The mobile version of the iTunes store will soon offer video download and rental options, in addition to the music and podcast options already available. Currently, users are required to purchase and download iTunes video content using a home computer, where it can be transferred to the iPhone or Touch over USB. After the launch of iPhone OS 3.0 on June 17, this content will be available for download directly to the device.
There's no word yet on whether Apple will price mobile video content higher than computer-based downloads, or if selection will differ. Currently, movies purchased through iTunes run between $10-$15, with rentals priced at $2-$5. We expect that mobile video content will be optimized for playback on the iPhone, allowing for faster downloads by shedding unnecessary video resolution.
Also included in the announcement is the capability to directly download audiobook, iTunes U, and music video content. Password-locked parental controls are available to restrict available iTunes content to G-rated or non-explicit material.
It will be interesting to see if iPhone users shun the feature in an effort to preserve precious space and battery life, opting instead to stream content. iPod Touch users, on the other hand, will probably have a field day with their newfound ability to rent movies and download TV episodes on-the-go.
Competitively, the ability to download and rent video content is just one more feature that mobile phone and portable media player manufacturers will need to play catch-up on. As the iPod's strongest competitor, Microsoft has yet to roll out direct video download and rental options for its Zune player, although, the company did tease its revamped Zune Video Marketplace at last week's E3 conference. With the Zune HD due out in September, there's a good chance Microsoft will strike back with a mobile video service similar to Apple's.
iPhone OS 3.0 will be available June 17 as a free update to iPhone users and a $9.95 upgrade for the iPod Touch.