Although I usually find Apple’s hardware and services to be quite satisfying, I must say that I have been quite frustrated by the restrictions around the iTunes Movie Rental Service. It’s bad enough that you only have 24 hours to watch a movie once you start it. However, it’s even worse that you can’t start it unless you’re connected to the internet at the time. I’ve been burned just about every time I’ve tried iTunes rentals on my MacBook Pro. I either want to start watching a flick when I’m not able to get online to start it or I end up running into the 24 hour limit because I’m not able to finish it within the 24 hour limit.
So I’ve finally figured out that the best way to enjoy an iTunes Movie Rental is on an Apple device other than your computer
That’s right! Forget about your Apple computer for a minute. If you have a compatible iPod or an iPhone or an Apple TV, you’ll have a slight advantage. Here’s why: When you rent a movie on your computer and "move" it to your iPhone or iPod you only need to be connected to the internet at the start of the transfer. Once it’s on your iPhone or iPod you still have 30 days to start watching it. However, you don’t have to be connected to the internet anymore to START watching it. This is perfect for me! Sometimes I don’t know the exact moment when I’ll have the time and feel like watching a movie until that moment arrives. Unfortunately, that moment may arrive at 30,000 feet during a flight. If the movie is on my MacBook Pro and I didn’t start it before I left the ground (because once you start it, you HAVE TO watch it within 24 hours or it deletes itself), I’m hosed. However, if it is on my iPhone (or iPod) I can start it at any time. No internet connection required. So now I can rent and download a couple of movies ahead of time (days or even weeks), load them on my iPhone and then start them whenever the mood strikes me.
With Apple TV the rules are a little different. You can use the same method above of renting/downloading on your computer and moving the movie to your iPod, iPhone OR Apple TV. However, if you rent/download the movie directly from your Apple TV then you have no choice but to watch it on the Apple TV because you can’t move it anywhere else. Also if you want to enjoy the HD version of the movie, you HAVE TO rent it from your Apple TV. Apple doesn’t allow HD movie rental downloads from a computer. These limits are OK because I just don’t download a rental on my Apple TV until I’m ready to sit down and watch it right then and there. Even HD rentals are ready to watch (streamed enough) within about 5 minutes after hitting the Rent button.
Apple this is cool, but Netflix is still king! When you loosen up your restrictions and offer a subscription model (I know it doesn’t make sense for music, but it absolutely makes sense for movie rentals), I’ll think about letting Netflix go, but not before then.
Apple, here’s a suggestion to make the computer rental watching experience better
Instead of simply deleting the movie from my drive once the rental period has expired, why not offer a "do you want to extend your rental period?" option that let’s me pay again for another 24 hours? The way it stands now if I did want to finish watching something I rented once the 24 hours is up, I not only have to pay again, but I also have to download the whole freakin’ thing again! That bites, especially when you’re traveling and have limited or slow internet access. Steve, think about it!