Q: I read last month that Apple were going to release higher quality songs from EMI amongst others in the near future. Do you have any news as to when they will be available for purchase in the iTunes Store and whether this will be in the US only or a global launch?
A: Actually, Apple released the newer higher-quality tracks on the iTunes Store as of yesterday (May 30th). An upgrade to iTunes 7.2 is required to access this new content, now referred to as “iTunes Plus.” This appears to have been rolled out on all of the various International iTunes Stores.
The iTunes Plus content is encoded at 256kbps AAC, and does not include any digital rights management (DRM) copy-protection. Your personal information is embedded within the tracks, however, to identify you as the original purchaser of the content.
When you first access any iTunes Plus content, you will be prompted by iTunes to set your preferences as to whether you want to view “Plus” content instead of the older 128kbps DRM content, where available.
You can also later adjust this setting from within your iTunes Store account preferences by selecting the “Manage iTunes Plus” button now found at the top of your account profile:
With the new iTunes Plus feature, you now also have the ability to upgrade your existing content with new “iTunes Plus” versions:
Unfortunately, this is presently an all-or-nothing deal—there is no way to only upgrade specific or selected content, other than purchasing second copies at the normal price.
If you do choose to do a mass-upgrade of your content, iTunes will nicely replace your existing content with the newly-upgraded “Plus” content, transferring ratings, play counts, and other metadata in the process. iTunes will offer to either discard the original DRM-laden 128kbps version of the track or save it elsewhere in case you want to keep the original copy.
As of this writing, it would appear that Apple is still actually working on getting much of their content upgraded and online in the new “Plus” versions, and the Upgrade feature may therefore not work completely until such time as these issues have been resolved. Several users with larger purchased iTunes libraries have reported problems with the upgrade feature indicating that some content was not yet available for purchase.
You can find more information on this in our front-page article, First iTunes Plus tracks, albums appear in iTunes Store.