Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

iTunes 12.7 Discontinues Support for iOS Apps, Ringtones, and More

If you still sync ringtones or do any kind of iOS app management with iTunes, you’ll want to be aware of some changes in today’s release of iTunes 12.7:

The new iTunes focuses on music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks. Apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch are now exclusively available in the new App Store for iOS. And the new App Store makes it easy to get, update, and redownload apps — all without a Mac or PC.

The spin-free translation is that iTunes no longer supports managing or syncing locally-stored copies of apps. Most users will not notice the difference, but it does mean that the only copy of apps you download will live in iTunes or on your devices — if it has been pulled from the App Store, you will lose access to that app.

Again, virtually no users will notice this change — whether because of the death of 32-bit apps on iOS or just outdated code, many unmaintained apps won’t work with your iPhone or iPad today anyway. But the few that do continue to work yet have been pulled from the App Store are now, effectively, buried.

Ringtones: iOS 11 supports redownloading ringtones directly to your iOS device, without the need to use iTunes on your Mac or PC.

Incidentally, this also marks the death of exporting ringtones from GarageBand for the iPhone. And that’s a real bummer. Ten years — nearly to the day — after John Gruber lamented the “ringtone racket”, music labels still think they can get away with charging $1.30 for a thirty-second snippet of a song.

And it’s not like Apple has clean hands here either. When I searched for the song I use as my ringtone, it only found the live version of the track, one unrelated song, and four identical bullshit not-quite-copyright-infringement lame cover versions. I’m not against cover songs — I’m not an idiot — but these four versions are just lame attempts to trick people into paying $1.30 for a ringtone.

For what it’s worth, I tried dropping one of my .m4r files into iCloud Drive but it didn’t give me any option to add it as a ringtone. I wish there was a way to side-load tracks into an iOS device’s local music library and manually add ringtones to Settings.

Update: Apple says in a separate support document that you should be able to drag an .m4r file from Finder directly onto the device through iTunes; however, that’s not presently working for me. I still think this is something that should be able to be managed on-device, but it’s good to know that custom ringtones are not entirely dead after all. Sorry about that.

Update: I got it to work by not following Apple’s directions. Instead of dragging the file to the sidebar of iTunes, I opened the Tones playlist on my iPhone and dragged it directly in there. Once it’s there, by the way, there’s no way to remove it through either iTunes or on an iPhone. Also, for what it’s worth, it appears that you can use these same drag-and-drop steps with .ipa iPhone app files as well, rendering my complaints in this post unwarranted. Based on how much this feels like a hack, though, I’d be willing to bet these steps aren’t going to last much longer.

Update: You can also make ringtones using GarageBand for iOS.