Apple does a lot of things right.
They build good computers. They design good software that is easy and intuitive to use. They (mostly) stand by their products and offer very good support, especially if you are willing to pay for their AppleCare extended warranties. AppleCare is expensive, but you get something for your money. Macs are expensive but you get a lot of computer for the money. Apple comes up with innovative products like the iPod and the iPhone. They pride themselves on having their fingers on the pulse of their customers.
However, Apple is truly clueless when it comes to the video rentals in their Apple Store. In that case they are trying to take the pulse of their customer by sticking their fingers in the customer’s eyes. They have the best portable video player available today in the iPhone and iPod Touch, but their rental system is designed to be as inconvenient to a traveler as possible.
I haven’t had many occasions to rent a movie from Apple. Usually I rent them from Netflix, but dragging along a bunch of DVDs and watching them on my laptop isn’t nearly as easy and convenient as loading a couple of movies on my iPhone and watching them. For starters, I’d be lucky to get through two full movies with a charge on my laptop before it died. Second, there is not a lot of room in those airplane seats and only a small DVD player is easy to move when you have to get up and let the fat, smelly man in the seat next to you out to use the bathroom he obviously needed to visit 10 minutes ago. No, if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch you can load 6 or more movies on them and watch them in an easy to access and put away manner.
Watching movies on the iPhone is great… but renting them sucks because for some reason Apple insists on building in a 24 hour self destruct on their rentals. Once you rent them, you have an unlimited amount of time to start watching the movie, but once you start watching it the movie erases itself from your iPhone (or from your Apple TV or in iTunes) after 24 hours. Not once you are done watching it, once you START watching it. So you have 24 hours to finish watching your movie… or else you don’t get to finish it. Ever.
Now, you might say “Big deal! A movie is only two hours or so. You should be able to finish it in 24 hours!” Not if you are traveling, especially in an airplane. You only have a certain amount of time you are allowed to use “approved electronic devices” on an airplane. After all, as we all know, if you happen to have a small, handheld electronic device like an iPod still powered on when the plane is under 20,000 feet it’s enormous magnetic field will “interfere with the plane’s navigation system” quickly turning the aircraft into a flaming pinwheel of death. How often do you think a traveler would start a movie on an airplane and actually finish it before landing? If it’s along flight, could you finish two movies? Not likely. It’s much more likely that said traveler would end up “turning off and stowing” that iPhone somewhere during whatever film they were watching, thereby saving the lives of all the other passengers by deactivating the insidious, plane navigation destroying magnetic field of destruction that threatens the aircraft.
Yet, Apple only allows you another 22 hours to watch the end of that movie. Here’s the rub… in all likelyhood you are going to your destination to do something other than sit in your hotel room and finish watching a rented movie. It’s also likely that eventually you will be taking a flight BACK to where you just came from, and would like to resume your movie at that time, or perhaps even rewind a bit to get back into the story.
No, says Apple! Your $2.99 is only good for 24 hours after you START the film. If you don’t get around to watching the entire thing it that time, it will disappear along with your money from your device. Poof… gone. This happened to me not once but TWICE recently.
That is just plain stupid. Of course Apple needs to restrict the time frame in which you are allowed to have the movie on your device… as a rental you must “return” it at some point. However when you rent a disk from Netflix or BlockBuster, you are allowed to watch it as often as you want during the time period allowed, stopping and starting as often as you wish over a period of at least a week. Apple lets you watch your movie over and over if you want during that 24 hour period, but once it’s over it’s gone.
Wouldn’t it be better for the customer to guarantee they will be able to watch the ENTIRE movie at least once? Why not set the 24 hour self destruct to start once the movie is over… or a week from the time the movie starts? It’s very aggravating to pay $2.99 for a movie rental and never get to see the end because you were too busy doing whatever it is you were travelling for to stop and watch the rest of your film and it was digital dust by the time your return flight departs.
The self destruct 24 hour limit on their movies is extremely counter productive. They should design their rental system to be as travel convenient as possible, and this is anything but. Right now portability is the biggest thing the Apple Store’s video offers, but they don’t do it in the kind of user-friendly fashion one would expect from Apple.
Can you tell I just spent about 24 hours on airplanes in the last week? Next time I’ll rant about the stupidity of travelers who wear surgical masks that offer absolutely no protection from Swine Flu.
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