Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 12.7

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Last week Apple quietly released iTunes 12.7 to accompany its announcement of new iPhone, Apple TV, and Apple Watch hardware and to correspond with the upcoming release of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra. Although this latest version is still a relatively minor update in a series of small “point” updates going back to the initial debut of iTunes 12 almost three years ago, it actually represents a major shift in the approach of iTunes, removing all support for the App Store and taking the venerable desktop app back to focusing on media management.

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Without getting into too much of a history lesson, the reality is that iTunes actually started out solely as a music management application back in January 2001 — ten months before anybody outside of Apple had even heard the word “iPod” in fact, although it was obviously Apple’s intent to make it the key desktop component to the company’s coming iPod ecosystem, and as the iPod evolved over the years, so did iTunes, adding support for podcasts, video content and more as each corresponding iPod brought new media capabilities. When Apple released the iPhone in 2007, it made sense that the key app for managing content on an iPod should be extended to managing the content on an iPhone, which from iTunes’ perspective was little more than a glorified iPod at the time; the only major new feature that the iPhone originally brought to iTunes was support for purchasing and syncing ringtones from the iTunes Store. Of course, a year later the App Store debuted, and presumably since iTunes was already being used as the conduit for getting media content onto an iPhone, it obviously seemed logical to Apple to push iTunes into use as the app for loading and managing content from the new App Store as well.

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With version 12.7, however, iTunes returns to its roots as a media management application. All support for the App Store and managing apps on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch has been completely removed in favour of on-device app management, which is how the vast majority of iOS users are already managing their apps anyway. iTunes has likewise dropped support for ringtones, pointing users to the Sounds section in their iOS Settings app as the place to purchase and manage ringtones. For Windows users, iTunes 12.7 also spells the end of support for iBooks; iTunes for Mac removed iBooks support four years ago with the debut of a standalone macOS iBooks app, however an equivalent app was never released for Windows users, resulting in the ability to manage iBooks being left in the Windows version of iTunes until now.

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Apple further refines the user experience by merging iTunes U content into Podcasts, and moving the previously distinct Internet Radio section into the Music section. The end result an iTunes library that’s divided into only five categories of content — Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, and Audiobooks — making it seem significantly less cluttered than before.

Apps and Ringtones

For most users the loss of app management in iTunes isn’t really going to be a problem, and in fact many will likely appreciate Apple’s move toward reducing the complexity in a desktop application that’s come to be considered “bloatware” in recent years. However, users who like to keep backups of their apps on their Mac or PC are going to be less enthusiastic about this update.

Fortunately, the iTunes 12.7 update isn’t quite as dire as many of these users might expect. Firstly, iTunes 12.7 won’t actually remove anything from your iTunes Media folder, so your entire app library will remain safely tucked away in your “Mobile Applications” folder. Further, while iTunes no longer provides any way to see any of your apps, if you open your “Mobile Applications” folder in Finder or Windows Explorer you can still drag-and-drop any of the apps in that folder directly to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to reinstall them onto your device. The same also applies for ringtones found in your “Tones” folder (tip of the hat to iLounge reader Daniel Skatter for discovering this and pointing it out in our comments).

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Unfortunately, this will only allow you to preserve any apps that were already stored in your library before updating to iTunes 12.7. Once you’ve updated, new apps that you purchase will not be downloaded into iTunes, nor will iTunes sync apps from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch back to your computer. In fact, even if you’re using iTunes to back up your iOS device to your computer, only the app data gets backed up; should you ever need to restore an iTunes backup onto your device, the apps themselves will be reinstalled over-the-air from the App Store directly onto your device rather than being retransferred from your iTunes library.

For users who are concerned about losing older versions of iOS apps from their iTunes library, it’s worth mentioning that even backups made to iCloud actually restore the version of the app that was on the iOS device when it was backed up rather than the latest version from the App Store. Therefore, a restore from a local iTunes backup will effectively work the same way, with the appropriate versions of each app being downloaded from iCloud after the restore completes. Of course, this won’t help for situations where you want to install an older version of an app on your other devices, but if your primary concern is not losing an older version of an app if you ever have to restore your device, then iTunes and iCloud already have you covered.

Podcasts and iTunes U

With iTunes 12.7, Apple has also now rolled iTunes U entirely into the Podcasts section. It’s a logical change, considering that iTunes has always treated iTunes U Collections as simply a special type of Podcast. All references to iTunes U have been removed from iTunes, and you should be able to find any previously-subscribed iTunes U courses under Podcasts.

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Apple actually announced this change in mid-August, and unlike apps, it goes beyond merely an organizational change within the iTunes 12.7 app — Apple is in fact phasing out iTunes U Collections as separate entities and placing them entirely under the “Apple Podcasts” brand.

Apple Music

The release of Apple Music was tied to the last particularly significant iTunes update, the release of iTunes 12.2 in July 2015, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Apple Music is again at the forefront in iTunes 12.7, this time with new social features that we find vaguely reminiscent of Apple’s failed experiment with Ping.

Of course, Apple has one thing going for it now that was conspicuously absent from Ping — a streaming music service where users can more effectively publish and share their actual musical tastes, and not merely their iTunes Store shopping habits. However, Apple has also taken a significantly more focused approach with Apple Music, leaving the idea of timelines, likes, and comments to Facebook and Twitter; the social features in Apple Music are simply about seeing what your friends are listening to.

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In fact, the new social features in Apple Music are mostly invisible by default. While every Apple Music subscriber can have a profile, unless you choose to open it up to the world, your profile will only be visible to those you’ve approved. Further, iTunes and Apple Music won’t get in your face about following other Apple Music subscribers, so if you’re not interested in sharing your musical tasted or exploring those of others, you can pretty safely ignore the whole thing.

Your Apple Music profile — and most of the related sharing features — can be accessed by clicking your photo in the top-right corner of the Apple Music “For You” page. This will display a banner at the top with your name and handle, followed by a list of your playlists, stations and playlists you’ve recently listened to, and below that, other Apple Music users that are following you, and those that you have chosen to follow.

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Clicking the “Edit” button at the top of your profile will allow you to change your name, handle, profile pictures, and set who can follow your activity — either everyone or only those users who request to follow you that you specifically approve; an “Additional Privacy Settings” link takes you to a separate window that lets you choose whether your active listening history is also included in your profile. Below that, you can also choose which of your playlists you would like to share on your profile.  The ellipsis button beside the “Edit’ button will present a menu where you can share a link to your profile via e-mail, Messages, Facebook, or Twitter, or simply copy the link to your clipboard. A “Delete Profile” button at the bottom of your Apple Music profile page also allows you to remove your Apple Music profile entirely, should you decide that you want nothing at all to do with the service.

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You can find and follow other Apple Music subscribers simply by typing a name in the standard iTunes Search field with “All Apple Music” selected as the search focus. In addition to the usual results for song titles, artists, and albums, you should also see an “in people” option, which will take you to a page showing you all of the Apple Music profiles that match that particular search term. The profile screens for other users will look similar to your own, with the playlists that they are sharing, the items they’re listening to, and a list of who is following them and who they are following.

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Once you’re following at least one other Apple Music subscriber, the main “For You” screen will include a “Friends are Listening To” section, showing you what the people you follow have been listening to, with a profile photo displayed as a small icon in the bottom right corner of each album cover to indicate which user’s profile that particular item is coming from. Apple Music album and shared playlist pages will also include a “Friends who Listened” section indicated if any of your friends have listened to that particular album or playlist.

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A new setting in your iTunes preferences also allows you to control whether listening history from this copy of iTunes will be seen by your Apple Music followers and influence your “For You” recommendations. This is enabled by default, but it can be useful to disable it if the music you listen to on a specific Mac or PC doesn’t reflect your typical musical tastes or if iTunes on your computer is used by more than one person. A similar setting also exists in iOS 11 and tvOS 11.


We can only imagine that iTunes 12.7 is going to be one of the most controversial iTunes updates in a while. This is especially true considering how significant the changes are for a mere “point” release; many users may be entirely caught by surprise when they discover that what seems like a minor release has actually taken away capabilities they’ve come to depend on, and we’ve already observed some of these concerns raised by our own readers, such as losing the ability to easily load PDF files onto an iPhone or iPad using iTunes for Windows. On the flip side, considering the complaints we’ve heard over the past decade about the ever-expanding complexity and “bloat” in iTunes, we expect that a lot of users will appreciate Apple’s move back to a cleaner and more simplified iTunes application, although unfortunately we’re not convinced that this is (yet) accompanied by any actual performance improvements — we can only hope that iTunes 12.7 is the first step to an iTunes 13 that will actually be leaner and faster than what we’ve become accustomed to.

With such unexpected and sweeping changes in iTunes 12.7, we’d love to hear what you, our readers think both about this version, and where Apple may be going with it. Please let us know in the comments!

  1. I know we all use our Apple products differently but for me removing App management is ridiculous. iTunes may have originally been an app for managing music but it’s evolved because apple products have evolved to do more things. Admittedly the interface and menus have stupidly been messed about with over the years and could cause some confusion and not everyone one will want to use all the features but to describe certain things as bloatware is stupid. I suspect the bloatware mentally has come from Android users that don’t see the potential benefits. I’ve tried moving away from my iPhone many times but always came back because I liked having everything organised. Now because iTunes will be like other library syncing products I don’t have the USP to keep me.

  2. Thanks for your comment. It’s interesting to hear from folks who are missing these features, as one of the most common complaints I’ve heard over the past decade is that iTunes was getting too complicated, slow, and awkward, but there’s definitely been a quieter group out there on the other side of that debate.

  3. In fairness I do agree. It has become slow and unintuitive to use but I think what it was trying to achieve was perfect. Just the implementation is poor. I have wondered in the past if Apple’s attitude is, if we aren’t smart enough to improve something, just get rid of it. That might be doing the developers are dis-service. I don’t know.

  4. I have still been able to manually move files in and out of the Word App through iTunes. Is this some functionality we will likely loose in the future, or will there be a new file management routine for apps?

  5. iTunes 12.7 has broken the 1st gen Apple TV. iTunes can still airplay audio to it but impossible to sync. Apple TV cannot be upgraded (receiver needs optical audio).

  6. Nope. Sadly that functionality goes away with all of the app management features — in short, there’s no longer any sign of an “Apps” tab when viewing your iOS device settings in iTunes.Going forward, I think Apple’s expectation is that people should just use the cloud, however I expect third-party tools to step up and fill the gap for those who still want to transfer data via a wired connection.

  7. Interesting. Thanks for pointing that out. I still have two first-generation Apple TVs sitting on the shelf here, but there’s only so far back we can justify going for testing purposes :)To be fair, Apple dropped the first-generation Apple TV to “obsolete” status two years ago, but it’s still unfortunate that iTunes has suddenly removed support for it.

  8. I’m not sure if we’re talking about the same thing?I am using iTunes 12.7 now. When I plug in my iPad and select the device there is “file sharing” line below “music” and “podcasts”. When I select it several apps come up; including Baldur’s Gate, Kindle and Word. By selecting the app, well some of them anyway, I can add or remove files from the app.

  9. Yes, you’re right. For whatever reason that definitely wasn’t there during my initial testing, so I’m not sure what triggered it to appear. File sharing used to be located in the “Apps” section, below the actual list of apps.Despite the overall removal of app management, Apple has obviously kept that one element in place, which is definitely good news.

  10. You had me worried that it was some fluke that would disappear without notice!I just wish it would work with more apps, especially save game files for a couple Beamdog games. I used to be able to do it with Funbox, but Apple shut that down several updates ago.

  11. Yeah, I’m glad you pointed it out. I have screenshots taken over the past couple of days where it’s clearly not there, so I’m not sure what triggered it to appear today, but I’m glad Apple didn’t opt to cut that off along with the app management.As for app support, sadly that’s up to the app developers themselves, not Apple — they have to write their apps specifically to expose their files to iTunes.

  12. Also, one additional point about backups in case you’re not aware… If you’re planning on restoring data to a new iPhone, be sure to use an Encrypted backup in iTunes. This will ensure that all of your passwords and other sensitive data such as HealthKit data gets restored to the new device.In fact, this used to be the only way to ensure this data got transferred, as iCloud backups didn’t use to use this encryption. Fortunately, Apple changed this for iCloud within the past year, so if you’re using iCloud backups, this happens by default, but with iTunes backups, you still need to make sure you’ve clicked the “Encrypt this backup” button and supplied a password.(To be clear, iTunes does back up this data securely either way, but if you’re not using an encrypted backup, it’s stored in a way that can only be decrypted by restoring it to the same device it originally came from).

  13. Hi. I’m trying to find a straightforward (non-technical) answer to my question. First, I have only ever purchased apps on my iPhone or iPad (not through iTunes), and then downloaded onto the other device via the Purchased section of the App Store on the device. I also updates all of my apps on each device. While my devices are backed up automatically to the Cloud, my main use of iTunes has really been for backing up my devices to my PC, and for installing iOS updates (which I prefer to do from the PC, rather than wirelessly). So whenever there was an iOS update, I would first backup each device to the PC, followed by the update.Like a lot of people, I’m now planning on getting a new iPhone. In the past I would make sure to first back up the iPhone that was going to be replaced, then connect the new iPhone, go through the initial set-up process, then do a restore from backup which would get everything transferred to the new iPhone just as it was on the old iPhone. Everything was nice and easy. I can’t seem to find an answer as to how this process will work with this latest iTunes upgrade that, like most people, just happened, and now I feel stuck.Does this mean that all of the Apps on my old iPhone will no longer get backed up to my PC and will no longer “restore” to a new (or existing) iPhone, and the only way to get them onto the new device will be to download them from the purchased section of the App Store, which means they will all need to be arranged and new groups created for those I keep together? I would find it to be a bit preposterous if this ends up being the case (as will everyone else), but I have not yet been able to find a straight answer to how this scenario will work. Again, I’m fine with purchasing and updating apps on my devices, and am really only concerned with how backups and restores will work. I’m also curious to know if websites saved to my home screen will transfer over to the new phone, or will I need to go back to each and re-save”? Hopefully someone knows the answer!

  14. It’s okay, iTunes should now work like this:- iTunes will back up app data (but not the app itself) from your old iPhone (plus media, etc).- When you plug in your new iPhone and restore, iTunes will restore that app data (but not the app itself).- When you connect the iPhone to WiFi for the first time, the iPhone itself will automatically download the app over the internet. They will show up greyed-out in the order you left them in on the homescreen until they install themselves.I hope that helps!

  15. Josh, thanks so much for the explanation – this is the first time I have seen this scenario described so simply and straightforward! Everything else I’ve read has only focused on the App Stire no longer being available and the need to redownload all the apps from the “purchased” section of the App Store app, but nothing about the apps still being backed up and then being “automatically” redownloaded and put back to their “original” positions. I feel so much more at ease about this now!By any chance do you happen to know if the “folders” I’ve created to contain some apps (e.g.: “News”, “Finance”) will also be restored automatically, and if sites saved to the home screen will also be restored?Thanks again!

  16. Thanks, Josh! That explanation pretty much nails it, and that’s exactly what happens.In fact, the actual restore process hasn’t really changed — only the where the apps get reinstalled from. If you’ve ever restored from iTunes, you may have noticed that it’s always been a two-stage process:<ol><li>The data and settings are restored from iTunes.</li><li>The phone restarts, and performs an initial sync with iTunes, during which all of the apps and media that were on your device before are re-transferred from your iTunes library.</li></ol>All that happens now is that in Step #2, the apps will be downloaded directly from the App Store instead of coming from your iTunes library. However, if you’re syncing your media content from iTunes (as opposed to iCloud Music Library), that will still get re-transferred directly from your iTunes library in step 2.

  17. Jesse, thanks so much for also confirming this. I don’t know why I haven’t been able to find anything anywhere else that addresses backing up and transferring using iTunes 12.7 and how it will work with apps. Perhaps more will come out in the next few days, but I’m thrilled I found this site!

  18. Yes, your entire home screen layout will be restored. From a user perspective, nothing has changed at all, and the process still mostly appears to work in the same way as it did before.The only possible bump in the road is if you don’t have an Internet connection on your iPhone when restoring. In that case, the apps won’t get reloaded right away — they’ll all sit greyed out in the “Waiting” stage until your iPhone actually connects to the Internet. Ideally, you’ll also want to have a Wi-Fi connection to do this, as larger apps won’t re-download over cellular in order to conserve your data plan.Even in that case, however, once you’re connected to Wi-Fi, it should start right up again.

  19. Yeah, it seems that Apple is lagging a bit behind in their knowledgebase articles about iTunes 12.7. I also don’t think there’s anything nothing on their site about the new Apple Music social features yet.

  20. No worries… it’s never too late :)This is definitely the case for apps that have simply been updated. A friend of mine had become obsessed with maintaining a special Product(RED) edition of a game because she liked the colour scheme, and despite the fact that the game had been updated at least a half-dozen times, every time she restored her new iPhone, she got the same version back.Unfortunately, when it comes to apps that have been withdrawn from sale, this is a bit of a grey area, as it largely depends on why the apps are no longer available.As a rule, if a developer simply pulls their own app from sale on the App Store, older versions of that app will still remain available — in fact you should still be able to see those apps in your “Purchased” section in the App Store on your iOS device. On iOS 11, you’ll see a lot of greyed-out download icons now for older apps, but that’s a different issue — those are the apps that are no longer compatible with iOS 11 due to the new 32-bit requirement. Note that this has also long been the case for media content — if an album, movie, or TV show that you’ve purchased gets pulled from sale, you’ll still have it in your purchase history and iCloud library, and can continue to stream or download it.However, if Apple pulls an app for violating App Store policies, in most cases that means the app is gone from the App Store completely, and therefore won’t likely be restored to your iOS device either. This is still a bit of a grey area, however, as it depends on why the app was pulled by Apple — if a developer gets banned from the App Store entirely, you can safely assume that all of their apps will go away with them, and similarly apps that are banned for containing offensive content are likely going to be pulled entirely. Apps pulled for more minor technicalities — especially where it’s an update to an existing app that causes the issue — may continue to be available for re-download.

  21. A question – I hope I am not too late as this article is a few days old.Jesse you mention in the article that the version of the app whose data you backed up is the version that will be restored from the cloud in the new regime. Does this mean that if an app is withdrawn from sale it will still be accessible to be restored? This I thought was one of the big reasons to bother keeping your App Updates in iTunes up to date.

  22. Jesse, thank you so much (again) for all the responses and information. This has been most helpful for me, and I’m sure for others who have had the same questions (fears) and have not been able to find specific answers.

  23. The reason so many people still using Itunes to download apps, including me– the stupid restriction made by Apple limiting to 100 (now 150MB) apps when downloading on an iphone– I’ve unlimited data line with no fixed line, and use this phone as personal hotspot for the entire house. Now I’ve got office apps not updating (>300MB). The unnecessary constricting policies by apple.

  24. Thanks Jesse for the customary cogent answer.You’re so good at sharing what you know I just want to share something that I’ve learnt as well. As someone who has continued to battle to have a shared primary iCloud account with my wife (so that we can share a single cloud photo library and avoid having to pay for two lots of storage) Whilst using individual Apple ID is for services such as messages and FaceTime, it’s been tough because after each recent iOS upgrade Apple has overridden individual messages on FaceTime settings to make the match the primary iCloud account Apple ID. As if people who are choosing to have different Apple ID is for the services would just ignore it but how do use their phones and iPads. However the update to iOS 11 seems to signal a change of approach. Apple is no longer bossing people into changing their messages and FaceTime Apple IDs but instead is making it impossible to sign into Messages and FaceTime with a different Apple ID unless you first sign out of your primary iCloud account. So if you want to continue with the combination of shared and solo Apple IDs you can and in fact you may going forward suffer less turbulence. But only if you don’t upgrade to iOS 11 With in overwritten Apple ID and messages or FaceTime.

  25. Of course you still have to deal with two weaknesses of this solution. The first is that you share a combined recent calls list and the second is that if people share photos with you and you comment on them you need to remember to put your initials underneath your comment to differentiate yourself from the other person who shares your Apple ID.

  26. Guess what: custom lyrics support is utterly borked in this version. Get was just rendered useless by this “update” (you can actually add lyrics manually, but you have to do it one song at a time, which is plainly insane). I’m seriously considering a downgrade to iTunes 12.6, but with High Sierra right around the corner, I can’t see how I’m going to do that…

  27. If your apps aren’t updating, it’s probably not the cellular size limits that are the problem…. iTunes doesn’t know the difference between a cellular connection and a normal Wi-Fi connection, so it wouldn’t be enforcing these limits — it’s the App Store app on iOS that limits download sizes, not the App Store on Apple’s end.In fact, I’ve been able to use Personal Hotspot to download larger apps even onto an iPad or another iPhone many times over the years — I once connected my iPhone to Personal Hotspot on my partner’s iPhone to get around this exact limitation.

  28. It looks like Apple has taken out the separate “Edit” mode in favour of just making playlists editable by default. You can drag-and-drop songs into playlists and reorder them within your playlist normally now, and it’s always been possible to remove tracks without going into “Edit” mode.

  29. Strange. I’m assuming by “latest version” you mean macOS High Sierra, which came out this week, right?Here’s what I see in the AirPlay dialog…https://uploads.disquscdn.c…Targets are a pair of AirPort Express units (1st and 2nd gen 802.11n versions), a Denon AV Receiver, and a fourth-generation Apple TV.I can select any combination of destinations and they all seem to work just as well as they did before. I’m guessing you’re seeing something different…

  30. I think I have found the problem, one of my outputs was a Sony Bluetooth speaker connected to the Mac mini. When I turned that off it allowed me to choose multiple destinations again. Didn’t know there was a new MacOS.

  31. Yup, macOS High Sierra was released on Monday.Glad to hear you got it sorted. It hadn’t even occurred to me that there could be a Bluetooth speaker involved, but I can see why Bluetooth and AirPlay destinations wouldn’t be able to be simultaneously selected, so it makes sense.

  32. This is about the only post I’ve seen that comes close to my issue. iTunes 12.7 will only allow me to connect to a wifi OR bluetooth. It won’t allow me to connect to both, which I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember. The screenshot you posted above, seems to be allowing you to do so. Maybe I have a setting issue. (?)

  33. Yes it’s very annoying. Definitely didn’t happen on previous iTunes.I’ve figured out a workaround, if you start iTunes without Bluetooth connected, make sure all outputs are selected and then use system preferences to change your computers output to the Bluetooth speaker.Hopefully they’ll fix in the next version

  34. Sorry to hear that once again the modifications are not about improving the quality of what iTunes dishes out. The whole iTunes system is still audio ‘lo resolution’. Just today I did a sonic comparison between an iTunes track (delivered by an iPhone to my home audio system) and the same recording from original vinyl. The dynamic range was embarrassing as was the sound stage and separation. Apple – if you want to improve iTunes…improve the quality of the sound. Oh, and some legacy stability in playiist management would be nice…I’m sick of rebuilding all my playlists with every major OS change.

  35. I really, really want an app that will allow me the functionality in preparing my iPhone and iPad that used to be part of iTunes.

  36. For some time, about once a week, a daily podcast will stop with an error saying I haven’t listened to it in some time. So I check daily. The number of keystrokes to get there and back is much larger now, checking podcasts two ways, then returning to music, where I have a smart folder of stuff I haven’t yet listened to. That bug (which I reported to Apple a long time ago) isn’t fixed. My work-around is bigger.

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