iTunes Store opens in 12 Asian countries

update Apple launches iTunes Store in 12 Asian countries including Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, giving users there full access to content such as movies and music which was previously not provided.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

update Cupertino has finally launched its iTunes Store in 12 Asian countries including Singapore, giving local customers access to the full range of content available for download such as digital music and movies, instead of previously just apps for Apple devices.

Besides Singapore, the 11 other countries are Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, according to the company's press release Wednesday.

Before the iTunes Store was available in Singapore, local users could only buy and download apps on their Apple devices, but not music or movies. In order to get access to other content, they had to buy gift cards to make purchases in the iTunes stores of other countries to do so.

Cupertino said there will be over 20 million songs to choose from to purchase and download. These include local and international music from major and independent labels, such as Asian and international artists. Customers can also rent or purchase movies from major studios, it added.

Doing a price comparison, the iTunes Store in Singapore charges S$1.28 (about US$1) for the song "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen, while the same song costs US$1.29 at the iTunes Store in the United States.

Apple's announcement came after rumors circulated on the possibility that the company was planning to open iTunes Stores in Asia. Local daily The Straits Times reported Tuesday that several Apple executives attended this year's Music Matters event in Singapore in May, where discussion topics included digital music consumption and lauching digital services in Asia.

Last week, the Singapore iTunes Store also changed its pricing from U.S. dollars to local currency, the report added. The Straits Times also noted that earlier in March, a software update on iTunes featured new countries, including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, under the Parental Preferences option--which allows users to restrict content according to country-specific classifications or ratings--and that such controls are usually available in markets where Apple does sell music and movies on iTunes.

Some Asian customers pleased, but non-event for others
Users in the Asian countries where the iTunes Store is now available shared that they were pleased after a long wait.

Singaporean Duane Ho tweeted: "Scrolling through the new Singapore iTunes Store! This feels like a dream! Can't wait to make my first song purchase!" In Hong Kong, Casey Lau from Hong Kong tweeted: "Apple launches iTunes store in HONG KONG! Meaning you can buy/rent/download music and movies here! FINALLY!" Another user, Gigi Lui, said she "just bought Fiona Apple's new album from the new HK iTunes store :D".

For other consumers, however, the iTunes Stores' opening was a non-event. Wilson Sng, a freelance photographer, said he was not excited about the launch of the iTunes Store in Singapore, since he could find music for free through pirated downloads as well as Web streaming sites. Similarly, Lilith Wong, a bank telemarketer, said the "near-ceaseless wait for iTunes [Store] has numbed me and I've already long used other sources to get my entertainment fix of quality music and movies and TV shows".

Since 2011, Apple has made the iTunes Store available to more countries in regions worldwide, including 12 countries in Europe and 16 countries in Latin America, The Straits Times reported. In the Asia-Pacific region, the full iTunes store was previously available only to users in Japan, New Zealand and Australia. However, there are still no details on when key Asian markets such as China, Indonesia and India will join the list.

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