Apple Inc. has finally opened the gates of its iTunes Store for Indian users and also expanded its reach in another 55 countries, featuring a selection of local and international music from all major labels and also offering thousands of independent labels. In addition, the company has also made available (in India, Russia, Turkey and Indonesia) a collection of movies for rent or purchase in both standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) quality. Here's a look at what's being offered.
The iTunes Store features over 20 million songs (available for purchase and download) by Indian singers like AR Rahman and Lata Mangeshkar; international bands & artistes like The Beatles, Coldplay and Taylor Swift and Coldplay, and classical musicians including Lang Lang, Yo Yo Ma and Yuja Wang, among others.
The songs are offered across a number of categories including alternative, Bollywood, children's music, classical, devotional & spiritual, dance/electronic, hip-hop/rap, Indian classical, Indian pop, jazz, pop, R&B/soul, regional Indian, rock, soundtrack and world. The store also features music from leading Indian artistes like Abida Parveen, Shankar Mahadevan, Lata Mangeshkar, Jagjit Singh, Kishore Kumar, AR Rahman, Sonu Nigam, Ravi Shankar, DJ Aqeel, Pritam and Kailash Kher.
Individual songs cost Rs 9-15 each while the price of an album can vary between Rs 30 and upwards of Rs 450. A few music videos are also available at Rs 15 per video. Users can also pay in advance to pre-order albums. Last we checked, the top three albums on the store were Talaash, Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Dabangg 2 while the top songs were Jee Le Zaraa (Talaash), Challa (Jab Tak Hai Jaan) and Fevicol Se (Dabangg 2).
Although Apple has not officially announced its partners, Saregama, T-Series, YRF Music, Universal Music India and EMI Records were some of the labels we found on the site. Sony Music also confirmed to Techcircle.in that it had added 5,00,000 songs from its catalogue of Bollywood, international and Tamil film songs to the iTunes Music Store.
Shridhar Subramaniam, president of Sony Music India and Middle East, said, "This launch is going to change the way we purchase music in India and will see the start of consumer-paid download services outside the operator ecosystem. The range and the market-friendly pricing are also very attractive."
Apart from purchasing music, users can also gift songs to others. In addition, Apple will give away a single track for free every week. iTunes in the cloud will enable users to download their previously purchased iTunes music to all their iOS devices at no additional cost. And new music purchase will be automatically downloaded to their devices.
The store is also offering a wide selection of films from industry majors like 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros Pictures, as well as from leading Indian distributors like Yash Raj Films. The movies are available for either rent or purchase, and have been sorted into a number of categories including action & adventure, Bollywood, comedy, drama, horror, kids and family, music, romance, sci-fi & fantasy, and thriller. Users can also browse movies by the decade when those were released.
The cost of purchasing an SD movie is Rs 290 while the rental will cost you Rs 80. In case you opt for the HD version of the same movie, you will be charged Rs 490 for purchasing it and Rs 120 for rental. Note that once you have rented a movie, you will have 30 days to view it after which it will be removed from a user's library.
But unlike the US version of the iTunes Store, the Indian counterpart does not offer TV shows as of now. We don't see an imperative for it either, since most of the popular shows are already available on YouTube for free.
For music, Apple will primarily compete with Flipkart's digital music store Flyte. The Indian e-commerce giant claims to offer over a million tracks from more than 1.5 lakh albums, across 55 languages and 700 genres and sub-genres. We compared the pricing of some of the popular albums available on both stores and the result turned out to be a mixed bag. While some of the albums were cheaper on Flyte, others were priced lower on the iTunes Store (see the table). But we have to say that Apple has kept the prices very competitive this time around.
Interestingly, while Flipkart does offer an iOS app, users cannot purchase music via that app â€“ only Android and Windows 8 apps allow that.
Sameer Nigam, VP (digital) at Flipkart, had earlier shared the reason for the same with Techcircle.in. "Apple charges app developers 30 per cent of the gross sales from customers' in-app purchases. And digital music stores like Flyte have to pay around 70 per cent royalties to the music labels. So it is impossible for music retailers to sell third-party content on iOS without incurring a loss," he had clarified.
So in a way, offering music on iTunes was a logical step for Apple (not that it would see Flyte as a competition in the first place). Nokia, too, offers music through its Nokia Music service in India, but it is a subscription-based service where users cannot buy individual tracks as per their liking. Also, the download is limited to Nokia mobile phones. Humgama.com is another player that offers music downloads.
For movies, Apple will face competition from players like Big Flix Pvt Ltd, the digital media arm of the Reliance Group, Times Internet Ltd's BoxTV, Eros Now and Spuul. But unlike Apple which is offering individual movies for rent/purchase, these follow the subscription model where users can only opt for monthly or quarterly memberships.
BigFlix offers multiple subscription options, though. Unlimited movies subscription on BigFlix is available for Rs 249 while the quarterly subscription pack costs Rs 747 and a 7-day trial pack costs Rs 99. For BoxTV, Indian subscriptions start at Rs 199 per month while Spuul's monthly membership is $4.99 for premium movies and $0.99 for special movies which are only available for 72 hours after playing the movie for the first time. Eros Now's premium membership is priced at $4.99 per month, but as an introductory offer, it is available for a discounted price of $2.99.
It will be interesting to see how these players will react to the launch of the iTunes Store in India. Will they stick to their subscription models or tweak it to offer individual movies as well? Also, what's next from Apple â€“ can it be paid e-books? Watch this space for more action and share your comments below.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)