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It’s well known that CD and DVD sales worldwide have been steadily dropping as more people download their entertainment. So at first glance it may seem baffling that digital music downloads in the US also took a dip for the first time in 2013 – sales of single tracks went down by 5.7% and digital albums by 0.1%, according to a survey by Nielsen SoundScan. 

But this trend can be easily explained – as internet access improves and data speeds increase, people are choosing to stream content such as music, movies and TV shows rather than downloading it.

Streaming vs downloading

The major difference between streaming and downloading is that when streaming, you’re watching the content live as it downloads, while with the latter the file has to finish downloading before you can watch or listen to it.

Streaming services usually charge a monthly subscription fee, while downloads incur a one-off fee. But these aren’t the only costs involved: you also need to factor in the cost of the data you’ll need to stream or download content. Luckily Vodacom has some great data deals

Remember, it’s far more cost-effective to buy data bundles than to pay per megabyte when you’re only loading prepaid airtime onto your phone. 

Which uses more data?

Let’s say you want to listen to the new Beyoncé single. The file size is the same whether you stream or download it, so you’re using the same amount of data – streaming or downloading a full track uses between 3MB and 6MB.

However, the files for streamed TV series and movies are often lower resolution so there’s no buffering while you watch them live. Lower resolution requires a smaller file size, so you’ll use slightly less data while streaming. But be warned – watching videos on your device can easily eat into 1GB of data in a matter of hours.

Options in South Africa

Streaming is overtaking downloads in the US and UK, and subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus are booming. While we don’t have access to many of these services yet in South Africa, our broadband speeds are steadily increasing and we now have a number of music streaming services that give you access to between 22 and 25 million songs for around R60 to R70 per month. And more are on the way.

To download content legally in South Africa, your best bet is iTunes. Until recently many locals faked their addresses and signed up for US iTunes accounts because our own didn’t have great content, but that’s changed dramatically in the past year. The SA iTunes store now features movies for download just before they become available on DVD, as well as the latest albums.

It’s also worth giving Spinlet a try: it’s been called ‘the African iTunes’ because it features a massive catalogue of music from artists all over the continent, with 18 million songs available at R5.99 a track or R59.99 an album.

If you have your music saved as  MP3 files, you can also save these directly onto your smart device for access at all times.

Back up your phone for free with Vodafone Cloud 

Files for movies and music are huge, and they’ll quickly swallow up space on your smartphone and tablet. Tip: rather save these files to the cloud. Download the Vodafone Cloud app, which gives you 5GB free – expandable to 10GB for R9 a month. With the cloud you’ll still be able to access your content on the go – and it’s secure and convenient. Better yet, back up your entire iTunes library using the Vodafone Cloud app for R480 a year, which gives you 60GB of storage. That’s a lot of digital entertainment!

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