I know many of my readers use iCloud to backup their devices. This is great and convenient for lots of reasons, but there are limitations when it comes to your iTunes purchases. Recently a friend of mine accidentally deleted Snappycam from her children’s device but then found she could not reinstall it as it was no longer in the App Store. Since then I’ve received a few enquiries about this kind of thing, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts.
Why isn’t my app in the App Store?
Apple can remove apps from the App Store at any time. In Snappycam’s case, Apple bought the company (and hopefully will incorporate this in a future iOS) but there are other reasons apps disappear, including (but not limited to):
- Copyright disputes with other developers
- To comply with legal rulings
- Lack of compatibility to the latest iOS
- Violation of Apple’s contracts
- The developer company has ceased trading
- The app is really, really offensive (and no, I won’t give examples, but I’m pretty sure Google can show you some)
- The developer company no longer wishes to support that app (for various reasons)
But I OWN that app!
When it comes to iTunes, once you purchase an app it is yours for life…. in theory. In reality, you can only download it/reinstall it while it is still available in the store. iCloud will back up your app data (e.g. documents you make with the apps) and your purchase history, but when it comes to apps, you can only download your apps AS LONG AS THEY ARE IN THE APP STORE. Once removed, this form of backup is no longer available.
So what to do?
The best insurance is to download the apps to a computer or hard drive. Once you have downloaded your apps, even if they disappear from the store, you can connect your device to the computer and reinstall them. There are two things you can do.
- Back up your device to your computer
I always back up my device and iTunes purchases to my computer, which in turn backs up on an external drive. You can also back up to iCloud, but I’d still recommend connecting to your computer regularly. If you have bandwidth and data issues, it is worth mentioning that backing up this way is possible without WiFi/internet access, so could be more economical for some.
- Automatically back up your app purchases on your computer. (Your device doesn’t need to be connected for this.)
- Open iTunes on your computer and select iTunes> Preferences> Store>
- Check Always check for available downloads
- Then, under Automatic Downloads, check Apps (and Music, if you’d also like to back up your music purchases.)
- With these options set, open iTunes on your computer (while connected to the internet) regularly, and it will automatically download any purchases.
Using these strategies has meant I’ve been able to hold on to some great apps that are no longer available. But there are limitations. Once an app has been pulled from the App Store, there will be no more support and no more updates. When Apple releases a new iOS, for example, your old apps may no longer be compatible. This won’t be a problem if you have an older device, such as the original iPad, but it is something to keep in mind if your device is newer.
An external hard drive dedicated to backing up your computer is a great investment. If you back up regularly, your data will be safe even you have a major computer disaster. Documents and apps aside, just think of all the media (particularly personal photos and videos) we have stored on our computers these days, and imagine what would happen if your computer drive had a break down. Backing up is a safety measure that we should all get in the habit of doing. (As extra insurance, about once a year I copy our family photos and videos on to DVDs or flash drives and give them to the grandparents, so they can enjoy them and we’ll always have an offsite backup if a really big disaster strikes). There are lots of different drives on the market with lots of different sizes price points, so talk to your local suppliers and find one (or several) that work for you.