iPod-Like Cellphone Music Still Evolving

Carriers' profits said to be a crucial issue

By Peter J. Howe, Globe Staff | March 21, 2005

With more than 8 million sold last year and a popular buzz to die for, Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod has proven there's a big appetite for a portable, battery-powered, Internet-connected digital device that makes sound.

And that's drawing plenty of attention from the businesses behind another kind of portable, battery-powered, Internet-connected digital device that makes sound: cellphone companies.

The save-a-pocket logic of offering consumers iPod-like music capability built into a wireless handset seems obvious. But industry insiders warn that it could be a long wait for true iPod-rivaling devices to hit the market -- unless they come with some clear way for carriers like Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless, and Sprint PCS to get a cut of the profits.

Sprint this month began offering a $280 Sanyo MM-5600 camera phone with enough memory to store about one hour's worth of MP3-format music. For another $75, Sprint subscribers can buy a 512-megabyte memory disk for the phone that can store roughly 400 songs, a far cry from the 5,000 that can be stored on the $300 iPod. Sprint customers buying the Sanyo device get a cable to transfer songs from their computer into the phone, which also comes with stereo earphones.

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications is also rolling out a line of music-playing cellphones this year that sport the Sony Walkman name, which dates back to the original portable music players of the late


But a more ambitious effort by phone maker Motorola Inc. has apparently been slowed down. This month, Motorola was set to unveil at a big industry trade show in Hanover, Germany, a phone that downloads music from Apple's iTunes service. Trade reporters had been briefed on the phone's capabilities just days before Motorola canceled the announcement.

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