I work for a school district too and feel your frustration. Seems that there are a lot of weird workarounds to get Configurator to do what we want it to do. Here's what I think is happening in your case.
If the configuration profile you are loading onto the iPad prevents downloading apps, that profile will prevent the apps from being installed (even from Configurator).
The workaround is to do a "double sync." Uncheck the configuration profile that is on each iPad (the one that prevents installing apps) and do a quick sync to remove that configuration profile from the iPads. After the config profile has been removed from the iPads, do another sync to install all of the apps (with no config profiles). After that sync is complete, then checkmark the configuration profile to lock down installing apps and do a final sync. I guess its more of a "triple sync" than a "double sync" but should get the results you are looking for.
Hope this solves your question!
I work for a school too and I have a worse case.
The first time we pushed apps or profile seemed to be working fine. But when we collected the iPads again to update apps and pushed new apps. We feel it's more complicated and got errors. Here was what we did:
- Update the apps from iTunes and bought new apps.
- Load the new version of apps and new apps to Apple Configurator to replace the one version ones
- Remove the Profile from Apple Configurator
- Connect the iPads to the Apple Configurator
- The iPads refresh automatically
- Got the Can't Install App error
- So I have to click the Apps tab, then uncheck all the apps that had installed, then Apply. After it finished Refresh, I have to check all the apps again (this time I included both the previous apps and the new apps I want to push), then Apply.
- But all the user data in the non-Apple apps were all gone. User data in Apple apps such as Pages, Keynote and Numbers remains there.
Here is the solution:
Before updating the iPads, DO NOT update the apps from iTunes
1. Connect the iPads to the computer that has the AC
2. Open AC
3. Uncheck the profile that you pushed to the iPads, then click Apply
4. Now update the apps through iTunes, then add the updated apps and the new apps to AC
5. Check the new apps, then Apply
6. Check the previous profile, then Apply
Let's take a look at what the Apple Configuration (AC) will do when an iPad is connected. Below is the steps it runs through in order:
Retrieving iOS information-->Checking Activation...-->Checking Pairing...-->Installing Apps-->Retrieving Documents-->Installing Configuration
As you can see, it's installing apps first before installing configuration (the profile). If your profile was set to not to allow the iPad to install apps (meaning you removed the App Store from the iPad), the AC can't push updated/new apps to the iPad. That's why you can't update the apps from iTunes at the beginning and that's why on step 3 you need to remove your initial profile before pushing updated/new apps.
If the apps in the AC already got updated through iTunes or there were new apps in the AC, that will pop up the "Can't install apps" error. If the apps in the AC are still the same version as those in the iPad, it won't pop up that error. That's why we do not update the apps through iTunes at the first beginning to make sure the apps versions in the iPads are still the same as those in the AC.
To summarize again, the iPads need the Apple Store back before they can be loaded with updated/new apps by the AC. The profile installed on the iPads were blocking the AC to push updated/new apps. That's why we have to remove that profile and put it back in the end.
I feel I am making you confused.
I am not native English speaker, sorry that if I did not explain well enough.
Thanks, I will give that a try. Do you update all your iPads at once? I have 50 for our school, and I update in groups, because I update by plugging in, not wirelessly. It seems like this would work for the first group I plug in, but then when I get to the next group, I would be back to the same problem. I haven't tried yet so I don't know. Thanks for the information...I'm glad to have something to try out.
You are right. It only works for one group. If you plan to work on different groups, you have to put the initial version of apps back to AC so that they are the same version of apps as those in the 2nd group. It's a headache to keep doing this again and again, especially working on different groups of iPads that have different sets of apps.
So we just ordered JAMF and started using it. But JAMF also has the same problem that all third party MDM software companies have. They still can not go around the requirement of inputting Apple ID and password when pushing apps installation to the iPads.
Anyway, I hope Apple one day soon can give a good solution or release more control to other MDM software companies to easy our jobs.
If you have more questions and want to talk over the phone, feel free to let me know. I hope I could help more.