September 7, 2005 12:25 PM PDT

Is the time right for phone-music player hybrids?

As Apple Computer and Motorola unveiled an iTunes phone Wednesday, analysts were debating whether the time was right for more mobile phone-digital music player hybrids.

Mobile-phone customers are already consuming music on their handsets. Nokia's N91, Samsung's SGH i300 and Sony's Walkman W800 are examples of handsets that play digital music files.

A phone may be limited to storing about 1,000 songs now--as much as 4 gigabytes of music storage is available in the N91 handset--but that's expected to grow dramatically as larger flash memory becomes available and as phones begin incorporating high-capacity micro-hard drives, which currently support 6GB of storage.

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Current habits regarding the storage of digital music suggest that the marriage of mobile phones and digital music players makes sense, according to a study by Solutions Research Group.

Even though some standalone players can hold as many as 15,000 songs, the average user of a high-capacity digital music device stores only 375 songs, the study found. One out of every four players holds between 100 and 499 songs, while 25 percent have 500 songs stored on them. Half of those surveyed said their digital music player holds fewer than 100 songs. That's a good sign for the phone unveiled by Motorola and Apple, which should store about 100 songs.

Owners of Apple's iPods have significantly larger libraries--504 songs on average--compared with owners of other digital music players, with 246 songs, the study said.

The Solutions Research Group study was based on 1,062 random interviews the group conducted in the United States via telephone in May and June.

In a recent Forrester survey, 78 percent of online consumers age 18 and older said they had no interest in using their cell phone to play back audio tracks. Only 13 percent of online consumers ages 12 to 17 said they were interested in such a feature.

Despite the popularity of the iPod, the public still may need some coaxing in downloading songs. Only 22 percent of those who own digital music players bought a song online at some point in the past, suggesting that a majority of the music on the devices comes from owners' CDs and from peer-to-peer, file-sharing sources, Solutions Research Group found.

But that may change if Apple and Motorola launch a media blitz to convince the public that there is an advantage to owning a phone that merges iPod technology.

"Apple could offer a special on downloading songs from iTunes with the purchase of a cell phone and the plan," said Tim Deal, an analyst at Technology Business Research. "Clearly, we are talking about a computer-based solution using iTunes and not a download service via the carrier. Apple wants to make sure that the business model works first, before it develops its wireless world."

And teaming with Cingular may provide the market sweet spot Apple and Motorola are looking for. According to Solutions Research Group, 14 percent of Cingular's customers have a digital music player. A larger proportion, 17 percent of those surveyed, report that they want to buy one within 12 months, the report said.

7 comments

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Consuming music?
I certainly hope that the music isn't destroyed or used up as I listen to it.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Listening to music on the cell phone is stupid!
Being able to use my iPod as a cellphone... now that is what I was looking for out of Apple. Most cellphones have horrible usability, why isn't Apple bringing the cellphone to the iPod? Imagine an Apple engineered iPod / cell phone hybrid, now that would be exciting.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
The key is how many times do I need to buy a song?
Today if I buy a song from Verizon, it stays stuck on the phone.

With the iTunes enabled phone, I will be able to upload songs I already own. My phone will be compatible with my computer and iPod library. If downloading from the store to the phone also means said song gets placed in my iTunes Library, this could be a winning combo.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Other features...
Personally, I find other features on the phone to be sub-par, especially VGA camera. With most upscale phones having at least 1MP, why stick to VGA?

The design is also kinda ugly. Given that Moto came up with RAZR, you'd think they could design something sleek-looking. They should've asked for Apple's help, lol.

P.S. Personally, I'm most excited about Nano. It finally offers a nice Apple solution to people with active lifestyles but who want a screen, lol.
Posted by Rusdude (170 comments )
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Is the time right for phone-music player hybrids? No, it's not...
Okay. The camera phone has been highly successful. So naturally people think that combining everything with a cell phone will now be as successful, but theyre not looking at the facts. How many households in the United States had a camera at the time of the introduction of the camera phone? I would say all (Im counting those disposable ones too). Okay, now look at how many people in the United States own an MP3 player. Not nearly as many as those who owned a camera at the time of the camera phones unveiling. There are still a lot of people that have no interest in purchasing an MP3 player in the near future, and many of those people who do own an MP3 player (like my self) are not going to replace a 20 GB MP3 player that they paid $250 for, with a cell phone that will hold only 512 MB of MP3s that will probably cost around $799. I think the wireless phone companies need to stop worrying about coming out with a new product that will be no where near as successful as they hope, and just improve upon those products they already have, because lets face it, the camera phone is far from perfect.
Posted by PCCRomeo (432 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Turn down the volume - today's kids and their fangled rock and roll..
What about making a law that requires all cell phones to have no speakers or receivers - so no one can talk to them and no noise can eminate from them.

Text to your hearts content, have a conversation about your prostrate exam and your latest STDs - but without uttering a single word.

We just need everyone to petition their MPs, Congressman, village Shamen, or whoever to make it obliglatory that no sound can go into or out of a cell phone (that's mobes to the English people out there).
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
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Simply put.....
.... NO !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
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