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How iTunes Works


iTunes Store
If you own an iPod Touch or iPhone, you may want to check out the app store on iTunes.
If you own an iPod Touch or iPhone, you may want to check out the app store on iTunes.
Screenshot by HowStuffWorks.com

At the iTunes Store, you can find millions of songs, thousands of audiobooks, thousands of music videos, tens of thousands of podcasts, feature films, TV shows, iPad, iPod and iPhone applications, and CD album art. All you do to get to the store is click a button in the main iTunes screen. You're not going through a Web browser -- the jukebox software is the user interface for the store.

Apple has deals with record labels for iTunes-exclusive music tracks from select artists. In addition to pure content, there are community-type functions like user-published reviews, ratings and playlists, and then there is the pop-culture headshaker that is the "celebrity playlist." These are lists of songs (with a little "buy song" button next to each track) reportedly assembled by stars like Quentin Tarantino, RuPaul and Lady GaGa. In case you're curious, Lady GaGa included songs like "Thriller" by Michael Jackson, "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley and "Radio Ga Ga" by Queen. She also included three of her own tunes on her list. There's also a podcast dedicated to celebrity playlists if you want to keep up with what the rich and famous listen to.

Here's a breakdown of the store content areas and what you can do there:

Music

  • Wide price range for albums
  • Browse by genre

 Music videos

  • $1.49 or $1.99 each
  • Browse by music genre (first level) and artist (second level)

Audiobooks

  • Wide price range
  • Browse by category (first level) and author (second level)

TV shows

  • $0.99 to rent an episode for up to 30 days -- you have 24 hours to finish an episode once you start it. 
  • $1.99 to buy most episodes, $2.99 for HD episodes and selected content, or a group rate for an entire season
  • Browse by title (first level) and season (second level)

Feature-length films

  • $4.99 to $19.99 each, some are available in HD
  • $0.99 to $3.99 to rent a film for up to 30 days -- once you start viewing it, you have 24 hours to finish it
  • Browse by category

Podcasts

  • Most are free, variable prices on others
  • Browse by category
  • Download per episode or subscribe to series
  • Submit your own podcast to appear in the iTunes podcast library

iPhone and iPod Applications

  • Many are free, variable prices on others
  • Browse by name, genre, price and best-selling

Movie Trailers

  • Free (streaming format, not to download)
  • Browse by movie studio or movie genre

­In addition to browsing each content area, you can also perfo­rm a search. There's a search box on the main store page where you just enter a keyword, and iTunes returns matching results from all areas of the store. You can also perform a "power search" by song, artist, album, genre or composer. If you enter "Adam Sandler" in the "artist" field and choose "comedy" as the genre, you'll get a list of all of Adam Sandler's songs and albums available on iTunes. If your mother has set up parental controls to limit your access to explicit content, you'll see a lot fewer results than we did.

Apple also includes a link to free content available for iTunes. This can include samples from all the categories we've listed. Sometimes the free content is available for only a limited time so it's a good idea to check this section regularly if you're interested.

­To buy content, you need to set up an iTunes payment account. To set up an iTunes account, you provide a credit card number or PayPal account that you'll use for all of your purchases. You can also pay using an iTunes Allowance (sort of like a debit account, typically set up by parents for their kids) or by Music Card or gift certificate.

To make a purchase in the iTunes store, all you have to do is click the "Buy" button next to the song, video or app. Apple will charge your account and the download will begin. If you have to shut down your computer in the middle of your download, the process will continue once you reboot your computer and log into iTunes. It's important to create a backup of your iTunes library. Songs, videos and iPod games (not apps) can only be downloaded once per purchase. Apps are different -- once you purchase an app, you can download it again for free. You just have to use the same iTunes account as the one used to purchase the app the first time.