in Mobile Phones, Music

What I want from a Music Phone

Michael Gartenberg, a JupiterResearch VP & Research Director, has recently published a very interesting post titled “How to make a music phone good enough to use”.

This is an interesting subject to explore.

The main points raised in the post are:

  1. Real headphone jack.
  2. Workable UI.
  3. Seamless sync with WMP or iTunes.
  4. At least 8 Gb of flash.
  5. 8 hours playback + 6 hours of talk time.

I would like to add some personal considerations on these five items and add a few ones.

  • Real headphone jack.

I completely agree on this. If you are going to use your phone as a music phone you may want to use high quality headphone from some of the major vendors (e.g. Shure, Sennheiser). Anyway I think that you will need to consider that if you will use such headphone you will not be able to use your phone hands free since these kind of headphones do not have a microphone. This will have an impact on user experience. You will have two options: you can carry with you another piece of hardware for your hands free operation or you will have to use the phone microphone in some uncomfortable way. The other thing that need to be considered is that adding a standard headphone jack to an handset will have an impact on the phone size, weight, protection from external agents (e.g. dust, water splashes, etc) and, at the end of the day, on cost.

  • Workable UI.

This is one of the major issues that a phone vendor should take in account. Most of the default music player on current phones have a messy user interface which leads to a very bad user experience. Even if your application come from a third party vendor it’s not sure you will have the best user experience in the world. In this area the reference point is the iPod user interface. My personal opinion is that anything different would be a complication for the end user. I think that in this particular area we are suffering some effects from market dynamics. The operator wants new handsets on the market at a very fast pace. This means that phone vendors have to concentrate on making the phone work from a radio standpoint. This leave very little space for (good) user application development. Most of the time you will get a standard implementation from the provider of the phone Operating System.

  • Seamless sync to WMP or iTunes.

This is really imperative. As a music enthusiast I may have my music coming from my own CDs, online music store and operator music store. I want all of this music available on all of my devices (phone and personal computer).

  • At least 8 Gb of flash.

I do not completely agree on this. Flash memory is getting cheaper and cheaper but will definitively have an impact on the phone cost. Since I’m using a music phone I would prefer to have my music sitting somewhere in the operator on-line storage and I want to stream my music anytime, anywhere. Probably the italian market in which I live is a little bit better in terms of uniform coverage compare to the more fragmented US market but I think this is the best option for a music phone. Obviously you will need to have a good data rate for streaming and a dedicated data plan to make this a good scenario.

  • 8 hours playback + 6 hours talk time.

Well, I think that in the near future this will be hard. My own iPod nano does not make three hours of playback (yes, I’ve charged it lot of times). This is the best use scenario I could request from a phone vendor but today I cannot imagine any vendor that will be able to comply to this request, at least if you don’t want to carry the phone battery in your backpack.

Apart from these comments on Michael post I would like to add something that I would really have from a music phone.

  • Over The Air purchase of songs. I really like this even if there are some caveats. I am willing to purchase songs from the operator if

    I have a huge catalog of artists and songs.
    They support a super-distribution DRM model allowing me to play my purchased songs on my phone and on my personal computer.

  • Store my songs on the operator network or my home personal computer and stream them on demand. (e.g. Orb)
  • If I hold my songs on the handset and my handset fails I want to be able to restore all of my purchased songs for free. Many DRM models used today by operators will generate licenses tied to a single phone. If that phone crashes all your songs are gone for good.
  • I want the music store embedded in the media player. I do no want to jump back and forth from the operator web/wap portal to the phone media player.
  • I would like to manage my playlist from my personal computer and not from the phone. This feature, together with network storage, will be very easy to implement. If you have ever tried to create a playlist on a phone you know what I mean.
  • I want to share my playlist with my friends.
  • I want to listen to podcasts.

The original post from Michael Gartenberg can be found here.

Why do I blog this ?

I think that the music phone arena is growing rapidly and represent a perfect arena for innovation. Actually this is the first real post of .dust and I thought that the subject was perfect for a good start.

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  1. Wow thats a lot for a music phone, at least for now and the country I am from. Even then, UI improvement seems to be a must as its a major flaw of almost every music phones today. I am looking forward to Sony Ericsson Idou – a walkman phone with a 12mp camera (y)

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