to do is update my iPhone when there is a new version of iOS available (which I also wish was done OTA). Since I don’t sync contacts, calendars, email, bookmarks, photos, or podcasts I figured I’d be fine to stop syncing apps. This seems easier said than done. Upon unchecking the option to sync apps, I discovered that iTunes would also delete all apps that currently reside on my iPhone. I did some searching but didn’t find a way around this limitation so I decided to bite the bullet and do it.
I was looking at my iPhone which now had zero apps, so of course I spent some considerable time just going to the App Store and installing them directly from there. I was super happy for a while that I was able to remove almost all of my dependence on iTunes for syncing. Unfortunately, this brief period of joy was severed in a very unpleasant way when I decided to use iTunes to sync a custom ringtone to my iPhone.
What happened next was something I really never want to see happen again, either to myself and hopefully to anybody else trying to do this. iTunes decided it would be a great idea to transfer all of my purchases back to my library. I didn’t have a say in this, even though I had NOT checked the option to sync apps.
In the end, I ended up going full circle with a copy of my apps located in my iTunes library again. Definitely not a pleasant experience.
So what can be done to improve the overall user experience with iTunes? For starters, why doesn’t iTunes just display a list of already purchased apps (just like the Mac App Store) and give me an option to quickly install them again? In fact, you could take it a step further and just prompt the user if they would want to install all of their previously installed apps again.
Your iTunes ID allows Apple to track what purchases you have made, so it stands to reason that it would not be difficult to keep a snapshot of what apps are currently installed on your phone. This would make things super easy if you wanted to restore the state of your device without having to be tethered to your Mac via an ungainly USB cable.