Apple Launches DRM-Free iTunes Plus

Apple today launched iTunes Plus, a new addition to its existing iTunes service which offers AAC music tracks from major label EMI at 256 Kbps encoding (twice the rate of standard iTunes purchases) at $1.29 per track—and without Apple’s FairPlay digital rights management (DRM) technology. That means users can play iTunes Plus tracks on any music player (or using any application) which supports AAC encoding, rather than the tracks being restricted to playback using iTunes or Apple iPods.

“This is a tremendous milestone for digital music,” said Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group. “Consumers are going to love listening to higher quality iTunes Plus tracks from their favorite EMI artists with no usage restrictions.”

iTunes Plus is available via a new version 7.2 of Apple’s iTunes application for Mac OS X and Windows, available as a free download from Apple. Right now, iTunes Plus features only tracks from EMI (including popular artists like Coldplay, Joss Stone, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and many more), although plainly Apple expects other music distributes to get on board with offering DRM-free downloads via iTunes:

“Our customers are very excited about the freedom and amazing sound quality of iTunes Plus,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We expect more than half of the songs on iTunes will be offered in iTunes Plus versions by the end of this year.”

The complete iTunes catalog—including the EMI tracks available via iTunes Plus—is also still available at $.99 per track at 128 Kbps encoding with FairPlay DRM, so users can continue to pay the same old price (and live with the same old restrictions) if they like.

iTunes will offer to let customers upgrade tracks they’ve already purchased to non-DRM 256 Kbpx AAC versions by paying just the $.30 price difference between the two versions, rather than re-purchasing the track at full price.

EMI is the first record label to offer its catalog in a DRM-free format (making the announcement with Steve Jobs in London in early April), and is hoping that removing cumbersome digital rights management technologies will increase digital music sales and boost EMI’s bottom line: something the company is very concerned about, especially since it’s now set to be acquired by Maltby Limited, an acquisition firm set up by private equity firm Terra Firma in a deal worth about $4.7 billion. The remaining record labels are no doubt watching EMI’s experiment carefully, but industry consensus seems to be that at least some of them will follow EMI into offering DRM-free digital music—particularly if it enables them to charge a premium for their tracks.

In an unrelated announcement, Apple has also launched an iTunes U area within the iTunes store offering free educational content such as course lectures, language lessons, sports highlights, and campus tours from leading U.S. colleges and universities.

Mobile

Apple’s new iPads are hardly new at all. Don’t waste your money

It has taken Apple four years to get around to updating the iPad Mini line, but the new iPad Mini is virtually identical to its predecessor. It’s joined by a confusing iPad Air with no obvious target audience. Is Apple just trying to sell…
Movies & TV

Netflix confirms it won’t be a part of Apple’s new video-streaming service

Netflix has confirmed that subscribers to Apple's new video streaming service won't have the option to view Netflix content on it. Apple is set to unveil its new TV service next week.
Deals

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for March 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Computing

M4A is great for quality, but not for storage. Here's how to convert to MP3

Despite its remarkable ability to retain audio fidelity at a smaller size, M4A files aren't the best when it comes to compatibility. Check out our basic guide on how to convert M4A files to MP3.
Computing

Apple’s rumored magazine subscription service could also launch on Macs

Apple is widely expected to debut its new Apple News magazine subscription service at a media event scheduled for March 25. Now, through code leaks, it's also believed that users will be able to read magazines on their Macs.
Mobile

These voice-changing apps will have you punking friends and family like a pro

Have you ever wanted to call your friends as Darth Vader or Alvin from the Chipmunks? If you want to play a prank on your friends, we have the best voice-changer apps for iOS and Android, whether you want to record audio or make a call.
Gaming

Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs brings 3D demolition into your living room

Angry Birds is releasing its next entry in the spring of 2019 - with a new spin. Bringing 3D environments and destruction, Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs uses augmented reality to add a new dimension to a classic series.
Mobile

iPad Air vs. iPad Mini: Which new tablet from Apple is best for you?

Apple has unveiled two new iPad models, including a new iPad Air and a new iPad Mini. Both devices have a lot to offer. But which iPad is right for your needs? We put the iPad Air and iPad Mini to the test to find out.
Deals

The best Apple AirPods alternatives for Android, Windows, and iOS devices

Apple AirPods, nice as they are, aren't the only game in town. Other makers are offering their own truly wireless earbuds, and if you're looking to buy a pair of high-end in-ear headphones, we've got the best AirPod alternatives on the…
Mobile

Even older Apple Watches could be effective at spotting heart conditions

The Apple Watch Series 4 is known for detecting heart conditions like atrial fibrillation thanks to having an electrocardiograph feature. It turns out that older Apple Watches could be effective at tracking AFib, too.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for March 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for March 2018.
Deals

Amazon drops price on Apple Watch Series 4 with a rare deal

Since Apple first unveiled the Series 4, the price for one has pretty much held fast. This has finally started to change with a nice little $15 discount on Amazon. If you've been wanting the newest Apple Watch, now is a great time.
Mobile

Here are 15 of our favorite iPad Mini cases, covers to protect your tiny tablet

We take a look at the best iPad Mini cases and covers on the market. We have cases in a range of styles and prices, with all sorts of distinguishing features. If you have an Apple iPad Mini 4 or iPad Mini 5 then get a case now.
Home Theater

What year is this? Apple might drop a new iPod tomorrow

After two days of surprise hardware releases that have brought us new iPads and iMacs, rumor has it that we may see an update of Apple's iPod as soon as tomorrow, sparking a mixture of nostalgia and curiosity.