Making music with mobile

With improving handsets and increasing demand, there is a bright future for mobile music, according to Juniper Research.

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By  Windsor Holden Published  April 17, 2008

With improving handsets and increasing demand, there is a bright future for mobile music, according to Juniper Research.

For several years, music has been the main driver in mobile entertainment. Ringtones were the first mobile entertainment service to achieve mass adoption, while the introduction of realtones and ringback tones provided further impetus to the market.

Now, with an increasing number of mobile handsets boasting on-board memory in excess of 1GB, and with networks able to deliver data at high speed, and operators beginning to lower data costs, mobile users are downloading full, original recordings in ever greater numbers.

Mobile music can have a number of meanings. In this report, is about portable, personal music consumed on devices that are also mobile phones.

It does not cover mobile music consumed via mobile devices, which are not capable of connection to wireless networks. It is also about mobile phone personalisation products that use music content.

The report also reflects the growing interest in subscription-based music services, such as SK Telecom's MeION and Vodafone's Music Station, wherein consumers effectively rent music rather than own the tracks outright. The categories of mobile music covered in the forecasts are:

• Ringtones (encompassing monophonic, polyphonic, realtones, video ringtones and karaoke ringtones);

• Ringback Tones (of all types);

• Paid-for Full Track (OTA) Music Downloads; and

• Subscription-based rental services and streamed radio.

While mobile music services are potentially lucrative, there are a number of hurdles which must be overcome before such services can either be deployed, or, once deployed, be delivered in such a way so as to maximise their revenue-earning potential. The following table lists a number of the more problematic hurdles, ranging from social and cultural issues to technological difficulties.

There are several challenges involving the user interface including difficulties in: discovering services and content; accessing services and content; navigating services and content, and utilising multiple applications simultaneously.

Handset form, capacity and battery life also present challenges. The capabilities of the mobile handset are clearly important with regards to music, from a number of perspectives:

• Form factor - the handset must enhance the music experience.

• Capacity - the handset must have enough memory to store a number of tracks.

• Battery Life - Rich media applications impose greater demands on handset batteries.

The key concern over form factor is marrying the various needs of mobile users without comprising the core functionalities of the handset, which are to make voice calls and send text messages.

Furthermore, music is merely one application competing on the handset with games, TV, internet, and so on.

Even in many developed markets, large rural areas remain without any 3G coverage, and even urban coverage can be patchy.

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