Hands On: iTunes WiFi Music Store

Video By Richard Blakeley. One new feature that came with the announcement of the iPod Touch is the iTunes WiFi Music Store. Aside from the limited interaction we had with it at the Apple event on September 5, we got our first real crack at it today. All in all, its pretty great, but there are a few things that make us shake our head.The Good: Overall, this thing is great. The interface is responsive, songs download as fast as the normal iTunes store and The WiFi store is designed in a clean and logical manner. It is easy to move through the interface and find what youre looking for. The store is organised into for basic categories - Featured, Top Tens, Search, and Downloads.

Featured has New Releases, What's Hot, and Genres as sub category. The screens in each sub category are simple to figure out. Two artists prominently featured at the top (custom graphics), with 10 other artists/albums below. For albums that have them, the average score for user reviews are also displayed. Very Nice.

Top Tens stays pretty true to form and displays the top ten songs and albums in various categories and genres. One nice feature here is that if you're unimpressed by a particular top ten category, you can click a link that keeps adding ten albums at a time to the list.

Search is a stand out highlight of the WiFi store. When you enter the search menu, the keyboard comes up and allows you to enter a search string. As you type, it narrows down your search in real time. At any point during typing you can scroll through the list of artists or albums or songs and find what you're looking for. I actually like this better than searching in the normal iTunes store.

Downloads is self explanatory. When you elect to purchase an album, the songs appear here and keeps you updated on its status. When the song finishes downloading, it is automatically transferred to your purchased folder. There is also a link on the download screen that will take you directly to your purchased songs playlist. Very nice.

Previewing songs is easy. Tapping on a song will automatically start the preview and if you came upon it in a search, double tapping will bring up the album. This all is very responsive and fast, with little to no delay between your action and the store's response.

The bad: No iTunes Plus. Seriously, this is a major oversight. There is not a plus or $1.29 to be seen around the WiFi store. If you're opposed to DRM, this makes the Wifi store pretty much worthless aside from previewing tracks. We don't know what else to say about this, except that it is baffling (firmware update, plz!?). [Update: In theory, you should be able to go back once you sync with your computer and upgrade your downloads to DRM-free files for the extra 30 cents. Still, it's inconvenient.]

The WiFi store lacks some of the cooler features of its full fledged bretheren. Free download of the week is absent, no celebrity/featured playlists, and no spotlights that break down an era/artist/genre in depth. It's certainly not a necessity, but going through these features is a good time killer, and would be nice if you needed to kill time away from your computer.

Lastly, when you hit the buy button to purchase a track, the confirmation box pops up in the same place. Though it wont happen often, its not out of the realm of possibility to double tap by accident and download a song you don't want.

It would also be nice if the store allowed you to download your WiFi purchases on your computer without syncing your iPod to it. Because there are those situations where...say...you're trying to install App Tapp for the iPhone on your iPod and it puts it in recovery mode and forces you to reformat the iPod before you can sync. We're just saying...

We could lament the lack of video downloads, but its understandable since the file sizes are not optimised for the iPod touch and would probably take up more space and time than people are willing to give. It was a fair decision, in our opinion.

Like we said in the beginning, the WiFi store is pretty slick. If you don't mind the standard .m4p format the iTunes store spits out, We highly recommend the iTunes WiFi Music Store.

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