Want to buy a new song or video from iTunes even though you're offline? A new Apple patent envisions a way, at least sometime down the road.
Granted to Apple today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, the patent appropriately named "On-device offline purchases using credits" describes a system of using credits to purchase iTunes content that's stored on your device but which you don't already own. The goal is to allow you to unlock and play iTunes songs, videos, and other items without having to be online.
You would first buy credits that you can apply to future offline iTunes purchases. You'd also have a library of items on your mobile device that you don't actually own but may wish to purchase. These items could include recommendations from iTunes that were downloaded the last time you were online. Since you don't actually own the items, they remain locked until you pay for them.
Now you're offline and would like to play one of the recommended and downloaded songs or videos. Since you can't purchase them directly without an online connection, you would tap into your reserve of prepaid credits to pay for and unlock that item. The whole transaction is thus conducted offline.
You can buy credits through your mobile device or through iTunes, as shown in one of the patent images. You could also use a credit card, bank account, or a service such as PayPal to purchase the credits, just as you do to directly buy iTunes content.
As described in the patent:
One or more media items that are not part of a user's media library can be stored on an electronic device. When a user later wishes to play back one of the media items, but the device cannot connect to a communications network to provide payment information for purchasing the media items, the electronic device can use pre-paid credits that were purchased and stored by the device when a communications network was available to complete the purchase. By using pre-paid credits, the media store can be assured that the user has sufficient funds for the media item purchase.
iTunes users who are always connected may not see much of a need for this type of system. But people with iPods and Wi-Fi only iPads may find it helpful to be able to buy a favorite song or video without having to hop online.