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.