iTunes 11 and The Case of The (Un)Transferred Purchase

I wasn’t one of those people who hated iTunes 11 right off the line, and was even fairly generous to it in my review. After a while, I just got used to the idea of a new — and improved, from Apple’s perspective — iTunes. All seemed well, until I started paying attention.

A few days ago I downloaded a new album from the iTunes Store on my iPhone: Daniel Bashta’s “The Invisible”. Since he’s one of my favorite artists, I purchased the album on the release date while on lunch break and listened to half of it. When I got home that night, I went to my Mac to transfer the music purchase so all my devices would be in sync. Of course, when I opened iTunes it wanted to download the LP and the entire album, but I paused it to shorten the process. To my surprise, the album did not transfer. My iPhone synced “successfully” and the album didn’t appear in my library. I then headed to the artist on my iPhone to find out what happened. The whole new album thing was gone.

But that was just the beginning.

From One Album to Ten Apps

I assured myself that it was just a temporary issue I had created by dismissing a prompt from iTunes. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, as I soon found out after resetting all warnings in the app. I then took to my iPhone and began searching for other things that may not have transferred to my Mac. There wasn’t any other music, but boy did I find a lot of apps.

A list that I made of apps I was missing in my Mac's library.

A list that I made of apps I was missing in my Mac’s library.

Ten, to be exact — I know that sounds too perfect, but it’s the number. What was causing this sudden disconnection? Well, I soon found out that it wasn’t sudden, because Fantastical wasn’t on my Mac and I had downloaded it on my iPhone the day it released: 29 November 2012. Now I absolutely had to know what this issue that plagued my Mac and/or iPhone was.

Searching For the Answer, Then Googling For It

I began by preparing for a full restore of my iPhone, followed by reinitializing my iTunes library. I was getting ready for the worst scenario, really. Thankfully, I discovered shortly after beginning my contemplating that Apple’s Support Communities held logs of similar experiences.

iTunes 11's hidden button for transferring purchases.

iTunes 11′s hidden button for transferring purchases.

DanKell on the Apple forums posted an inquiry about a new issue he had discovered in iTunes 11 that prevented purchases from being transferred automatically. He was “trying to minimize the number of downloads” so as to preserve bandwidth. After all, everyone’s internet isn’t so fast, and some of us have bandwidth caps. DanKell wasn’t satisfied with having to manually transfer purchases, especially because the option was hidden deep within menus and even the grandfathered iTunes sidebar.

You can also manually transfer purchases by showing the sidebar. Why must it be this complicated though?

You can also manually transfer purchases by showing the sidebar. Why must it be this complicated though?

After much discussion with other members on the forums, it seems that there is actually no viable solution to the automatic transferring of purchases in this new iTunes. JDThree remarked, “I hope Apple returns that functionality.” He was “getting frustrated” with such a feature removal, and it’s not surprising that more users haven’t by now.

It’s Forcing You Into the Cloud

Darkness was widespread at first. Now you’re becoming more accustomed to the grim Seattle-like atmosphere because Apple and other companies have proclaimed it a standard. This is the cloud, the future of computing. Having everything in one nice place takes a load off your mind, but it also poses a few other problems, like the one with iTunes 11.

Is Apple trying to push its cloud service for the money or the users?

Is Apple trying to push its cloud service for the money or the users?

Apple is trying to promote use of iCloud and iTunes Match for all the necessary operations with in its media management app. The problem with this is that sometimes users don’t need to waste bandwidth re-downloading an app when they already have it on their phone or tablet. After all, wouldn’t it be more conservative of resources to simply transfer it when you sync your device? Apple doesn’t seem to think so.

With this new feature removal, Apple has increased the average user’s bandwidth usage by a bit too much. Not only will you be spending time downloading all your purchases again, you’ll have to ensure that iTunes doesn’t delete them off your phone as well, else it’ll automatically start the process all over. It’s like a giant game of duck duck goose in which the chase goes on for what seems like ever, and you never get to sit down. This isn’t how it should be — this isn’t Apple’s philosophy. Just like iCloud document syncing, media management should take place in the background, seamlessly.

What Does It All Mean?

This dialog may still appear in iTunes 11, but it doesn't actually update anything if you click Transfer.

This dialog may still appear in iTunes 11, but it doesn’t actually update anything if you click Transfer.

It’s really hard to see a feature you rely on get taken out of an app without a thought. For Apple especially, why would replacing an automatic feature with a manual one be better? Not everyone likes to drive stick, you know.

It could be that the company is finally taking the better route for monetization, but since there’s no direct promotion of iTunes Match, that’s not the case yet. Apple definitely does not support local sync as much as it did before. There’s a larger movement now — one that’s taking place in the cloud. Case in point: when you first get an iPhone and download a purchase on your computer, you’ll get a push notification on your iPhone asking if you’d like to enable automatic downloads for certain purchases. The question is, why should Apple sell this to users when it’s sometimes better to save bandwidth? Not everyone has unlimited data plans while mobile, and a there are still people without fast Internet.

It’s not just about apps and music, but also updates. Why waste time downloading a 300 MB update to Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit when you already have it on your iPhone?

Will Apple add back this lost functionality? One can only hope so, because it’s something to be missed. There’s no reason you should go download something two or three times just to get it on a few devices. It’s one thing if that’s necessary due to the lack of a cable, but when you actually sync with a computer, there’s no need for such disconnection. Little things like this aren’t always noticed by people until they really need them. And then it’s too late, because it’s gone.


  • http://thedunahoos.com Paul Dunahoo

    For me this is a feature.

  • DrKoob

    I have 7 Macs, 2 iPhones, 2iPads and an Apple TV in the household all on one iTunes account. iTunes Match is the greatest Apple invention ever (OK, not really)! I buy a song when I hear it in a restaurant or at work and within minutes it is accessible one every one of my devices. All of them. My wife’s iPhone and iPad mini at her work, the Apple TV in the living room, all 7 macs and my iPhone and iPad. AMAZING!

    • Gideon

      I’m a huge Apple fanboy and always buy whatever unnecessary item Apple e-mails me about, so I defend their every move and worship their every service, giving them money in every way I can, as well. As yourself, I also do not think critically and am unable to impartially review any of Apple’s service, as I have such a huge hard-on for their products. It’s really unbelievable the variety of ways in which I can give them money! I’m really amazed at how gullible I am, Apple is happy to have a pushover such as myself for a customer.

  • NoWay

    I think your iTunes is not working as should, probably an iTunes 11 bug?. Mine synchronise by default any purchase or App update trough cable or wifi…

    • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

      Are you on version 11.0.1? If so, you’re telling me that any time you plug in your iOS device that has a new song or something on it, everything transfers fine? Are there any special checkboxes marked?

      • http://robertoalanis.com Beto

        Same here, we everything works fine; although I never buy music on iTunes, all my apps are synced on all my devices. As always. I did nothing special since the iTunes 11 update.

  • Sigilist

    Finally someone is paying attention to what so-called “cloud” computing is really about. Not just money; it’s about control of your data… and soon your programs. When they only truly exist in the “cloud”, then they exist outside your control… your true ownership. You aren’t truly buying stuff anymore; you’re just “leasing” it for a lifetime based on a loophole in the laws that hasn’t yet caught up to force companies to call it what it is.

    This approach to software is coming as well, where not only will there be rental suites like MS Office but you’ll be paying a one-time rental fee to small apps to be installed where you need them… on the fly, and burning up bandwidth.

    And by the by, this is not about personal bandwidth only; it’s about planetary bandwidth. There’s only so much of that as well, and jams in traffic will keep growing faster than the bandwidth can keep up.

    Next step: start decreasing storage/memory on portable devices and remove all capability to augment them personally with SD cards, usb devices, and the like. Thereby you have to syn with your cloud account more and more… and then the fees for that will go up as the free storage limits drop. We’re already seeing this right now (and for some time past).

    In the near, near future, video phoning will become an option on pads of all kinds. These will also be sold by phone companies with the requisite data plan. And you can be sure they will want you to use up your data limit as quickly as possible. Why not… Apple just did it.

    • Rob

      Thanks. I’m happy I’m not the only one who noticed that unlimited data, both mobile and internet, started to get capped as soon as the “cloud” business model took shape. I totally agree with you.

      • foljs

        Thanks. I’m happy I’m not the only one who noticed that unlimited data, both mobile and internet, started to get capped as soon as the “cloud” business model took shape. I totally agree with you.

        Isn’t it obvious why this happened?

        It was the “unlimited” monicker which was BS. Nobody can give you “unlimited” bandwidth, bandwidth is limited by the network and the laws of physics, and not all of, say, Manhattan, can have unlimited bandwidth on the same company network.

        The network would just crumble and die of congestion.

        So, the reason data plans became capped “as soon as the cloud business mode took shape” is because MORE people started using those data plans.

        When you try to lure the first thousands of users you can call them “unlimited”, but as soon as tons of people get data plans, you just have to cap them.

      • Bruno

        Totally opposite for me. I now have unlimited where I’m from.

    • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

      Very good point. Apple hasn’t quite gotten to the “decreasing” storage part yet though: they just released a 128 GB iPad. I’m sure they’ll end up taking the same route in the end as Amazon.com with its Kindle Fire.

      • theUser

        We’re already in the decresed storage mode, I mean 128GB in 2013 ? How long were they ‘starving’ their users with 64GB ? I can buy 128GB an sd card for $100 now but we can’t even add an sd card or connect an external drive through usb with Apple. Not so long ago 500GB hd in a notebook was a standard and people were buying 1TB.

        • http://sasmith.org Steven Smith

          I don’t think there’s any conspiracy here. Apple has shifted its focus to SSD with the drives featuring in almost every new model they have released. Sure, 64/128/256GB SSD’s are still fairly paltry considering the former standard for HDD’s, however, I feel lack of space is a decent trade-off for 4x faster write speeds. It is possible to get much larger SSD’s in some of Apple’s models but they come at a premium, as did larger HDD’s once upon a time.

  • Bruno

    Hasn’t happened to me (yet), but then again I signed with iTunes Match when it came out. I still think there’s room for improvement.

  • foljs

    Apple is trying to promote use of iCloud and iTunes Match for all the necessary operations with in its media management app. The problem with this is that sometimes users don’t need to waste bandwidth re-downloading an app when they already have it on their phone or tablet. After all, wouldn’t it be more conservative of resources to simply transfer it when you sync your device? Apple doesn’t seem to think so.

    Moaning about the extra bandwidth to re-download some app? You can dwarf that volume in a few hours of just browsing the web.

    Sure, it might be a pain point for people on slow connections etc. Those will have to wait to get to a faster connection before they download.

    But the idea is that everything will be volatile and cloudy in the future, and connection should all be high speed.

    • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

      That’s not the point. There’s no reason to waste bandwidth on something like this when you can quickly do the transfer locally. Apple might just want more transfers from its server so it can count them as “downloads”. Who knows.

      One day the connection will be high speed across the board, but then the standard will be raised, just like it was when T1 was introduced.

  • Caio Bianchi

    iTunes 11 is pure state of art!

  • Patrick

    Can’t you just go in to Preferences->Store->Automatic Downloads and check all that apply? It works great for me…

  • arteest

    I purposely didn’t sign up for Match because I have a thing about having control over my stuff until thats no longer possible. I hate the idea of cloud computing what with all the surveillance issues in CDA and the US. But, I’ve been wondering about this problem of un-transferred purchases. It happened again just yesterday. Thanks for letting me know it isn’t just me.

    • arteest

      I meant to say the same seems to be true with books. I use Kobo a lot and it seems like I’m always having to redownload books I’ve purchased. I don’t really own them. :(

  • Cornelius Ukena

    For me iTunes Match has completely stopped working as of about a week ago for no apparent reason. Have done everything from “turning it on and off” to flushing my OS DNS cache & deleting my SC files folder and everything in between. Simply can’t upload (or “match”) anything.

    • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

      That’s very strange. Do you think you hit your limit of 25,000 songs?

      • Cornelius U

        No. I’m sitting at about 20,000. And even when I cleared all my songs in the cloud, it woulnd’t upload any. Got about 3 different error codes through-out and the rest of the time it just cycles step 1 indefinitely.

        • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

          That’s very strange indeed. You should speak with Apple about it.

  • http://goodsouldesign.com Joey Seales

    Hey Jacob,
    Great to see Daniel Bashta’s name in my blog feed today! I’m a designer and did his last 2 albums and website. Great article as well!
    Cheers.

  • Brandon

    Just wanted to say..great choice on The Invisible! Yep, that’s it.

    • http://www.holdfasthope.com David

      Ditto!!!

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