Perhaps this changes everything about the way we purchase legal music in India! Almost six months after extending its iTunes Store to 12 Asian markets, Apple has finally launched the service in the Indian market. Users in India will now be able to buy and download local and international music and music videos, and rent or purchase films (HD films included) from the store. Interestingly, Apple has also extended its iTunes Match service in India, allowing users to re-download previously downloaded music (even music purchased & downloaded from sources other than iTunes) from iTunes, and store it in the cloud at a price of Rs 1200 per year (compared to the US Store price of $25 per year).
Note that the iTunes Store is different from the Apps Store, which is also available in India. Previously, the Indian iTunes Store only featured some free books and podcasts. Note that Applle has still not rolled out paid e-books to the Indian market.
Update: One of our readers, Ronak Hindocha, asked if iTunes Gift Cards are also available in India. We checked and discovered that users can buy virtual gift cards (e-mail only) for denominations of Rs 1,000, Rs 1,500, Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000. The same gift cards can also be printed and gifted in physical form.
Update: Apple has issued a press release confirming the launch of the iTunes Store in Russia, Turkey, India, South Africa and 52 additional countries.
Content & Pricing
Although, Apple has not announced the names of record labels and studios it has tied-up with, the store features both Indian (including Bollywood and Tamil films) and International music from all major labels including Sony Music India, Saregama, T-Series, YRF Music (Yashraj), Universal Music India, Inreco, EMI Records, among others. At the time of writing this post, individual songs are available for Rs 9- Rs 15, album prices differ depending on the number of songs, for example Jab Tak Hai Jaan is priced at Rs 108, while Talaash is priced at Rs 72, and music videos are priced between Rs 15 to Rs 30; Ringtones are available for Rs 15. HD Movies are priced between Rs 290 to Rs 490 per download or Rs 120 for Rental, while SD Movies are priced at Rs 190 for download and Rs 80 for Rental. Note that rentals allow users to watch movies 30 days from the time of rental, and 48 hours after they start viewing to finish it. Once the rental period expires, the movie disappears from the user’s iTunes library.
While we were able to find many big Bollywood titles, the catalogue is still small. Also, there are only a handful of Hollywood titles available, at the time of writing this post (even titles like Inception or The Dark Knight are missing). Unlike the US version, TV shows are also not available.
What This Means; iTunes Vs Others
iTunes vs Flyte: The launch is certainly a welcome move, specially when Apple has revised prices keeping in mind the Indian customer. Unlike its US store where a popular song costs $1.99, the Indian store offers the same song at Rs 15 ($0.27). Apple has priced content competitively, keeping in mind the pricing offered by Flipkart’s Flyte music store, which also offers music downloads.
However, note that Flyte allows users to re-download a purchased song a maximum of 3 times after the initial download, while iTunes does not impose such a limit. Update: Flipkart informs that there’s no limit on re-downloading a song from the Flyte store (Their FAQs section hasn’t been updated). Also, Flipkart’s Flyte is a web based service and music can be downloaded on any device (you’ll only be able to store music if you have access to the device filesystem, though), while iTunes allows users to download content on their iOS devices and PCs/Macs via the dedicated app. Flipkart does have an iOS app for Flyte but users can not buy music through it; only the Android and Windows 8 app supports music purchase.
Pricing wise, some albums on iTunes are cheaper than Flyte, while others are cheaper on Flyte. For example, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto is available for Rs 80 on iTunes, while the same album costs Rs 105 on Flyte. But an individual song, take for example, ‘Paradise’ costs Rs 15 on iTunes and Rs 9 on Flyte. Similarly, ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ OST costs Rs 108 on iTunes and Rs 135 on Flyte. The ‘Talaash’ OST, on the other hand costs Rs 72 on iTunes and Rs 48 on Flyte. Maybe it also depends on the deal with a particular record label.
Other Services: Note that Nokia also offers DRM-free music through it’s Nokia Music service in India, and features a good amount of international music, as well. However, Nokia’s service is subscription based and does not allow users to buy individual items. It only offers an ‘all you can eat’ subscription to buyers of new Nokia phones, who can renew their service after it expires. Hungama also offers music downloads, and has different subscription plans (unlimited plans offer DRM-locked music).
Movies & Rental (vs DTH): With the launch of iTunes Store in India, and the service including Movie Rentals and iTunes Match, it makes even more sense to invest in the Apple ecosystem. Although, majority of the internet population in India faces issues such as low internet speeds and bandwidth caps, it’s interesting to note that Apple is offering HD movie downloads at competitive pricing. However, the titles are limited at this time, and the newest titles have already seen a TV release. DTH (Satellite Tv/Direct to Home) operators also offer full day movie rentals, and companies like Tata Sky are already offering Internet VoD (video on demand) enabled PVRs. We’d like to see more international titles coming to the indian iTunes store. We hope that Apple also launches the Apple TV, which allows users to stream movies and other content to their televisions from iTunes and from a local computer and other Apple devices(on the same network).