Can I delete all my iOS apps from my computer?
July 17, 2012 11:05 PM   Subscribe

Now I've signed up to iTunes Match, the only thing my iPhone and iPad sync with iTunes for is apps. Is there any point in me continuing to do this? Or can this be turned off and the apps deleted? What are the downsides if I do this?

It'd be good to get back the disk space if possible, but if I'm going to cause problems down the line I'll just leave it as it is.

(It'd also be good to stop the annoyance where I download an app on the device, decide it's crap and delete it, and it gets put back by iTunes on next sync. If turning off sync entirely is a bad idea, tips for managing it in a better way are also welcome.)
posted by Richard Holden to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There are a few reasons to continue syncing with your desktop:
1) Making your own free ringtones. I don't believe there is any way to load a (non-iTunes) ringtone onto the iPhone without iTunes.
2) Local, encrypted, backups. These will save your (mail, etc) passwords if you enable encryption
3) Some people might think that Apple will one-day disappear and you'll be left without your apps if you don't have them stored locally. While I am sure that Apple will one day go away, you probably won't care about your iDevices at that point because the machines have risen up to destroy us.
4) Some people are fearful that iCloud backups may be unreliable or that since you only get 5GB of free backup space you'll run out quickly. I have an iPhone (4S) and iPad (2) and have not used up the free version's space.
5) App management can be a bit easier through the virtual springboard in iTunes.

There are other reasons to stop syncing with your desktop:
1) No need to keep the apps around, these are fairly safe to redownload from Apple. You'll free up a bunch of space, as you mentioned.
2) iCloud backups. I've restored from one successfully, works great.
3) Changing settings in iTunes can be disasterous. For example, turning off app syncing while continuing to sync other data will probably just remove every downloaded app from your device.
4) You'll only run iTunes if you want to more carefully browse and purchase from the various apple stores. Or if you want to consume desktop consumable data.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head, I"m sure someone else can have a more detailed list but I stopped syncing with iTunes for the most part and am enjoying the benefits. You don't even have to tell iTunes you're not syncing, just stop syncing.
posted by TimeDoctor at 1:41 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's another good reason not to delete all your apps.

Sometimes an app gets pulled by Apple, or removed from the store by the developer (such as VLC). If you have deleted the file on your computer and you need that app back for some reason, then you're up a creek without a paddle.

Usually this won't be a problem because there'll be other ways of achieving what you want - but if that one app is the only way to do it, you're screwed.
posted by tonylord at 3:03 AM on July 18, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies so far. One specific question that's come to mind: if I delete all the apps and then need to restore a device from backup, what happens? Are they just downloaded from Apple again automatically? Apps aren't part of an iCloud backup, right?
posted by Richard Holden at 4:16 AM on July 18, 2012

Response by poster: (If the apps haven't been pulled, that is.)
posted by Richard Holden at 4:17 AM on July 18, 2012

Slightly obscure reason: if you want to use your own version of a matched song from another source than the iTunes Store. The only way to do it currently that I know of requires a computer running iTunes:

Turn off Match on the device.
Hook it up to a computer running iTunes.
Manually pull the tracks over.
Turn the device's instance of Match back on.

Not sure you'd ever have reason to do this though. I've only had to because of some defective files in the iTunes store (multiple tracks on two albums by David Devant and his Spirit Wife), the only ones I've ever encountered.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:56 AM on July 18, 2012

Thanks for the replies so far. One specific question that's come to mind: if I delete all the apps and then need to restore a device from backup, what happens? Are they just downloaded from Apple again automatically? Apps aren't part of an iCloud backup, right?

When you restore from an iCloud backup it'll automatically download any apps that were installed to the device. They are part of the backup in that sense. You can also uninstall and reinstall apps from the App Store at any time.

This is an aside and related only to the fear-mongering around the GPL and the Apple App Store:
That VLC story is kind of bullshit. Just reading it you would get the impression that Apple harbors some in-built hatred of GPL.

There are many apps using GPL code in the App Store. I do not fully understand why VLC was removed, but there are definitely other apps available free-as-in-speech on the App Store where you can just go to github or sourceforge and download the source with the GPL license.

I could be totally wrong here and all those apps are under the threat of removal, but I have seen no evidence to that effect.
posted by TimeDoctor at 1:59 PM on July 18, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all.
posted by Richard Holden at 1:17 AM on July 19, 2012

What is bullshit about the VLC story? I wasn't commenting on the substance, only that apps can and do get pulled. All the time. Sometimes by Apple and sometimes by the developers, for many reasons.
posted by tonylord at 3:36 AM on July 22, 2012

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