In these days of low-cost and uncapped mobile and fixed-line data allowances there’s a tendency for many of us to default to online services but sometimes the promised simplicities don’t end up materialising or the digital experience ends up lacking something.
Bundled with the DVD and Blu-ray editions of films, Digital Copies were meant to open up a whole new way to enjoy our favourite films while on the go.
Which they did, assuming you had an iPhone or other device able to play the titles you redeemed on Apple’s iTunes, the original preferred fulfilment partner of many studios.
Then along came Ultraviolet, an alternative approach which was meant to be device and platform neutral and offer the consumer a choice of which provider to redeem and access their movies through.
The problem is it never really caught on thanks to its baked in complexity – customers needed at least two logins with two different organisations and the number of participating redemption partners was minimal.
Long before the whole sorry mess was finally put out of its misery, UK customers had been left with a sole option, Flixster, which lacked support for many platforms including games consoles, Amazon’s Fire TV and Roku.
When Ultraviolet eventually closed down users had to scramble to migrate their purchases to Google’s Play service, many losing access to titles along the way.
Then there’s the BBC’s decision to axe its digital download store after less than two years of operation.
Intended to help the broadcaster monetise its archive, BBC Store suffered from a lack of Smart TV apps, leaving it lagging behind various rivals who appreciated customers might sometimes want to watch shows and movies on their big screen telly.
Eventually the BBC axed the service, pulled access to purchases and issued refunds.
While you obviously can’t watch your DVD or Blu-ray collection via your smartphone, you can at least be certain they’ll always be there to enjoy when the mood takes you.
Similar problems have been faced by customers of various ebook retailers.
Sony, WH Smith, Tesco, Waterstones and even Nook all handed over their UK ebook businesses to Kobo, leaving customers wading through a migration process that included the risk of holes being left in their library.
They at least fared better than Microsoft’s customers who, when it closed its ebook store last year, revoked access to readers’ entire libraries and simply sent them a refund.
Unlike a DVD, the average paperback can be enjoyed on the morning commute so it’s probably no great surprise that many readers have stuck with the old-world option.
Gaming is another area where offline can have big advantages over the connected and digital alternatives.
Developers and console makers are clearly on a mission to convince players to buy digital copies of their games, though many savvy or price sensitive gamers prefer to stick to physical discs where, unlike digital stores, prices often drop quite quickly after release as retailers seek to free-up warehouse space.
There are clear advantages in being able to buy a game a month or two after the initial release or even second hand rather than being forced into the single store option inherent in an option such as Microsoft’s Xbox One All-Digital Edition.
And still in the world of gaming, while being able to play online against teams of other human players can make for a challenging though enjoyable experience, the lack of a meaningful offline mode in many modern titles means few will still be being played a decade from now.
Then there’s bingo and betting, some of the most successful growth areas of the digital economy and ones in which a seemingly ever-increasing array of brands and games are competing for players.
But no matter how well designed and entertaining an online game might be, they can’t entirely replicate the experience of going out with mates for a night among the sounds and sights of a real casino or bingo hall.
Little wonder then that even in these days of instant punts, there’s still a healthy number of real world casinos in the UK providing that 007 or Las Vegas-esque experience .
And of course we have music streaming services. On paper they sound like a great idea – a simple, single low-cost subscription in return for access to a vast library of contemporary and past hits.
But the key word there is ‘access’ because you never own the music you so dutifully ‘like’, rate or collate into collections and playlists.
Yes, having access to a large library catalogue of tracks is a nice idea but there’s never any guarantee a given song or artist will be available when you want to listen to them.
When Sonos stumbled into its recent row about future support for older models, it was in part alluding to the possibility that streaming providers could one day make changes which render their services incompatible with older devices – something less likely to aggravate those who store music on their own network rather than rely on a streaming service.
Obviously there are plenty of benefits in digital experiences but the instant access which appeals to so many often comes hand in hand with a risked lack of permanence.