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.
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.
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