Using an iPhone 4S without iTunes – ever!

For reasons that shall be dealt with later, I’m the owner of a new iPhone 4S. Having had more than my fill of iTunes annoyances, delays and freezes, I’m trying to go without ever syncing my new iPhone to my Mac. In the first few days, it’s mostly gone smoothly.

Email/Contacts/Calendars

I’m using both Apple’s iCloud (converted from MobileMe) and Google’s various web services right now. Since I’ve been on an Android phone for almost a year, my Apple contacts and calendar are a bit dated around the edges compared to my Google stuff. It’s sort of a bake-off and if the phone works well with Google services, I’ll probably phase out the iCloud.

Adding iCloud was easy and everything appeared quickly. To get the best of all possible experiences with Google, I’m following the advice from some support boards to use the iPhone’s default Google settings for Gmail and Google calendar and an Exchange account pointing to Google servers for contacts. Directions for the Exchange bit are here. That also seems to have worked without a hitch.

Inside my contacts app, I can choose any of the groups set up in my iCloud contacts lists (which mostly originate from the Address Book program on my main Mac) or my Google contacts. I cannot access different groups I’ve set up in my Google contacts, but I can’t do that on my Android phone either. On the iPhone’s phone favorites screen, I can select any number or email from any of those many lists. Very handy and smooth so far.

Previously purchased music and apps

As soon as I activated my new phone and signed in with my iTunes identity, the iTunes store app had a tab for previously purchased music and TV shows. I could download any of the thousands of tracks or shows I’d bought from Apple over the years. Very spiffy. Of course, music purchased elsewhere was nowhere to be found and there’s no Amazon Music Player app for the iPhone that I could find. If I agree to pony up another $25/year, Apple will shortly solve this problem with “iTunes Match.”

Apps were a bit trickier. There was no tab in the App Store app and for a few minutes I was stumped. It’s not intuitive but previously purchased apps appeared under the Updates tab. They seem to be listed in the order in which you first downloaded them — the most recently purchased app is at the top, the oldest stuff is at the bottom — with no sorting choices. Annoyingly, selecting any app for installing on the phone took me off the purchased apps screen, out of the App Store app and out to the iPhone’s home screen where the app was being installed. I had to double-click the home button and hit the App Store icon to jump back.

I haven’t previously backed up app data to iCloud from any iOS device so the apps all arrived in a virginal state. It took a good couple of hours to sign in and set up all the apps. Thank god for 1Password (which, not coincidentally, was among the freshly downloaded apps that needed to be reset).

Files and documents

It’s actually pretty easy to get access to any document I need on my phone using Dropbox. Some day this may be doable with iCloud. But so far iCloud is only syncing documents from one iOS device’s versions of Apple’s office suite apps, Pages, Keynote and Numbers to another iOS device’s versions. That’s the iOS versions — not the desktop versions.

Another key app for on-the-go documents is Evernote, my reliable digital shoe box that stores copies of notes, web pages and other kinds of files and makes them auto-magically available on all manner of devices and computers.

Movies

Well, I may be screwed. Apple’s previously purchased download policy doesn’t apply to movies. I can watch some flicks streamed via a Netflix or HBO app, but that’s not an optimal solution. And it leaves the movies we’ve previously purchased in iTunes out. The iPhone has wifi syncing with iTunes but that’s still iTunes syncing, not to mention it requires an initial USB sync. Yuck.

So, overall, it’s been a pretty smooth experience being PC free with a new iPhone 4S. So many apps and services are built for the cloud and do their own syncing that I may not need iTunes at all.

  • Ncassab

    dude, if you want apps without itunes, all you have to do is once you have icloud set up.
    go to settings
    store
    turn on apps
    go back
    go to the app store app
    hit updates
    then click purchased
    there you’ll see every app you ever had on your previous iphones etc.

  • Nor sure if you read the post, but that’s what I did. The install process was less than great.

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