On Monday, Apple announced the imminent demise of one of its most famous and despised products, the all-encompassing entertainment manager iTunes. The application — which in recent years has spent its existence on my computer either closed or bouncing obnoxiously and for unknown reasons in my dock — was a relic of a different technological era, one in which people wasted countless hours of their lives re-entering track and artist names off of burned CDs.
The fact that iTunes is still around at all in 2019 is "a rounding error," as Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster put it to USA Today; in the years since its launch in 2001, the application "had gotten way too big." Apple is right to harvest iTunes' functioning organs, because bloated apps are about as annoying for users as forcing a new U2 album on them without asking.
All the trouble with iTunes stems from the fact that Apple's handheld products evolved from hosting just music to having the capability to store visual media like TV. To accommodate the growth, iTunes started adding tabs until it became a hideous maze of separate rooms for TV and movies, not to mention podcasts and audiobooks. Already dismantled on iOS, iTunes will be re-imagined going forward as three different apps: Music, Podcasts, and TV. Don't worry, though: Your iTunes gift card purchases circa 2007 won't be lost. Apple is simply relocating existing libraries to their appropriate apps.
While keeping apps slimmed down might seem a fussy demand — the tech equivalent of not wanting your food to touch on the plate — users benefit from apps being stupidly efficient and streamlined. On an iPhone today, you likely won't even notice the convenience in locating media. It is better, after all, to offer 16 different one-use applications than one app that does everything, a fact Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, was well aware of when he joked Monday that instead of cleaning up iTunes, Apple could've added a calendar, mail capabilities, and Safari tab.
Perhaps intentionally, Federighi's joke brought to mind other bulky hubs like Facebook, which is so massive it practically bends the space-time continuum. To get to where I'm going in the Facebook app, I have to navigate my way through my news feed, profile, groups, and events pages, as well as other assorted mysterious tabs I never use, like "marketplace," "videos to watch," and "nearby friends." Ironically, the one function I can't access through the app is Messenger, and its stand-alone app is a rare example of how even single-use apps can be a disaster if not done well. (I eventually gave up and deleted it and now I never see or reply to anything over Facebook. Sorry!)
On the other end of the spectrum, and what Apple is now moving toward, is a company like Google, which has approximately a gazillion apps, including its classic search engine, Chrome, Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Maps. While there is a Google Drive app, you can also individually download apps for Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides, if you don't want the whole shebang (I only have Google Docs downloaded, sparing me the trouble of having to wade through everything in my Drive to get to the stories I'm working on). Likewise, while Gmail and the instant messaging app Hangouts might have naturally nested together, they're separate applications on iOS, splitting active conversations from the slower-moving back-and-forths in inbox. Even Google Maps can divide down into Streetview, Earth, and Trips — and to be honest, I want even more apps too, including a separate easily-accessible space for Google Flights.
While music, podcasts, and audiobooks are mainly managed on phones as is, laptops and desktops will particularly benefit from Apple's newly divorced spaces for visual media. Previously such materials were confusingly clustered in iTunes, which is why I didn't realize I owned the entirety of Firefly on my computer until right this minute. That's not even to mention the fact that instead of the clunky process of Googling where a movie can be bought, then routing out of a browser to iTunes to purchase it, there will be a specific spot to go on your dock to begin with.
Best of all, by decentralizing its entertainment app, Apple will require only the bare minimum of interaction between its interfaces and getting done whatever task you want to accomplish, be it listening to a podcast or watching TV. With smaller, more specific apps, you can bypass all irrelevant materials to more quickly arrive at what it is you're looking for.
And yes, there is another perk to the app's demise, too. Perhaps most thrillingly, Apple's announcement means that when you plug your iPhone into a computer to charge it in the future, it won't immediately open iTunes. Bless.