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Music-enabled mobile phones gain in popularity January 10, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Mobile Telecoms.

In the U.S., 23.5 million wireless customers own wireless phones equipped with a built-in music player, according to Telephia, which calculates that, in the third quarter of 2006, close to 20% of all new phones purchased were music phones. Most users still opt to grab music files from their PC to load onto their phones, rather than use over-the-air technology.

According to recently published research from Telephia, there are now 23.5 million mobile subscribers in the USA who have phones with integrated music players. The number of consumers with music-enabled phones is up five times from the same period in 2005 and nearly 20 percent of the new phones purchased in Q3 2006 were music capable.

Many of these subscribers report loading music on to their phones via their PC, but only a small number have actually downloaded music over the air (OTA) from a wireless carrier music store. In Q3 2006, a little over two million subscribers, about 8.5 percent of those with capable phones, reported any purchases of music via OTA downloads.

“It is still early days in the market for OTA music purchasing and carriers are experimenting with pricing models and working to improve the user experience,” said Kevin Burden, Senior Manager � Mobile Devices, Telephia. “Clearly, the ability to facilitate impulse music purchasing will allow the wireless music stores to capture some portion of the larger digital music market – the only question is how big a piece they will get.”

Mobile phones with integrated music players have been in the U.S. market for more than two years and have gone through substantial improvements in memory capacity, file format capability and sound quality. Nearly all of the major device manufacturers are featuring music-capable phones as an important part of their current product portfolios. The LG Chocolate (VX8500) has been one of the most heavily promoted music phones, but the five most popular models among recent purchasers are the Motorola RAZR (V3m and V3i), Motorola E815, LG VX8100, and Sony Ericsson Z525.

Mobile operators have launched their music stores much more recently and OTA purchasing is still not available on all the major carriers. Sprint was the first major U.S. operator to launch its music store in October 2005, followed quickly by Verizon Wireless in January 2006. Subscribers on these carrier networks represent the majority of the two million OTA downloaders. Music phones and OTA music stores were the focus of much of the advertising spend from carriers during the holiday season. Of the more than $3.5 billion of carrier advertising dollars that was spent in 2006, $234.3 million or 6.7 percent, promoted music phones and music download services.

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