Last week, Apple users and fans in India had reason for some early Christmas cheer: the iTunes store was finally available in an Indian avatar — with content available at cheaper rates.
If you have a iPod Touch, an iPhone, an iPad or an Apple TV you can now get your hands on lots of really cool content.
What does this offer — and how does this compare with rival content stores? We take a look.
iTunes Store: Available on iOS devices, Apple computers and Windows computers that have the iTunes software
The biggest advantage of the iTunes store is that it uses the same payment mechanism that you use to buy apps on the iOS devices. This means that besides the low rates, each transaction you undertake is completely secure. In albums, songs cost an average of just Rs. 12, you can listen to a preview of the song before purchasing it and can either purchase the full album or just a favourite track. In movies, you can rent one at Rs. 80 onwards, or buy from Rs. 190 depending on the movie and format — whether standard or high definition. If you buy it on one device, you can always watch it on the other, and download it as well.
The other service that comes as a part of the iTunes Store is the iTunes Match. At a price of Rs. 1200, it uploads all the songs that you may already have on the Cloud. Besides, there is no limit on the disk space - which means that you can play any song on any device. As an add-on, it also gives you ‘Genius’ results that predicts the songs you might fancy.
Apple uses a 256KB bit rate and an AAC compression that makes music sound just the way it was recorded. Also, movies are available in SD and HD format, depending on the movie.
Applications such as the ‘SoundHound’ that let you discover music simply by listening to what is playing, and suggesting similar music, work well with iTunes.
BigFlix: Available on Windows, Android and Apple devices and your computer via browser
For a fixed monthly fee of Rs. 249, you can watch as many movies available on this platform as you want. The advantage is that you could be watching a movie on your tablet, and then continue viewing it on your PC or even TV (some smart TVs have the BigFlix app built in). Currently, BigFlix claims that they have nearly 2,000 odd movies available in 15 languages, and though you will not find the latest flicks available here, I do love the price model. Remember, this runs on a rental scheme. When your plan expires you will have no access to the movies you have watched. No songs are out on it yet, only movies are available for now.
Flyte: Available on Apple, Android, Wind-ows, and your computer via the browser
A FlipKart offering that has only music on it, the Flyte store makes up in quality what it lacks in variety by offering a great collection of songs. The music is sold as MP3 and is DRM (digital rights management) free — which means that once you have bought it, it belongs to you and you can use it on any of the machines that you have. The pricing is as low as R5 per track while albums can start at a rate as reasonable as as Rs. 35. Some acoustic nuances may be missing. If you are buying tracks while on a mobile device, you will need to use a prepaid mechanism FlipKart called Wallet. This means you pay first, and then keep deducting from your balance.
Ovi Store: Available on Nokia devices
This is a captive solution available only on Nokia phones of both Symbian and Windows platforms, besides your Windows PC. The Ovi Store has a large collection of music, albeit at a low bit rate. The music in some albums ends up sounding akin to a cassette tape. Like other stores, you can download and keep the music with you. No movies available yet though.
Hungama.com was one of the pioneers in the digital space with Bollywood offerings, but they do need to play some serious catch-up with the new kids on the block. With plans starting at a low Rs. 99 per month, you can download as many songs, music videos or ring tones as you want. Sadly though, all the content is DRM protected and works only on the machine you bought it on. So, if you want the content to sit on another machine, you must buy another plan. The bigger problem that I faced was that the site just would not work properly on mobile browsers. Coming to the plus points, Hungama also has movies available in both SD and HD formats, the movies can be streamed at R149 per month and the number of movies you watch are not limited.