January 9, 2006 3:39 PM PST

Verizon music service disables MP3 support

Verizon Wireless' new music service for mobile phones was unveiled with much fanfare last week. But it comes with a catch: Those signing up for service will give up the ability to play MP3s on their phones.

The company's new song download service, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, is being built around Microsoft's digital-media technology. As part of that service, Verizon decided to eliminate the phones' previous ability to play MP3 files, hoping to keep the phones' music features simple, a company spokesman said.

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In most cases, customers can still transfer their own music to the phones, and many may not even notice a difference. Microsoft's Windows Media 10 software will automatically make a copy of MP3 songs on a computer's hard drive and load them onto the phone in the correct Microsoft-based format, leaving the original unchanged.

But that software is only available for PCs today, leaving customers with Apple Macintosh or Linux-based computers out of luck, unless they find a different way of translating their MP3 songs into Microsoft's format.

"We don't view this as restricting functionality," said Jesse Money, Verizon's director of consumer multimedia services. "We wanted one music player on the phone with a simple and consistent look and feel throughout the player. If we were to leave (the MP3 support intact), then there would be two players with different experiences."

Verizon's V Cast Music service marks the most ambitious step into the digital music business by a U.S.-based mobile phone carrier.

Launching on Jan. 16, it will offer customers the ability to download songs directly to their phones for $1.99 each, or to a PC for 99 cents. Songs purchased through a PC can also be put onto the phone to listen to later. Either way, customers will receive a copy of the song for both PC and phone use.

Mobile-phone companies, as well as record labels, have been eagerly watching the surge in consumer spending on ring tones, which often cost $2.50 or more. Because people are used to spending a premium for instant access to content on cell phones, customers are also likely to accept higher prices for downloading full songs to phones, executives have said.

The V Cast service, which will compete with a similar music download service recently released by Sprint Wireless, will initially be available on a small number of phones, including the LG VX8100 and the Samsung a950.

Both of those phones have previously been advertised as offering support for MP3s. On Samsung's page, a line that previously said the phone could "play MP3 masterpieces " now simply promises "musical masterpieces."

A Microsoft spokesman said neither the company's technology, nor its deal with Verizon, had barred the phone company from supporting other audio formats.

Money said people who own either phone can choose to retain their old music software, which allows them to play MP3 files directly on the phone but will prevent them from using the new online music service. Customers who want to upgrade to the V Cast Music software should take their phones to a Verizon store to be upgraded in a process that should take about 20 minutes, Money said.

New versions of the phones will come with the V Cast Music software pre-installed.

Verizon has previously been sued by customers who alleged that it disabled some advertised Bluetooth features in a Motorola phone.

The PCS Intel blog site which originally reported the issue has posted instructions for restoring the MP3 function on the LG VX8100 phone, but warns that the process may void the warranty on the device.

21 comments

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Buyers beware
Customers who want to upgrade to the V Cast Music software should take their phones to a Verizon store to be upgraded in a process that should take about 20 minutes, Money said.

And when they do this I am sure they will EXPLICITLY be told by the caring and informed staff that the functionality that they currently have is being removed as part of this 'upgrade'...right?

I smell another class action. (not from me...I'm in Canada...Verizon...what dat?)
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Verizon has been known for these kinds of tactics
So has Cingular, disable features built into the phone so customers will be forced to pay to use (often inferior) services.

Before I bought my last phone I wanted to make sure that I could:
a. Transfer MP3 files to the phone (to use as ringtones)
b. Synchrnize the address book
c. Transer pictures from the camera phone to the PC.

I knew all of these features were supported in the handset but I didn't know if they had been disabled by the provider.

Since you can't trust the salespersons word for anything, I brought a laptop to the store and tried all three on their demo phone, it all worked so I bought the phone and it still works fine.

FTR I ended up with a Motorola V330 on T-Mobile.
Posted by raitchison (103 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do you have any idea how I can download an mp3 song on my computer and pix to my Verizon phone card? Nothing is working. Is there a work around you recommend?
Posted by oddcouple4 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Do they disclose that? What a blackeye for Verizon..Sneaky SOB's
eom
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
When my contract with Verizon expires
I done with them. They are the same company who disabled Bluetooth in their phones so that users would have to use their service to upload files to the phone.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mine expired on December 3rd.
I have Alltel now and I can sync my address book, calendar and
transfer music, and pictures via Bluetooth on my new RAZR V3
phone. That's one of the phones that Verizon told me didn't come
with that capability. It's bad enough that they disable the phones
features, but to lie about it when you ask them is fraudulent. I'll
never do business with Verizon again.
Posted by Macsaresafer (802 comments )
Link Flag
Well, It IS The Phone Company
Put your destiny into the hands of "the phone company" and this is what you can expect. Reminds me of that scene in "The President's Analyst" where the guy is carted off in a phone booth. If you want true control, keep your MP3 player and just use the phone to make calls. Also, does CNET have any stats on how many sales the cellular carriers are actually making on selling songs for $1.99 that people can get elsewhere for $0.99 or less? Is this another 20 something year old MTV executive's idea that will ultimately end up on the scrap heap? What's the compelling idea that I am missing?
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just another LIE..?
>> "We wanted one music player on the phone with a simple and consistent look and feel throughout the player. If we were to leave (the MP3 support intact), then there would be two players with different experiences."

Sorry, but the "file-format" has nothing, what-so-ever, to do with the "look", or "functionality" of the "player". The only real-reason to do this is to impose DRM, remove "funtionality", and thereby create customer LOCK-IN, and CONTROL.

Of course, I am still mad that Microsoft used "XP-SP2" to install their latest "Media-Player" (at the time), and all their MS-DRM, whether I wanted it, or not.
Posted by Gayle Edwards (262 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Give me a break...
Once again, corporate America takes us all for stupid idiots would can't think our way out of a phone booth.

"...There would be two players with different experiences." This is their excuse for hosing MP3 playback? B.S. Anyone who's used most of the phones these days has plenty of "different experiences" in terms of user interface.

Besides, how this this any different that a "different experience" with Windows Media Player vs. QuickTime Player vs. Real Player vs. Winamp, etc., etc., etc. on a PC?

No, the real issue here is Verizon's decision to bow to Microsoft and the viral expansion of DRM.
Posted by markrob35 (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Message has been deleted.
Posted by DaVi.tv (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Bell heads can't allow customer choice!
One former monopolist (VZW was part of the Bell System) gotta
love another (Microsoft convicted of anti-trust behaviour!)

This would be like Verizon DSL not allowing me to choose my
own music service!

These chuckleheads will NEVER learn! Mobile data will take off,
WHEN THEY ALLOW CUSTOMERS CHOICE!

It's an already well established fact that 80+% of digital music
buyers have chosen iTunes... Now VZW is tryingb to dictate that
choice...

As a Verizon Wireless customer, I am outraged! I want iTunes on
my phone, just like on my Mac (er, VZW doesn't support Mac
users either!)

When my contract is up, it's hasta la vista to the monopolists!
Posted by cellphonejunkie (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Like a NY camera store!
Anyone stupid or impatient enough to pay 1.99 for a .99 song deserves whatever mistreatment they get.
That said, if work didn't pay for my phone I'd be ditching Verizon. I've got a nice phone I bought for features but Verizon wants to disable everything and recharge me for the features to be added back in their limited closed system.

When I web site is found to be selling cameras of camcorders at a very low price by removing all the extras and reselling them back as a package at a much inflated cost, the vendor rating site slay them as fraudulent. Customers are furios and state such companies should not be allowed to use the internet.
How is Verizon acting any differently? They've take my phone and removed the features and try to sell them bakc to me at very inflated rates.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not as horrible as it sounds
While it seems annoying that VZW is using WMA only for the phones, you can still play your MP3's. They will simply be converted to WMA when transfered to the phone. They will remain as MP3's on your computer.
Posted by ppelosi (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
But there is no reason for it
And what is the logic for changing the files to WMA? Since it is recompression, you're going to have a loss of audio quality. It's one more attempt for Verizon to control every aspect of what you can do with YOUR phone, which to me is unacceptable.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Link Flag
Verizon likes to nickel and dime, but article slightly misleading
Verizon has a great network, technically, but the corporation's actions can be pretty sleazy. When I signed up with them, I had to hold my nose to do it. They love to nickel and dime you for everything they possibly can. I put up with it because their reception is the best in my area, but I dont buy any 'extras' from them, and I sure as heck wont ever bring my phone in for an 'upgrade'.

That being said, the article was slightly misleading. You'll still be able to play your own music - something the article should have mentioned right up front. It's specifically the mp3 format that cant be played. I dont quite get why that is as the windows media player can handle mp3's...so it must be something thats actively disabled by verizon to 'persuade' their milk cows to buy their music from them.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
$1.99 per song
I'm happy with Verizon phone service overall but I will not pay $1.99 a song. Imagine if Apple makes iPODS into phones...bye bye Verizon
Posted by ErvServer (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I thought they did...ROKR
I thought Apple already did this...

Why doesn't anyone remember all the false starts/problems Apple has given us over the years:

41% percent of all os X capable laptops needing repairs

Scratches!

Lisa!

Firewire (wat dat?)

Intel...never...PowerPC is way faste..scratch that!

The Cube.

The Newton.

Plus many other day to day issues I'm sure I don't know about since I don't even own a Apple product. If you want to buy something from Apple that will make you happy...you should have bought their stock.
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Link Flag
If Verizon "wanted simplicty", why not use MP3!...
Because they were "persuaded" by Microsoft not to support MP3
that's why.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
HACK TO PLAY MP3 After update read this
This is so shady of verizon. BUT you can still play your mp3 after the update or with new vx8100. Heres how: Press Menu, 0, 000000, Scroll down to #11, select enable, save. Ta da! Fixed. Screw you verizon. For more info on your vx8100 check out this fourm: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://65.254.44.186/forumdisplay.php?f=295" target="_newWindow">http://65.254.44.186/forumdisplay.php?f=295</a>
Peace
Posted by skandranon (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Question for your posting
Hey, desperately trying to figure out the deal with getting mp3's to
my phone. I saw your directions, but the thirs step (option 11),
mine stops at 10. Was this a typo, or was I missing it...

Thanks
Posted by fatmankane (1 comment )
Link Flag
 

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