Sideloading content to 3G devices with onboard storage could provide highly attractive services for consumers. While sideloading is only suited to the delivery of non-time-critical multimedia content, this content could meet an important part of the service requirements of many mobile users. If a mobile phone has a significant amount of storage, a wide variety of multimedia content could be sideloaded to it, giving the consumer plenty of choice of content. Compared with other alternative distribution methods, sideloading potentially has important advantages:
- guaranteed reliability in any location, giving ubiquitous service access. This would represent an improvement on services provided through 3G macrocell and broadcasting networks, and indoor wireless systems
- personalised content whenever users want it. With sideloading, the multimedia content stored on the mobile device would be selected by the user (in conjunction with the service provider). Given enough storage capacity, a broad range of content could be sideloaded. Furthermore, users would be able to start, pause, rewind and fast forward video and audio content as they wished
- high-quality picture and sound for TV content. Sideloading could provide a quality of service that is unmatched by other delivery methods. Provided there is adequate onboard storage in mobile devices, TV content could be encoded with very-high-quality video and audio. For example, some video content currently available on iTunes for Apple iPods and iPhones is stored with a data rate of over 1Mbps.
In June 2009, iPhones with 32GB of solid-state storage were released. A smartphone with 32GB of storage could store about 180 hours of high-quality video content (assuming a data rate of 384kbps).
Apple has put substantial effort into developing the range of video content available for purchase through its iTunes Store. It offers a wide range of music videos, films and popular TV programmes. In March 2008, Disney announced that it had sold 4 million films and 40–50 million videos though iTunes. In January 2008, Apple announced its iTunes Movie Rentals service, featuring film downloads from all the major studios, including Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal Studios, Sony Pictures, MGM, Lionsgate and New Line Cinema. Users can rent films for USD2.99–3.99 and watch them on their iPods and/or iPhone. Apple offered over 1000 film titles by the end of February 2008. In June 2008, Apple extended its movie download service to the UK.
By January 2009, Apple’s iTunes catalogue consisted of over 10 million songs, over 30 000 TV episodes and over 2500 films.