updated 01:04 am EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
Add-on service to capitalize on iPhone, Mac popularity
On Thursday, Apple opened its iTunes Match cloud storage and syncing add-on service to Japan, two-and-a-half years after its original US debut, and in time to take full advantage of the iPhone's staggering popularity in the country. During a conference call with analysts, CEO Tim Cook said that the iPhone now accounts for more than 57 percent marketshare, and that Mac sales have also improved -- seeing "double digit" increases. The subscription-based service is ideal for users who want to carry around large libraries of music with the confines of the space-limited iPhone.
The iTunes Match service costs approximately $39 (US) per year compared to the North American price of $25, but otherwise performs as it does elsewhere -- allowing users to instantly sync more than 25,000 songs (music purchased from iTunes does not count against the total) and recall those songs on any device signed in to the same iTunes account. In addition, the service will automatically "store" higher-quality copies of the music found on a user's library if it was encoded at less than 256-bit AAC, and gives users the option of replacing illegally-downloaded versions of songs with legal iTunes copies.
Unknown to most users is the fact that iTunes Match uses the money collected to compensate artists and copyright holders each time a song is streamed, along the lines of a royalty as an artist might get from a streaming-only service such as Spotify. The practical effect of the service is that users with a persistent Internet connection (either cellular or Wi-Fi) can carry tens of thousands of songs in their pocket -- more music than all but the 128GB device could store locally.
As AppleInsider notes, Japan is one of the few countries where users can buy music from iTunes without having to sign up for an account, owing to local regulations in the country. Sales of Apple products generally there grew to $4 billion in the most recent quarter, an increase of 26 percent. Japan is now the 116th country to gain iTunes Match, following Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden (which were added in December).