Apple's iTunes music service finally arrived on South African shores, nine years after it debuted in the United States.
For years iTunes users in South Africa have bemoaned the fact that, although South Africans could peek into the window of the United States and European stores, our money was not good enough for Apple when it came to music, movies and TV series. Not any more.
Songs start at R6.99, with the more popular music going for R8.99 and prices for albums ranging from R89 to R139, making it cheaper and more convenient than driving down to your local mall to buy a CD.
With a wide range of both local and international music, you are more likely than not to find what you are looking for in the store and, typically, the selection will get better with time.
There is also the option of buying access to the iTunes Match service for R199 a year. It takes your music library and keeps a list of it in the cloud. You can then download and listen to any song you own on your Apple devices anywhere you have an internet connection. If you are into obscure music that is not available in the iTunes store, the system will upload a copy to the service.
Being able to access music through iTunes is good news, even though it is not the only game in town — the Nokia Music Store has been available for some time and offers a selection that is at least the equal of iTunes and cheaper in most cases.
What iTunes offers is integration between the iTunes music player and the store, which means owners of Apple devices can buy music straight from their device and, with the proliferation of iPhones and iPads, many people already have their credit card details with the store for buying apps. That makes the purchasing decision a lot easier, even if it works out more expensive in the end.
But music is just one part of the iTunes equation. Right now South Africans can buy music and applications from iTunes, but not games, movies or TV series, all of which are available in the US store.
Tech-savvy consumers get around this by using accounts linked to the US store and buying vouchers online to pay, but rumours are circulating that, in the near future, both games and movies will be available through the South African store.
The size of movie downloads — typically more than 1GB in size — will restrict the audience for this service to those with fast internet connections and large data caps (TV series are another kettle of fish altogether), but a more complete service will move the iTunes service into the centre of public attention in terms of the acquisition of digital entertainment.