Apple iTunes 6 review
It’s been less than two months since the release of iTunes 5, which brought a number of incremental improvements, as well as support for the iPod nano. For iTunes 6, the big news is the ability to download and view video content, primarily designed for the new video-capable iPod.
Before we get too excited, though, we should remind ourselves that it’s initially very limited. Through a licensing deal with Disney (owners of US network channel ABC), Apple has secured the rights to two of the highest-rating US TV series: Lost and Desperate Housewives, as well as some lesser-known Disney Channel series. Once an episode is screened, it will be offered for download the following day. Currently, that service is only available in the US, with the UK to follow ‘shortly’. In the meantime, there’s a selection of music videos, as well as a few Pixar animations, a company with which Apple CEO Steve Jobs has long been associated.
Designed for the new iPod screens, video is encoded at 320 x 240. That’s fine for the intended purpose, but some content showed noticeable compression artefacts and poor contrast when played on a larger screen. Given that, the £1.89 price tag begins to feel steep, particularly as US customers will only pay $1.99 – around £1.14. We’d much rather see increased quality for the sake of slower download times.
Despite these complaints, this release ushers in a brave new era for both Apple and more traditional content providers, including TV broadcasters and film distributors. After all the drama surrounding the illegal distribution of copyrighted video via file-sharing services, this could be the big shake-up that’s been long talked about. The iTunes store had a huge effect on the digital music market, and digital video may yet go the same way – once more companies sign up, that is.
Elsewhere, iTunes continues to add user-friendly touches. There are now user reviews accessible from directly within the main interface, reinforcing the community feel, as well as the ability to ‘gift’ music to others, although, of course, they’ll need to be running iTunes to listen to it.
The new additions, particularly video purchasing, add to iTunes’ already impressive abilities – if you haven’t yet taken a look, now would be a good time.