May 31, 2007 2:53 PM PDT

Verizon, gearing for iPhone fight, offers free Prince tune

Verizon Wireless is giving away digital copies of Prince's latest single as it sets the stage for an impending mobile-music battle with Apple.

On Thursday, the second-largest wireless carrier in the U.S. announced that it would be exclusively offering Prince's new single "Guitar" through its V Cast service. And subscribers will be able to download the song, which will appear on Prince's upcoming album Planet Earth, for free.

The exclusive content deal is part of a larger strategy as Verizon takes on AT&T, which will launch the much anticipated Apple iPhone next month. Verizon doesn't yet have an iPhone killer, so the company has been pushing its mobile music store, which has more than 1.9 million songs.

While AT&T subscribers using the iPhone will have access to the popular iTunes music store, they won't be able to download music over the air the way they can with Verizon's V Cast service. Verizon hopes this added convenience will be enough to entice customers to use its service instead of AT&T's service.

"Mobile is the future of music," said John Harrobin, senior vice president of digital media for Verizon Wireless. "According to our own research, 95 percent of downloaded songs come from over-the-air, versus being tethered to a PC."

As part of this strategy, Verizon has just launched a new service called Song ID, which allows people to identify songs simply by holding up their handset to a speaker when the song is playing. Once the song is identified, people can purchase the full track immediately.

Verizon used to charge users to identify songs, but it is now offering Song ID as a free feature on V Cast. And to promote Song ID it is offering Prince's "Guitar" exclusively on V Cast in the hopes of getting more people to try the service. So far, Song ID is only available on certain handsets including, LG's Chocolate, enV, VX8700 and VX9400, along with Motorola's Razr Maxx Ve and Samsung's SCH-u620.

Some analysts are skeptical that Verizon's focus on mobility will be enough to battle AT&T and the iPhone.

"Verizon is clearly making a statement that it wants people to look to them for music," said Linda Barrabee, an analyst with the Yankee Group. "But they've got to do more than just strike a deal with Prince or offer Song ID. It's about the end-to-end experience. What they really need is a cool phone."

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Verizon V-Cast, Verizon Communications, AT&T Corp., wireless carrier, Apple iPhone

18 comments

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"Verizon doesn't yet have an iPhone killer"
I thought this was supposed to be a news story, but it turned out to
be a comedy instead.
Posted by chabig83 (535 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I doubt this is Verizon's answer
iPhone vs Prince song... Well, Prince is good, but not exactly relevant to the target audience I'm thinking. I highly doubt Verizon is battling the iPhone with a free song give away.

And with the iPhone coming in at $499 plus a monthly fee to use most of its coolest features, Verizon probably won't have to battle too hard.
Posted by brianbot5000 (75 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Verizon Has Boring Phones
As an early adopter of the now-not-so-cool Chocolate, all I can say is that the music part of the phone seemed cooler than it actually is. The Chocolate could not replace my trusty mp3 in terms of ease of use and battery life. (How many phones can last on a 10 hour plane ride, playing music?)

I've been with VZW for many years and they seem to specialize in providing boring phones. Therefore, I really don't believe they will have an iPhone killer at any time in the near future.
Posted by Delia777 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
I'm thinking of switching from verizon for that simple fact.
Posted by Jonms83 (3 comments )
Link Flag
Verizon User
I and my family are Verizon Users and have been very happy with
the network. However, at least two of my kids will get an iphone.
For the short term it will not cause great problems because one
there will be a limited number of iPhones in a huge overall market
and their network is still superior. However, long-term I expect
most carriers will have access to iPhones and choose the network
they want.
Posted by georgiarat (254 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Did I read that stat correctly?
According to Verizon research, 95% of all downloaded songs are over the air?! What?! ITunes is the fourth largest music vendor and largest digital music vendor (as of Jan '07), which makes this claim just absurd. Maybe this could be true if the Asian markets are included, but Verizon isn't over there. What the hell is Verizon smoking?
Posted by SteenMachine (50 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
Yes, but the key here is "according to their research" which most likely means, what they have sold through THEIR service. And since with crippled phones, or grossly overpriced "packages" to actually allow you to "tether the phone to a PC" it probably isn't all that remarkable that 95% of their sales are "over the air" since they make the alternative prohibitively expensive on purpose.
Posted by JayMonster (90 comments )
Link Flag
What this probably means....
I would imagine they mean that 95% of all songs on cell phones are downloaded over the air. That's all I can come up with.
Posted by drewbyh (91 comments )
Link Flag
Verizon's Crippled Phones
If Verizon wants to compete, they should unblock Bluetooth tech
and allow folks computers to communicate with the phone for
sync'ing address books, calendar's and songs already on the
phone or computer! That may give them a chance. After that, they
should deal with poor customer service and long lines (either by
music on hold for witless rep's or physical locations where people
line up in the hopes of having their phones repaired).
Posted by mauimacman (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Verizon Blows!
I loathe Verizon with all of my being. I wouldn't go back if they
were the last carrier on earth. They have the worst customer
service I've ever seen.
I switched over to Cingular in anticipation of the iPhone almost a
year ago and couldn't be happier. I haven't dropped a call yet
(except the ones to Verizon customers). When I had Verizon it
got so bad that I was dropping every single call I made. Their
excuse was that I was charging my phone too often. Come on,
do you really think your customers are "that" stupid? I guess
they are, the smart ones leave!
Posted by rhett121 (73 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Your opinion is in the minority
I've used all the major carriers and like most people who have done so I ended up sticking with Verizon. Virtually all reputable research on US cell carriers in the past few years agree that Verizon overall has the best call quality and customer service for a major carrier. This includes Consumer Reports, Consumer Checkbook, JD Power, and industry awards given by organizations like Wireless Week, etc.

Verizon's customer loyalty is the highest in the USA. (this statistic is closely followed by the cellular industry - the term is called "churn", and Verizon continues to set industry records in this area almost every quarter) Details:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://*******.com/2zkos6" target="_newWindow">http://*******.com/2zkos6</a>

While everyone's experience will vary, on an overall basis I think the consensus is clear that Verizon has great service. Yes, they cost a little more in some cases, and yes, they do have an annoying habit of blocking some bluetooth features on certain phones, but when it comes to call quality and customer service, your opinion is in the minority.

(BTW - Verizon is already the largest US cell carrier based on revenue. They will probably become largest in terms of subscribers sometime this year)
Posted by pjk0 (1198 comments )
Link Flag
I wouldn't bet on it!
Verizon and Apple are two of a kind when it comes to one thing. It is their way or the highway. Both want and expect their "partners" to do their bidding as they desire, with no compromise.

Verizon will want to cripple certain features of the iPhone to allow it to create "extras" and add-ons, etc. to milk their customers.

Apple will demand that Verizon play the Jobs way to no way.

In the end there will be no deal.
Posted by JayMonster (90 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Shootout on iPone Corral
I understand the scenario to be accurate. Looks like this time Verizon shot themselves in the (collective) foot.
Posted by batavier (66 comments )
Link Flag
Why Cingular/ATT/T--Mobile get the "kewl stuff"
The simple market reality these days is that if you are going to sink millions into developing a cellular hardware product, the very first thing you need to do is make sure you have a GSM version, because GSM has the largest marketshare in the cellular world.

Even though I consider Verizon to be the best US cellphone carrier, it's an uphill battle for them to offer all the latest hardware because a GSM product will almost always outsell a CDMA product. (On a global basis. The US market is more balanced between CDMA/GSM.)
Posted by pjk0 (1198 comments )
Link Flag
I would get Verizon if....
I would sign up for verizon service only if they had a no contract prepaid service like Virgin has.

Until then I am staying with virgin.
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They do
Verizon does has prepay plans. Just go to the website and click on Prepay Plans.
Posted by drewbyh (91 comments )
Link Flag
DRM?
Apple leads with a 1-2 volley of removing DRM from songs and releasing the iPhone, and Verizon counters with... a free Prince song?

Umm... good luck!

I'm a Verizon customer because everyone I know is and it doesn't cost me to talk to them. Other than that I loath them (well, call quality for me actually has been fine too) and there's no way I'm buying extra anything services from Verizon just out of spite for locking down my phone and crippling the features.
Sorry Verizon, I'll use you as a phone and nothing else.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Two Sides
I totaly respect your views but between me and my friends. I have verizon and they have cingular and when we go out to partys or whatever there is not one weekned that goes by when they dont have signal or when i try to call them and it gives a stupid error sayng all the cingular circuits are currently busy. The most funniest thing is that when im at one of their houses when they need to make a call they'll ask to use my phone because they have no signal. Now the one thing the I like about cingular is the phones that they offer.
Posted by dave412 (6 comments )
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