iTunes 11 Review
Apple recently announced the availability of the iTunes Music Store in the UAE and over 50 other countries. Even though iTunes has been around for about 11 years – which in ‘technology years’ is well above a millennium – the Music store has only been available in a select few markets. As a result, while many of us have been enjoying our Apple devices for a few years or more, their true potential will only now be realized.
So with that in mind, we’ve put together a list of common questions you may have and answers to them.
• I already have iTunes installed. How is this different?
The iTunes that you have installed on your machine allows you to listen to music, watch videos and synchronize content to your Apple devices. The release of the iTunes Store now will let you buy music and apps. You will be able to purchase music from both international artists as well as local ones such as Nancy Ajram, Amr Diab and more. Until now, in order to purchase music on the iTunes Music Store you had to use a work around which was registering a US account which required a US Credit Card and billing address, or alternately using a iTunes Music card (again only available in the US officially). But now you can use your local credit card and billing address to buy music.
A single track will cost between AED 1.99 to AED 4.49, while most albums are priced at AED 29.99. The store lets you preview a track for anywhere between 30 to 90 seconds before you make the purchase. There is a healthy amount of local content on the store, but the international portfolio seems to lack the depth that the US version of the store has.
One of the most exciting elements of iTunes Music Store is the iTunes Match feature which, for AED 90 per year, matches the existing music you have on your machine and adds a high quality version of it to your iCloud account. Once this has been done, you can access this music on any devices that are linked to your iCloud account.
• What kind of content can you purchase on the iTunes Store?
Users in the UAE have already been able to buy and download apps from the iTunes App store. The arrival of the iTunes Music store now allows users to buy music locally. However, the local store is still missing the ability to purchase movies, TV shows and books; much of which really builds the multimedia experience, especially on devices such as the iPad. The US store will let you download individual episodes of TV shows, or get a pass for the entire season. With the Movies section of iTunes in the US, you can purchase or even rent and watch popular movies. With rentals, you have 30 days to start watching and 24 hours to finish from when you press Play. In addition to that the store features a healthy collection of Independent movies and ‘early’ or iTunes exclusive titles too. The Books section on iTunes is getting popular too with most titles now released on iTunes simultaneously with Amazon and physical stores. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 11 years to get access to all this other content.
• What devices can you use this content on?
You can download content on any device that let you use iTunes. This includes your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Mac and PC. However once you’ve downloaded the content, you can play the music on a variety of other devices that are iTunes and Airplay compatible. Given that we only have access to the Music section, you’re restricted to streaming songs only to your TV or AirPlay speakers.
• Why should I really care to buy music on iTunes?
You do have other means to music such as buying your own CDs and ripping them or downloading from other music stores; however the iTunes Music Store is the simplest, easiest and most convenient way to purchase buy, transfer and consume content if you have an Apple device. As a matter of fact, iTunes Music Store is a great way to discover new music that is in line with your music taste too. The ‘Recommended For Me’ feature will scan your library and suggest music to download.
• What are alternatives to iTunes?
There are a bunch of other alternative stores where you can download music, apps, TV shows, movies, books and more.
Arguably the next biggest store after iTunes is the Google Play store which gives users access to Music, Movies, Books and more. You don’t need a Google or Android device to access this content. As a matter of fact the Google Play Store is web based which means all you really need is a web browser. However once again, the store is rather sparse for this region.
HP has launched their own version of a music store giving access to unlimited music to HP Envy Laptop owners for 12 months. For those who don’t have an HP Envy laptop, users can purchase a yearly subscription for $82.
Amazon offers music downloads (Singles and albums), books under the Kindle umbrella, TV and movies under the Instant Video moniker and apps under a self-branded store as well. Its offerings are quite fragmented and not really available outside the US. However, Amazon is on its way to becoming a Tier 1 content provider in the United States and may quite possibly start selling content outside.
There’s a bunch of other music and movie streaming providers; Microsoft for example has started bundling its content service under the Xbox brand name, Netflix offers instant streaming movies (but is US only), and then you have dedicated music providers such as Pandora and Spotify. Many of these have built up audiences over the years in the US and can serve to be good alternatives.
The writer is a digital marketing professional and an early adopter of all things digital.