September 25, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Streaming music for smart phones

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(continued from previous page)

Mercora can stream music to phones operating on 3G and higher mobile networks, like Edge, EVDO, HSPDA and Wi-Fi. Ghose says phone carriers are looking for more "consumer-friendly applications" that will enable sharing of information, like pictures, videos and music.

The NPD Group's Neil Strother says that though the concept is interesting, it's unclear how practical a service like M would be for wireless carriers that provide wireless phone service.

"I don't know if carriers are going to like that. They might think, 'That's a drag on our bandwidth.'"

Mercora's Ghose said he isn't concerned about that, as M would transfer music files at 56 kilobits per second, which takes up less space on a network than video at 200 to 300 Kbps. And, he added, many smart-phone customers have unlimited data plans provided by their employer.

Strother countered that that's not an open invitation by carriers to clog up the bandwidth with huge files 24 hours a day.

American consumers' love affair with their iPods might be hard to disentangle, as might their perceived reticence toward listening to music and making calls on the same device. But Sampath says he sees Americans coming around and catching up to their European counterparts.

"The next generation of music players is going to be a phone. It's not going to be a dedicated device," he said. Indeed, retail trends seem to back him up, as more people are buying music-enabled phones. From the second quarter in 2005 to the same quarter in 2006, music-enabled phones grew from 7 percent of all phones sold to 19 percent, according to The NPD Group. But owning a phone capable of playing music doesn't mean users necessarily take advantage of that feature, said Strother, NPD's research director for mobile devices.

Motorola and Apple's music phone, the Rokr, failed because of poor strategy, according to Sampath. The Rokr could be synced with an iTunes playlist, but was limited to about 100 songs, which isn't feasible in a world where playlists can reach into the thousands.

"Consumers are smart," he said. "You can't give them some lame device and call it a music phone."

The LG Chocolate attempts to solve the Rokr's space problem by including a Micro SD card slot, allowing for 2GB worth of songs to be plugged in. While a phone's battery would run out long before that size playlist in that situation, it's still too much fuss for casual users who just want to hear their music when they want it, according to Doherty.

"Someone who is PC-savvy will put (a data card) in, but that takes several minutes. It's not something I'm going to do as I'm racing into Manhattan for a meeting," he said.

Strother, for his part, believes "music-enabled phones are here and they're coming in a pretty big way. I think (Mercora is) going to have a crowded market, not now, but in the next six to 12 months. The (LG) Chocolate phone is just starting to get out there. A lot of non-smart phones have MP3 players in them. The storage issue isn't necessarily going away, but you're beginning to see mid-tier phones starting to have data cards."

Strother said he's not a big believer in the myth of an "iPod killer" coming out anytime soon. He says that growth in music phones "doesn't start to cannibalize iPods as much as grow the pie. The iPod's not going to go away that quickly."

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Add your comment
Why Pay $4.99 a month?
I can already stream music to my WM5.0 phone using ORB for free!
Posted by dclaryjr (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS should buy the radio station and offer free music and add advitisement
MS should buy the radio station and offer free music and add advitisement
Posted by fc11 (48 comments )
Link Flag
Will fail
First problem is that most (if not all) smartphones will not allow you to receive a call while you are connected to a data network. So if you're streaming music with Mercora and someone calls, you get a busy signal. If I'm playing music with local songs on a storage card I can receive phone calls.

Plus who want to pay for this service? For $50 I can buy a 2GB storage card and larger capacities are available. Plus you can buy more than one storage card to carry around, they are tiny so the 2GB is too small argument carries no weight (literally) when you can carry as many storage cards with you as you want.
Posted by ballssalty (219 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE: Will fail
actually, this isn't quite true.

when an incoming call comes in on a WM5.0 phone, the music stops and the call is announced. the user can then decide whether to pick up or ignore the call.

secondly, of course you can carry as many storage cards as you want, but not everyone will want to do this. also, cards don't give you access to all of the internet radio stations.
Posted by dg1964-20641623766489280533517 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Why do it at all...
on your cell phone?
When the car breaks down or you need to reach the baby sitter or dial 911, your battery will be dead from listening to music on a third rate unit, when you could have been listening on a decent player, using up the player's battery and saving your phone for, of all things, calling someone!
Posted by El Kabong (100 comments )
Reply Link Flag
solution to batery problem
Cell phone will refuse to play music when there is only 20% batery left
Posted by fc11 (48 comments )
Link Flag
Is There Any Editor Here That Checks Facts...
"Apple uses a proprietary format called AAC, which Mercora M can't play."

AAC IS NOT a proprietary format. It's an open format. Apple's Fairplay DRM which is wrapped around files purchased from the iTunes music store is proprietary!

You think that by now everyone would know this.
Posted by (106 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I doubt you know how the wrapper works.
The important thing is, Apple's music files are encoded.
Posted by just_chilin (3 comments )
Link Flag

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