Capped bandwidth? Beware of the HDTV shows in iTunes 8

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I could easily write about the new Apple iPod hardware but that’s getting covered to death and frankly, it’s just expected evolution. All good news, but there’s something more important to me as a mobile device user who’s also a self-proclaimed HDTV snob. iTunes 8 has the hidden gem… and pitfall… in my book.
I’ve got the new version of iTunes 8 installed and went to check out the new HDTV shows. We’re at the point in our house were I can’t remember the last time we watched a television program or movie that wasn’t in high-def so I wanted to see what they have. Now for $2.99 an episode, we can grab episodes a-la-carte. That can add up for sure but I appreciate the extra audio and video quality that high definition offers. But what will that do for our bandwidth here at the house? We’re not capped by Verizon in our home, but what about folks that have a 250 GB cap from Comcast? I think there’s both good and bad to report here.

I decided to see how big a single episode would be and luckily, one of my favorite shows is available as a freebie. I hit up a 43-minute Battlestar Galactica ep that’s available at no charge and see that it’s a 1.38 GB download. Now I don’t think many Comcast customers are going to grab 180-odd high-def TV episodes from iTunes in a month to bump their cap, but these can add up quickly. That’s the minor bad news if you want to call it that.

The related good news (which is actually even more bad news for capped customers): iTunes will also download a smaller version of the episode which is already encoded for mobile device screens. That’s great in one regard: it allows for a quicker way to get content on your device so you can watch on the go. The possible downside: in my case, it added another 521 MB download… again, something to watch if you’re capped. Oh, and I wouldn’t even think of downloading any of these files while on 3G. It will take longer, but that’s not the concern: you’ll hit those 5 GB caps pretty quickly at this rate.
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While you can pause the second, smaller download, I currently see no way to stop it from starting in the first place. Perhaps there’s a preference I’m missing, but I’d like to see this configurable so people don’t add to their bandwidth usage if they don’t want to.
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