Warner Bros. Stuffs Movies Into iPad/iPhone Apps (Or, the Fanciest DRM Ever)

By  |  Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 9:45 am

In a world of Netflix, Redbox and cheap iTunes rentals, Warner Bros. has hatched a new plan to entice you to purchase more movies.

The studio is now selling movies as standalone iOS apps, starting with Inception and The Dark Knight. Both apps are free to download, with the actual movies available as in-app purchases. Buying the film unlocks streaming and downloadable versions, along with bonus features such as games, trivia and soundboards. While watching, you can also send and view status updates on Facebook and Twitter.

If you’re keen on the idea of buying a movie once and owning it for all of your devices, Warner Bros.’ apps are not for you. The in-app movie is completely separate from iTunes (and for Inception, $2 more expensive, at $12 for the full movie), so you’re forever bound to an iPhone or iPad. At least with iTunes, you can watch the movie on a computer or Apple TV.

For me, the restrictive DRM is a dealbreaker. These apps should be perks for purchasing the Blu-ray or iTunes version of a film, not a separate entity unavailable to people who want to watch their movies in other formats. I realize neither of those options are possible in iOS — Apple doesn’t allow for individual discounts or free unlock codes within its apps — but either way, from a consumer perspective it’s a raw deal.

(One exception:¬†In some international markets, the iTunes movie store isn’t available at all, so these apps provide a workaround.)

That’s not to say I don’t like the apps themselves. The surrounding array of extra features are easy to navigate, and I like how you can save sound clips as ringtones and photos as iOS backgrounds. This is definitely a cool way to watch a movie, but for your hard-earned $10 to $12, it shouldn’t be the only way.

And besides, is anyone really going to start building a movie library that consists, in large part, of individual apps?

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