Music Phones Can't Compete With iPod - InformationWeek

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Music Phones Can't Compete With iPod

The first-generation of music phones may lack the sound quality and ease of use to take on Apple's iPod.

The first-generation of music phones lack the sound quality and ease of use to take on Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod, the market-leading digital music player, a research firm said Thursday.

Strategy Analytics compared the four most advanced music phones in the United Kingdom and Europe with the iPod. High-speed wireless networks in the United States lag behind Europe, and are not yet ready to handle a mass market of music downloads. Therefore, it made more sense to do the comparison first across the Atlantic, the research firm said.

"(Nevertheless) some early music phones available in the U.S. have similar features and functionality," Strategy analyst Chris Ambrosio said. "So (results in Europe) is an early indication that we're not going to see different scoring in the U.S."

The Samsung E720, O2 XM, Sony Ericsson SEMC V800 and the Orange SPV 500 scored in the low to mid-60s in quality and usability, compared to scores "well into the 80s" for the iPod, Ambrosio said. A score above 80 is considered excellent, while the 60s is a failing grade.

The results, however, were not surprising, given that wireless carriers are still testing the music market, and have not yet pushed manufacturers toward optimizing the devices for serious usage. Carriers are currently focused on developing a business model for music, Ambrosio said.

Issues being worked on include digital rights management and developing music products that consumers would be willing buy, since it would be unlikely that they would download a whole album onto a cellular phone. They may, however, pay to get the latest song first from their favorite artist.

"Just adding MP3 support won't make the mass market use the device as a music phone," Ambrosio said. "Carriers and phone vendors need to enhance the usability of the software and hardware in order to drive real usage."

Nevertheless, carriers believe there is significant revenue potential from music, given that research shows many people have a stronger emotional tie to the songs they like than to pictures, Ambrosio said.

"Carriers are experimenting with this in an effort to leverage what they believe has huge potential," Ambrosio said.

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