Handset firms bet big on music phones in India
Mobile phones are set to hit the MP3 player segment.
Handset manufacturers such as Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and Samsung have launched a slew of mobile phones in India over the last few weeks, giving MP3 players stiff competition.
For instance, the Nokia N91 with 4 GB memory allows users to store up to 3,000 music tracks. The new range of Walkman phones from Sony Ericsson - the W810i, the sleek W700i and the first clamshell Walkman phone, the W300i - are wooing music lovers.
Mr Sudhin Mathur, General Manager, Sony Ericsson India, said: "These phones will revolutionise the music listening experience by redefining the way people listen and enjoy music. We are optimistic that mobile music will now touch a greater part of the lives of our consumers."
Then there is the Samsung SGH i310 (to be launched in India), with an 8 GB hard disk embedded and a Bluetooth-enabled stereo.
When compared to standalone MP3 players, music mobile phones allow users to also download music from the Web even while on the move.
The other advantage is that the mobile handsets support a variety of digital music standards like .wav, midi, .wma, apart from MP3.
Apart from offering music-oriented functions, there are other capabilities like video recording, digital photography, e-mail services, and Internet browsing - all on the same device.
Pointing to this global trend, analyst ABI Research says: "Mobile phones offering generous data storage, enabled by small hard drives with ever-greater capacities, may soon allow the cellular handset to rival or surpass the portable MP3 player as the mass market mobile music device of choice. What's important to many users is having one device that handles mobile music as well as the other functions."
However, portable MP3 players still lead in their memory capabilities: high-end devices can hold as much as 30-60 GB. But researchers at ABI believe that there is a point of diminishing return, beyond which a user doesn't care whether the device can store 2,000 songs or 7,500.
"MP3 player vendors may try to defend themselves by offering even greater disk space, but over time they may still lose market share," says ABI.
Additionally, Airtel is setting up music stores of its own where subscribers can walk in and download songs on the handset.
According to the Cellular Operators' Association of India, the size of the mobile music industry is set to grow from $115 million to $170 million by the end of this year, exceeding revenues of the conventional music industry like CDs and audio cassettes by about $5 million. Surely digital music is rocking on mobile handsets.