How to Manage & Sync iOS Apps Without iTunes on iPhone & iPad

The latest version of iTunes removes the App Store and thus the ability to manage iOS apps on an iPhone or iPad directly through iTunes. Instead, Apple wants users to manage and sync their iOS apps directly on the iOS device itself through the built-in App Store.

The removal of App Store and an Apps section from iTunes has confused some users, and annoyed others. But don’t distress, even if this change can take some adapting, because you can still easily manage apps, sync apps, and redownload apps and access apps through the App Store directly on an iPhone or iPad.

It’ll be helpful to think of the concept of app ‘syncing’ as now more like app re-downloading from the App Store, since syncing apps to and from iTunes is largely gone and instead replaced with redownloading apps if need be over the internet. (I say largely gone because you can still sort of work with .ipa files, more on that below.)

How to Redownload Apps to iPhone or iPad from iOS App Store, Without iTunes

You can download existing and old apps, as well as manage apps directly on the iPhone and iPad by using the App Store Purchased section. The Purchased section of the App Store includes all apps you have ever downloaded or bought before at any time with the Apple ID in use, as long as those apps are still on the App Store. This redownloading iOS app ability has been around for a long time in iOS, but now it is perhaps more important than ever before.

Here is how you can access Purchased and use it to download apps back to your iOS device, note the precise actions are slightly different on iPhone compared to iPad but the general behavior is the same:

    1. Open the App Store app in iOS

App Store logo in iOS

    1. Go to the Purchased section of the App Store
      • For iPhone and iPod touch: Go to “Updates” and then “Purchased”

Access Purchased apps in iOS App Store for iPhone

      • For iPad: Tap your Apple ID account icon in the corner of the open App Store

Access Purchased apps in App Store on iPad

      • On iPad App Store, then tap “Purchased”

access apps to iPad via App Store Purchased section

    1. Choose the “Not on this device” section
    2. Tap the download icons alongside app names you wish to download to the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch

Downloading apps from the Purchased section of apps not on the current device

This allows you to download and access apps that you have previously downloaded, owned, or purchased at some point, but that are not contained on the current iOS device.

These purchase listings will be different per iOS device, changing from “Not on this iPhone” or “Not on this iPad” depending on what device you are using with the same Apple ID, and depending on what apps are on the active iOS device.

Access and download purchased apps not on the iOS device without iTunes

Arranging iOS App Home Screen and Icon Layouts on iPhone and iPad

You can still arrange your iOS home screen as you like it to a custom icon layout, but now it must be done on the iPhone or iPad.

Simply tap and hold on an app icon until all screen icons start to jiggle. Once the icons are jiggling on the iOS screen they can be moved around at will. Use this to arrange the Home Screen of an iPhone or iPad to suit your preferences.

If you drag a jiggling icon to the edge of the screen, continue holding and you can move the app icon to a different Home Screen page.

Removing Unwanted Apps from the iPhone or iPad

Removing apps from an iPhone or iPad is a matter of uninstalling the apps from iOS, the easiest way is by the tap-and-hold and then delete method detailed here.

Delete apps in iOS with a tap and hold

You can also delete apps from an iOS device through the Settings > General section to manage storage.

Manually Syncing / Copying Apps via IPA Files to iPhone or iPad with iTunes

Interestingly, you can still drag and drop ringtones in .m4r format and iOS apps in .ipa file format into iTunes and to the target iOS device, and they should transfer over to the target iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

If you happen to have a .ipa file of an iOS app, you can still manually copy it over to the iPhone or iPad via iTunes by using this drag and drop method. This is sort of like syncing, but it’s really just copying a file over from the local computer to the target iOS device by using iTunes.

Apps stored as .ipa files, if you have any stored on a local computer, can be found within the iTunes Library locations on the Mac and Windows PC and a subfolder for Mobile Applications, typically the path would be as follows for Mac and Windows PC respectively:

IPA file path in Mac OS:

~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Mobile Applications/

IPA file path in Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10:

\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\

With an iPhone or iPad connected to the computer via USB, simply drag and drop the IPA file into iTunes onto the iOS device in question through the sidebar.

IPA files of iOS apps on a Mac

It’s alway possible this particular IPA file feature will disappear from iTunes in the future with another software update, or that the IPA files stored on a computer will vanish if you don’t copy them elsewhere for backup purposes, so it’s probably wise to not depend on this particular ability too much.