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> making your existing backed-up apps useless, if you still had them.

This isn't true. You can still install existing IPAs you have saved in the past by syncing it with Finder. You can also just AirDrop an IPA to your iOS device to install it.

> Now, the only way to keep your software on your iPhone indefinitely is to never delete it, and never reformat your phone.

You can still back up IPA installers by downloading them with Apple Configurator 2. https://ios.gadgethacks.com/how-to/download-ipa-files-for-io...

I can't seem to find documentation about AirDrop installation of .ipa backups I have. Also that Apple Configurator 2 process appears to force me to update the apps before they are backed up (I have automatic updates turned off because of how often app updates tend to be regressions rather than improvements)... Also, how do I "sync it with Finder"? (what is "it"?)

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