iTunes Purchases Issue

June 27, 2011

Apple recently released a nifty iTunes feature to the public: The ability to re-download any music you have previously purchased, from any iOS device or iTunes, without a cutoff date. If you’ve purchased music in the past, you can download it again for free. This is particularly helpful for people like me who have deleted loads of content from their iTunes library, in order to save storage. The inability to re-download all of those deleted songs, without re-purchasing altogether, was upsetting. That problem is no longer, and I’ve spent the past couple of weeks listening to albums I had once deleted, some of it deleted five years ago.

Essentially, while very underplayed by Apple and the press, this feature is a huge deal. People only have so much space on their hard drive, and it isn’t very economical to buy extra external drives anytime one fills up. Being able to delete everything (that you’ve purchased) that you aren’t interested in, with the knowledge that if you ever miss it you can re-download it for free, is in my opinion the best thing to happen to the iTunes Store since movie downloads.

That said…

iPhone screenshot in the iTunes app with a notification stating If you download past purchases with your Apple ID, you cannot auto-download or download past purchases with a different Apple ID for 90 days

This is an exceptionally rare case scenario, but this will become an apparent reality to some iTunes users like myself, with multiple accounts. I have three iTunes accounts, two in the US and one in the UK, and I have made purchases with all three. While one of the US accounts have been inactive for a few years, it’s still there and there are purchases I want back from it. As you can see from the image above, that is not possible on iOS devices. On the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, users can only re-download content from one iTunes account.

While a nuisance, this is not a massive problem… As aforementioned, I guess that few people own multiple iTunes accounts, and on top of that, one is able to re-download purchased content from any account with iTunes on Mac OSX or Windows. It’s just puzzling that multi-account support for iTunes Purchases isn’t enabled on iOS devices, while it is on the desktop. To top it off, multiple iTunes accounts can be tied to iOS devices to enable the usage of purchased content from different accounts. But why are iOS users restricted to only one iTunes account for this new re-downloading feature?

Sidenote: Another use case scenario where this problem can crop up, is with families that share devices. I know that iPads inparticular are commonly a shared household item, with multiple users with multiple iTunes accounts per device.

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