The Complete Guide to Using the iTunes Store | iLounge Article


The Complete Guide to Using the iTunes Store

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Navigating the iTunes Store

You can browse the iTunes Store without having an iTunes Store account, or even having signed in, but as noted earlier you’ll need an account to actually download anything—even free content other than Podcast and iTunes U downloads.

When you first access the iTunes Store from within iTunes, you’re taken to the main iTunes Store screen, showing you a cross-section of featured content within the different content sections.


The main, top panel provides a changing list of featured new release content. You can click on any of these panels to immediately be taken to the page for that content. Hovering over the bottom-right corner will reveal a small arrow icon which can be used to quickly scroll down through this featured content.


To the right of the main featured content panel is a Quick Links menu for accessing specific iTunes Store features such as redeeming or buying gifts, searching the iTunes Store, accessing your account information, contacting iTunes Store support, or viewing targeted content lists such as your Genius Recommendations, Wish List, artist alerts, or accessing your previous purchases from iTunes in the Cloud.


The remaining content in the iTunes Store window simply provides sections to feature various types of content through top listings and specific categories, such as Top Charts or albums on sale. A “Free on iTunes” section is often shown at the bottom of the screen, highlighting albums and other content presently available for free download (although an iTunes Store account is still required to download these items). Note that a scroll bar appears beneath most of these listings, allowing you to scroll left and right to view more options in each featured category.


Hovering over an individual item in any of the item listing panels on the right-hand side will display options to preview or purchase that item.


Clicking on the item itself will take you directly to the main page for that item, the “Buy” button will immediately purchase the item, and the blue Preview button will either simply play back an audio preview for an audio item, or open a preview window for video item in a floating pop-up over the existing iTunes Store page. The preview can also be viewed by hovering over the cover artwork and clicking the small playback button which appears in the bottom-right corner. Additional information is shown beneath the preview, as well as the standard “Buy” button.


In a similar manner, hovering over an album or TV Show entry will display a small info icon in the bottom-right corner. Clicking on this icon will open up a detailed list of songs or episodes in that album or TV Show in a floating pop-up window. Options for purchasing individual episodes are shown here, as well as a toggle to switch between HD and Standard definition in the case of TV Shows that have more than one format available.


Each “Buy” button also acts as a pull-down menu, providing other related options for the current item, including the ability to purchase the item as a gift, add it to your Wish List, e-mail the link to that item to a friend, copy the link to your system clipboard, or share the link on either Twitter or Facebook. Note that not all options will be available for all items; for example rental content cannot at the present time be added to your Wish List.


Beyond the home page, the main content sections are organized at the top of the iTunes Store window in a menu bar layout. Clicking on any of these headings takes you directly to the home page for that section. However, if you however over a section heading, you’ll see a small triangle appear. Clicking this presents a pull-down menu that allows you to navigate directly to specific areas within that section.


Each content section’s home page is laid out and functions in a manner similar to the main home page, although of course only content relevant to that particular section is shown. Other functions related to selecting, previewing and purchasing work in the same way throughout the iTunes Store.



Music is generally available on the iTunes Store in the form of individual tracks or entire albums. Traditionally, individual tracks on the iTunes Store sold for $0.99 and most albums sold for $9.99. However in 2009 Apple announced that they would be introducing a variable pricing model for music, with three price tiers: $0.69, $0.99 and $1.29. For the most part, few tracks have appeared at the $0.69 price tier, with the vast majority of tracks remaining at $0.99 and popular new release tracks selling for the higher $1.29 price tag. Albums have similarly seen a more variable pricing model, with some albums selling for as low as $7.99 and other new release albums selling for as much as $19.99 or more for “Deluxe Editions.”


Clicking on an album in any of the iTunes Store listings will bring you to a page for that album with more information about the artist, some additional notes, ratings, and a track listing. From this screen, you can either purchase the entire album or individual tracks. Note, however, that some tracks may only be purchased as part of the album itself. An icon will be displayed in the top-right corner for albums that include the interactive “iTunes LP” content, and the iTunes LP item is normally shown at the beginning of the track list. Other special types of content may also be included with an album, such as music videos and digital booklets. These are indicated by special icons immediately to the left of the time column.


It is also not uncommon to see albums with a mixture of tracks at the different price tiers, mixed in with some album-only tracks as well.


As with the main iTunes home screen, hovering over a track name will display a Preview button in place of the track number, which can be clicked to listen to a preview of the selected track. Both audio and video tracks may be previewed in this manner. No preview options are presently available for iTunes LP content or digital booklets.


The Music section also includes Music Videos, which are often included with albums but can often be purchased separately. All of the music tracks now available from the iTunes Store are in the iTunes Plus format, which is 256kbps AAC with no digital rights management copy or transfer restrictions. Purchased tracks are, however, tagged with the name and user ID of the iTunes Store account with which the track was purchased.


Audiobooks and iBooks share their own section in the iTunes Store, but the process of previewing and purchasing books works much the same as for music content. The major differences are that prices of different books vary greatly, and these items remain protected by iTunes’ FairPlay Digital Right Management.


For more information on Books see our Guide to iTunes Books, Podcasts and iTunes U.


In several countries, the iTunes Store provides movies available for purchase or rental in both standard and high-definition formats, although this varies in different countries. On average, standard-definition movies in the U.S. iTunes Store sell for between $4.99 up to $14.99 while HD moves sell for $9.99 up to $19.99, depending on the title and date of release. Movies can be rented in the U.S. iTunes Store in standard definition for $2.99 for library titles and $3.99 for new releases, and in high-definition for $3.99 for library titles and $4.99 for new releases. Prices vary in other countries.


Clicking on a specific movie title or image will take you to the detailed information page for that movie, which provides additional notes and a plot summary, a link to the movie trailer, details on the format, release date and other specifications, and customer reviews.


Not all movies are available for both purchase and rental. Some titles are rental-only while others are purchase-only. It is also quite common to see new release movies only available for purchase initially. These movies usually include a note on their detail page indicating when they will actually be available for rental. A small number of movies also include “iTunes Extras” bonus content which provides the additional features normally found on a DVD version of the movie. If a movie includes iTunes Extras an icon to that effect will appear in the top-right corner. iTunes Extras are not presently available for rented movies.

Movies purchased from the iTunes Store are protected by iTunes FairPlay DRM, but otherwise work like most other types of purchased content and may be transferred to multiple supported iPod or iOS devices or viewed on an Apple TV. Rented movies, on the other hand, may only be stored on a single device at a time, and must be moved between devices, rather than copied. Movies can be rented directly on an iOS device, however movies rented on the iPad, iPhone 4/4S or fourth-generation iPod touch must be watched on the device on which they were rented and cannot be transferred back to your computer or to another device; movies rented directly on the second-generation Apple TV can be viewed on any Apple TV connected to your iTunes Store account. Movies rented directly in iTunes can be streamed to a second-generation Apple TV or moved to and viewed on any supported iPod or iOS device.

Rental content expires automatically 30 days after purchase of the rental, regardless of whether you’ve watched it or not. Rented movies from the U.S. iTunes Store expire 24 hours after you begin watching them, while iTunes Store users in Canada and the U.K. are given 48 hours to finish watching a movie once they have begun. For more information on how iTunes Movie Rentals work, see our Guide to iTunes Movie Rentals.

Television Shows

The iTunes Store now provides television shows for sale in several countries as well, although the available content here varies significantly between different countries, the catalog in non-U.S. iTunes Stores is increasing rapidly. TV Shows are organized by show and by season. In the U.S. iTunes Store most individual episodes are priced at $1.99 in standard definition or $2.99 in HD. Season prices vary based on the number of episodes in the season, but are generally about two or three episodes cheaper than buying the episodes individually. As with movies, prices in other countries vary.


TV Shows that are currently airing can also be purchased in the form of a “Season Pass.” This is similar to purchasing an entire season, except that you pay in advance for the whole season and new episodes are downloaded automatically as they become available. For most current-run TV Shows, new episodes are available from iTunes a day after the show airs on TV.

Selecting an individual show will display details about the show, including a description of the show and a list of the episodes from the current season. As with other elements in the iTunes Store, hovering over an episode reveals a preview button that can be used to watch a preview clip from that particular episode.


Each episode also includes a brief synopsis with an info icon beside it that can be clicked on to reveal a more detailed description about that particular episode in a pop-up window.


Note that if a TV Show is available in high-definition, the iTunes Store page will always default to showing the HD version. A link will normally appear toward the bottom-left corner allowing you to view the standard-definition version instead. TV Shows purchased from the iTunes Store are all protected by iTunes FairPlay DRM and the normal restrictions apply.

For information on managing your purchased TV Shows in iTunes, see our Guide to Managing iTunes Videos.

About High-Definition Content

As previously discussed, some movies and TV shows in the iTunes Store are available in both standard-definition and high-definition formats. High-definition content can only be played via iTunes or Quicktime on your computer, on the Apple TV or on the iPad, iPhone 4/4S and fourth-generation iPod touch. Older iPod and iPhone models are not compatible with HD content. To accommodate these older devices, when you purchase an item in HD from the iTunes Store, Apple actually provides you with two copies of that item: The HD copy you purchased, and a standard-definition copy that can be used on older iPod or iPhone devices. Within iTunes itself, these files are merged into a single listing for both content types, and are effectively treated as a single entry. The “HD-SD” tag which appears beside each entry indicates that both formats are available.


By default, the HD format is played in iTunes and on the Apple TV and synchronized to any iOS devices that support it while the SD format is synchronized to older iPod or iPhone devices. This happens seamlessly within iTunes itself, and you generally don’t need to worry about the specifics. Even the played status and current playback position is synchronized between the two versions, so you could watch part of a show in standard definition on your iPod, sync back to iTunes, and then pick up watching the high-definition version on your computer or Apple TV. You can manually choose a different version to view on your computer by right-clicking on a selected track in iTunes, and choosing your preferred version from the Version context sub-menu. You can also change the default preference to display all videos in standard definition on your computer by checking the appropriate setting in your iTunes preferences under the Playback tab. Users of newer iOS devices can also choose to synchronize only standard-definition videos to their devices in order to save space. This option can be found on the “Summary” screen for your device in iTunes.


Note that if storage space is at a premium, it is possible to remove or delete the standard-definition version, as it is a separate file within your file system. Simply right-click on the track in iTunes and choose Show in Finder or Show in Windows Explorer to open a window to the actual file itself. Note that deleted versions cannot be recovered from the iTunes Store without repurchasing the item, so you’re better to back up the standard-definition version somewhere in case you need it again in the future.

Podcasts and iTunes U

The iTunes Store also provides a front-end catalog for a wide variety of podcasts and educational content from colleges and Universities. This content is not actually provided directly by the iTunes Store itself, but rather from third-party web-sites—Apple merely provides the listing of content.


Note that since this content is not being provided directly by Apple, you can download Podcasts and iTunes U collections without an iTunes Store account. For more information, check out our Guide to iTunes Audiobooks, Podcasts & iTunes U.


Click Below to Read the Rest of This Article:  

« The Complete Guide to Album Tagging, Art and Playlists in iTunes

The Complete Guide to iTunes Books, Podcasts + iTunes U »

Related Stories



Here’s my problem with the iTunes Store. Say I search for “Misty.” In the past, I could manipulate the headings (such as “name,” “artist,” “album” so I could see the entire line rather than “Johnny Mathis: A 5…”). Plus, it had a “genre” heading, which I loved, because I don’t want to scroll through a thousand versions of “Misty.” Maybe i just want an alt version, and “genre” made it much easier to find. Anyway, there’s probably a way to customize this, but I haven’t found it. Any idea? Thanks

Posted by Chris Simmons in Toronto on November 20, 2009 at 2:49 PM (CST)


Why Apple haven’t get rid of online distribution of this gift certificates for today?
They know the problem.
Gift cards & gift certificates duplicates each other, but the cards (which are real) - much safer than online certificates for the Apple itself.
This is just some mystery…

Posted by Ale in Toronto on November 21, 2009 at 1:04 AM (CST)


“Note that you must be purchasing a free app from the App Store for this option to become available. Free downloads from other areas of iTunes still require you to set up an iTunes Store account using either a credit card or gift code.”

Hey, JDH, I don’t have a credit card set up with my iTunes account and I can download ANY content from the iTunes Store as long as it’s free, including the Music Video of the Week, etc.

Posted by iLly in Toronto on November 21, 2009 at 2:07 PM (CST)


Great article Jesse!

Unless I’m mistaken the store has a default language according to country. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to set it to English. Have I missed something?

Posted by Alicia Bankhofer in Toronto on November 21, 2009 at 6:01 PM (CST)


#1: You can get some of the desired effect in the iTunes Store in Browser mode, but unfortunately any attempts to search the iTunes Store will still return you to an in-store search page, rather than searching within the browser itself. This did work at one point after iTunes 9 was released, but I’m uncertain right now whether a later iTunes update disabled it, or if the iTunes Store itself is undergoing some changes.

#2: Gift certificates serve a very useful purpose in that they can be sent out by e-mail to the recipients. Gift cards would have to be physically purchased and mailed. The security of the gift certificates is enforced by requiring that you actually have a valid iTunes Store account to purchase one in the first place.

#3: To clarify, you cannot SET UP an iTunes Store account without a credit card or gift code unless you’re doing it by purchasing an app. In other words, if you start by trying to download a free song, the iTunes Store account setup process will require that you provide a credit card or gift code before you can set up an account. If you’re trying to download a free app, the “None” option becomes available during the setup process.  Why on earth Apple makes that distinction is beyond me, but it’s obviously quite deliberate on their part, as even the Apple knowledgebase article linked to from here explains clearly that you must be in the App Store to set up an account without a payment method.

Of course, once you have an iTunes Store account set up, you can download any free item you want without requiring a payment method, and in fact you could even start with a payment method and later switch to “None” for your existing account. In other words, you can use a free app “purchase” to set up the iTunes Store account, after which you can use it anywhere.

#4: That is essentially correct, although they allow for specific language variations within multilingual countries such as Canada and Switzerland. For instance, the iTunes Store in Canada can be viewed in Canadian English or Canadian French depending upon your regional settings in iTunes (Windows) or your Mac OS X language settings for iTunes on the Mac.

A list of countries and the languages that iTunes supports for them can be found at the bottom of Apple’s knowledgebase aritcle here:

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on November 22, 2009 at 4:26 PM (CST)


I am going to give my iPod touch to a friend and will be adding an iPad. I already have 5 devices in my iTunes account and want to remove the iPod and add the iPad. How do I remove the iPod from my account?
Thanks for your help and for the great article.

Posted by Art C in Toronto on July 6, 2010 at 2:17 PM (CDT)


I have a question about iTunes Gifts. If you gift someone a song or video and they never download it, are you still charged?

Just wondering.

Posted by Jake in Toronto on November 15, 2010 at 7:22 PM (CST)


@Art C (#6): You don’t need to remove your device. The limit only applies to computers and not iPods, iPhones or iPads. You can have an unlimited number of these devices associated with a given iTunes account as long as they’re syncing to one of your five authorized libraries.

@Jake (#7): Yes, once you purchase a gift you are charged for it immediately—essentially as soon as the code is generated.  If the other user never downloads the item, the code just goes to waste (although you can use it yourself instead).  You might also be able to request a refund from Apple if the code hasn’t actually been used.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on November 16, 2010 at 9:33 AM (CST)


I have changed my bank account and card number can I still redownload my old songs I accidentally deleted for free?

Posted by Amy in Toronto on January 2, 2012 at 9:33 AM (CST)


Hi Jesse,

Really useful article. I have a problems I was wondering if anyone could help me with!

My sister and I have shared an account up til now, due to iCloud we would like to switch and use different accounts. If I make a new account, will all my purchases made by the old one disappear from my iTunes?


Posted by Izzy in Toronto on January 11, 2012 at 5:26 AM (CST)


I live in the USA I gifted an app to a friend in Italy, he says the code to redeem the app is invalid in the USA . Why is my iTunes charging me for an app that has not been redeemed?

Posted by Peter in Toronto on January 27, 2012 at 6:34 PM (CST)


I dont know how to reinstall or redownloding my games tired to solve this problem.still WAITING guys.oh my god.i follow all the instruction but still WAITING!  Actually i use iTunes from my computer to my iPad Perth sure that i follow the instruction.  Please Help me….          Thanks,

Posted by Natasha in Toronto on February 18, 2012 at 11:24 AM (CST)


I have updated my Ipad 3 to ios6 and I cannot download any apps, the message says “cannot connect to Itunes store”, please help me?

Posted by Shkelqim Daci in Toronto on October 11, 2012 at 12:23 PM (CDT)


When downloading apps it says I need to change it to my courtyard Canada but when I go into iTunes it is set to Canada what’s wrong with it how do I fix it

Posted by Deanna in Toronto on March 29, 2013 at 9:57 AM (CDT)


Hi I found what I think is a typo.

The line “although it’s worth nothing that features like iTunes”
says “nothing” but I think it should say “noting.”

Hope this helps,

Posted by Vlad in Toronto on May 30, 2013 at 10:09 AM (CDT)


@ Izzy (#10)

Hey, I had a similar issue, what I did was set up a new iCloud account from a different computer. Then on my iPad, I changed my iCloud/iMessages/FaceTime to the new account, but not that I did Not change my iTunes store information.

Keeping the iTunes store account the same is key if you want to keep your purchases, but you can change you iCloud account independently of you iTunes account by going to   Setting>iCloud>DeleteAccount.

Another thing to note though… I think you will be given the choice to keep your saved documents on your iPod, but I would strongly recommend that that you do the following two things before deletion your account:

1) *If* possible, backup your most important files (contact/documents/ whatever else you need)

2) Most important though, (even if you backed up everything), go to Pages/Keynote/Numbers if you have them, and manually turn off iCloud in each one. This can be done through   Settings>Pages>Use iCloud   and choose “keep documents on device” (it will ask when you open the app).

Posted by Vlad in Toronto on May 30, 2013 at 10:32 AM (CDT)


Oh, I forgot to mention that after deleting it from your iPod, your iCloud account still exist on Apple’s server. If you care about Apple, and don’t want them to waste money keeping unused information laying around, or if you need to access some of your old files later, you can go to  any time, and access/modify many of your files from there. Just login with the account you want to access.

Though this site may not work too well for apps other then the ones Apple made like Pages and stuff, but it’s worth a try if you need it or if ya just want to be nice to Apple :).
Peace out,

Posted by Vlad in Toronto on May 30, 2013 at 11:21 AM (CDT)


Nice article!  I feel like a iTunes super user now :)

Posted by McMacDaddy69 in Toronto on May 30, 2013 at 12:22 PM (CDT)


Sorry for some selling mistakes, I noticed only after posting.

Posted by Vlad in Toronto on May 30, 2013 at 12:40 PM (CDT)


Hi I was using apple I 5 at Dubai. Now I came for vacation to india for a month here I’m unable to use App Store it’s say change in network like. In india I’m using Indian SIM card. Now how to download apps please help me.

Posted by Sridhar in Toronto on July 11, 2013 at 9:01 AM (CDT)

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