iCrack: iTunes Wi-Fi Store Makes Music Purchase All Too Easy, Dangerously Addictive

With the release of firmware update 1.1.1 came something new to iPhone that I think may prove to be its most insidious feature yet; iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store. Now I know that many of you don't purchase music via iTunes, preferring instead to utilize certain ahem free source, but you may sing a different tune once you start rummaging through genres and newly released content on the screen of your iPhone. For me it's becoming an addiction. I have to force myself not to tap on the lovely purple store icon that beckons me to enter and pay pay pay. iPhone has now become a gateway drug to iTunes.

As you would expect, Apple has made the experience brain dead simple and beautifully designed. You can almost feel Steve Jobs standing beside you, holding your hand and guiding you along the walkways of his walled garden. Drinking from the Chalice of Kool-Aid.To start your journey to DRM'd happiness, simply tap the iTunes Store icon and you're instantly greeted with a lovely graphical, but pint sized, version of iTunes formatted for iPhone's HVGA screen. A row of buttons along the bottom take you to Featured Artists and albums, Top tens, Search, and Downloads. Search for you favorite artist and tap to select your choice of available albums. To hear a preview, tap on any available track, and a tiny album thumbnail image with visually rotate, revealing a player icon that rotates clockwise, representing 30-second playback countdown. If you wish to buy that track, tap on the $.99 priced icon, which then transforms into another button innocently labeled "Buy Now".

This is where the experience becomes a mechanism for costly music addiction. Having instant access to music download via iPhone somehow dramatically changes the paradigm. The required footwork imposed by bolting the music store onto a PC or Mac (running iTunes) acted a natural barrier to entry. If I wanted to buy a particular song or album, I have to go trotting off to my Mac, launch iTunes, find the song or artist, purchase, download, then sync my iPod or iPhone in order to access my purchase. Too much work. Apple just turned that five step process into one, opening a new venue for window shopping audiophiles. Before I knew it, on the first day of use, I had downloaded ten tracks without giving a second thought. Then I realized... my God, I could do this for hours!

Could this euphoric instant gratification be iPhone's killer app? It could be. But I do know that my credit card company will be very happy as I rack up interest charges. What's in your wallet?

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