Fixing iTunes app updates process

Do you own an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad? Have you downloaded apps from the App Store? Do you regularly check for updates from iTunes on your Mac? Chances are your answers are yes, yes, and yes.

If so, you may be experiencing a minor but irritating bug: When you click Download All Free Updates from the My App Updates screen, you could get a message stating that “The information on this page is outdated.” In fact, the information is not outdated.

This bug is more of an inconvenience than a serious problem. If you click the OK button and re-select Download All Free Updates, the listed updates will now correctly download.

Although minor, it’s still a bug worth fixing. I checked Apple’s Discussion Boards for further elucidation. I found two lengthy threads (one and two) with postings from dozens of users confirming this bug. A few potential solutions are suggested, such as deleting obsolete apps (ones no longer in the App Store) from your iTunes Library. However, the overwhelming consensus is that there is no guaranteed fix. You just have to put up with the error until Apple gets around to fixing it.

Eradicating this bug is just one of several things Apple ought to do to improve the iOS app update process in iTunes. Other changes I’d like to see include:

1. Don’t bury the Check for Updates button at the bottom of the Apps screen. For something as often-accessed as updating, put the command in a more prominent location. At the very least, there should be a Command-key shortcut.

Note: There is a “Check for Available Downloads” command in the Store menu, but this does not check for app updates.

2. Add automatic notification for updates. After you click the Check for Updates command, if new updates are available, the command’s wording changes to “# Updates Available.” iTunes should automatically do this check and display this information, at some frequent regular interval.

I have read that iTunes supposedly does do this at some unspecified interval. If so, the interval (over which there is no user control) is longer than I ever wait without first doing a manual check.

Further, for those who don’t care to monitor what’s being updated, it would be great if there were an option to automatically download updated apps (similar to how you can subscribe to podcasts). When you next go to the My App Updates page, iTunes could indicate which apps had been previously automatically updated.

3. Eliminate the unneeded View Updates message. After you click Check for Updates, if updates are available, a dialog appears asking “Would you like to view the available updates now?” Why is this message necessary? Of course, I want to see the available updates now. That’s why I clicked the Check for Updates button. There should at least be an option for “Don’t show this message again.”

4. Show “what’s new in this version” in My App Updates. Check out the App Store’s Updates screen on an iPad. It displays the “what’s new in this version” data for all listed apps. Just scroll, if needed, to see them all. iTunes on the Mac should mimic this design, rather than (as it now does) requiring a multiple series of back-and-forth clicks to view this important information for each updatable app.

5. Allow users to select more than one, but less than all, available updates. Currently, on the My App Updates screen in iTunes, your only options are either to Download All Free Updates or select Get Update for each app individually. I’d like to be able to select, for example, seven out of eight available apps and say “download just these for now.”

6. Add an option to remove an app from the My App Updates list without updating. Suppose for some reason (perhaps the update removes a feature that I am not ready to abandon), I don’t want to install a particular update. I’d like to avoid getting repeated reminders that a new version is available—which also prevents me from taking advantage of the Download All Free Updates button.

Admittedly, this is something I would need only rarely—and I expect Apple would not want to encourage doing this. So I doubt we will ever see this feature.

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