Apple’s removal of the App Store from iTunes screws over users, publishers, and developers

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Removing the iOS App Store from iTunes makes a lot of sense. iTunes needs to slim down and become the best media player in the world again, but Apple’s latest decision to remove the App Store without having a replacement ready is madness.

I’ve rolled it around my head for days and I’ve asked people on Twitter what rationale there could possibly be for this, but I have not landed on a good answer. At the end of the day, Apple has made it impossible for people to get apps from anything that is not their own iOS device, and that sucks.

Take a website like MacStories. This is a great website for discovering new iOS apps, and this week will especially be big since iOS 11 is coming out and tons of your favorite apps will be updated to take advantage of new features.

Here’s the thing though, you really shouldn’t read MacStories on a desktop anymore. Why? Well, because if you are on your MacBook Pro and read an article about an app you think looks great and want to buy, you have no course of action to actually get that app. Your 3 options are:

  • Remember the app name and search the App Store on your iOS device for that app (and hope the App Store search brings up the right one)
  • Remember the URL for the MacStories page, load that on your iOS device, and tap the link from the article on that device
  • Save the App Store link to a read later service like Pocket and open the link on your iPhone or iPad

None of those options are great for the users or MacStories. Each option is worse than it was before, where you could tap/click an App Store link from any device and install the app from there. In this new reality, users have to do more work to get new apps if they don’t discover them on their iOS device, and the most likely solution (searching the App Store manually) cuts out the affiliate link MacStories used in their article.

Similarly, developers like me are going to have trouble with conversion from our promotional websites since the “Download on the App Store” links on our pages are basically broken links for desktop users. If someone finds my website and thinks the app looks great on their Mac, they may as well have not found the app at all since they can’t take any action. I now need to pray that people find from the iPhone or iPad so they can actually do something with the links on that page.

I have to think that Apple has a replacement in place, namely a web-based App Store like the Google Play Store, but it wasn’t ready yet. I find it hard to believe Apple would leave Mac users totally in the dust here, but I’ve been surprised before…