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Phones

Why iPhone 3G doesn't have mobile iTunes downloads

There was no mention from Jobs of a feature that would arguably be more widely used than iPhone apps: over-the-air downloads from the iTunes store

Apple is soon to launch the iTunes app store, which will allow iPhone users to download applications seamlessly to their handset. As a bonus, you'll be able to download from the store wirelessly over the mobile network, providing application file sizes are below 10MB.

Yet there was no mention of a feature that would arguably be more widely used: over-the-air downloads from the iTunes store (most songs are below 10MB each). There are a number of issues as to why, and I've got some answers for the confused among you.

Can't I already download from iTunes wirelessly?
Yes, it's already possible to download iTunes songs directly to iPhones over-the-air, but only over Wi-Fi. and most songs are under 10MB in file size.

The daft thing is that mobile music downloads are becoming a massive deal for networks and even handset manufacturers. Something's stopping this from happening with the iPhone.

Are the mobile networks standing in the way?
It's possible. We think the problem would be the epic quantity of data mobile iTunes sales would pull over their networks -- the infrastructure just might not support it at present.

Or is Apple standing in the way?
It's reported that Apple gives 70 per cent of iTunes music revenue back to the record labels. Deduct more per sale to support back-end infrastructure, and Apple is making little per sale -- something it only supports in the interest of selling iPods.

Apple can't justify sharing revenue with networks, particularly as hardware sales are Apple's number one concern and people using wireless iTunes downloads have already bought iPhones.

But what about podcasts and videos? They're free, right?
To you and me, yes. But again, this is more likely to be a data issue. The tremendous success of the iPhone combined with unlimited data tariffs means Apple's 6 million iPhone users are free to each download gigabytes of podcasts every day -- with no money changing hands, this isn't lucrative for any network supporting wireless iPods.

Will we ever see over-the-air downloads?
Eventually, but not until Apple gives networks some of its takings for iTunes downloads, and that won't happen until Apple earns more from each music sale. And until Jobs gives major labels access to variable pricing, that's not going to happen soon.

For now, you'll have to stick to more conventional methods. Or use an N95.