Monday, January 21, 2008

iTunes Rental Hack? (Watch beyond expiry...)

Another major product that Apple released at Macworld was the expected iTunes Movie Rentals. Very simple service that probably many would love.

  • Rent movies from $2.99
  • Nothing to install or learn; same as buying a movie
    Although, you do need the latest iTunes which should automatically update
  • Expires 24 hours after start, 30 days to start watching
  • You can start watching with a 30 seconds lead download
  • Take it with you on your iPods
  • Downloaded movie is removed after expiry

As many are pointing out, 24 hours it too short to complete a movie. Especially if you are interrupted for any reason right after you started playing a rented movie, you probably won't be able to finish it. It would be nice to have at least 48 hours, maybe 72; Apple, please?

But I found out that this may not be all true. It seems like you can play a rented movie up to 30 days even after you started playing it. Is this just a tip that I am pointing out? Or is it a hack? Maybe a bug? I am not sure, but let me explain what happened.

My wife and I were sick and we didn't want to go out so we thought it would be a good excuse to test out the iTunes Movie Rentals instead of going to Blockbuster or wait for Netflix to send us another DVD. So we went on the iTunes Store and decided to rent a comedy called "A Guy Thing". (You didn't like this movie? Well, we are not discussing that here!)

After a few minutes of lead downloading (we were preparing our drinks and popcorns), the movie was probably already 20% downloaded. We started playing it and it was perfectly smooth, good resolution, enough enjoyable on our new 20-inch iMac. (Oh, when did I secretly switch to a Mac? I'm not discussing that here either!) Of course, when we first started downloading the movie, it had a comment stating "Expires in 30 days". After watching the movie, it said "Expires in 22 hours" in red. And most people would probably forget about the movie they rented and iTunes would probably remove the downloaded file to keep your hard disk clean. You, Apple and Hollywood studios are all happy now.

But, I spent $2.99! And it was my first time to buy (not really BUYing, but renting) a movie from iTunes; I got to put this on my iPhone and carry it around at least for 22 hours and be cool! I noticed that when you put your rented movie on your portable player, it removes it from your computer. I guess Apple/Hollywood does not want you to be playing the movies at more than one location at the same time. How different they treat movies compared to musics! Anyways, when I MOVED the movie to my iPhone, it showed up in the Videos section with a comment "Exp. in 29 days". I though it would show the hours remaining as it did on my Mac. Wait a minute, does this mean what I think it means?

So, I decided not to sync my iPhone nor play this movie for 22 hours. The next day, I played the movie on my iPhone and sure enough, it started the 24 hours count down from that point. Right now, it says "Exp. in 9 Hrs" on the iPhone which will mean this movie was available for 48 hours.

Now, what happens if I sync my iPhone with iTunes? Interestingly, it is still available on my iPhone, although iTunes reports that there are no rented movie to sync!

Conclusion. If this is how Apple designed it, the 30 days countdown in which you need to start playing the movie after download is 30 days no matter what. However, the 24 hours expiry countdown that starts when you play the movie is kept separate from your computer (iTunes) and your portable player. So, if you are not able to finish your movie after start watching it and think you cannot finish it within 24 hours, sync it to your iPod as soon as possible and don't play it. Once you have enough time to finish the movie, resume on your iPod. Small screen, but you won't have to trash your money totally.

One note is that I have tried this only once since I only rented a movie once. If anyone can confirm this behavior, it's probably a fact rather then a speculation. Let's see what people has to say about this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This article should have been: To keep a rented movie on itunes for 30 days, put it in your ipod or iphone.
The End

but other than that, sweet blog!