2006: Year of multimedia mobile phones

According to music chiefs, the year 2006 is going to be the year of mobile phones, and they will become an essential all-in-one device for music lovers.

2006 will see mobiles evolving into complete multimedia devices. Apart from making occasional calls on the go, the future mobiles will be capable of downloading latest music hits and videos, watching TV, taking photos and listening to radio.

As there are more 1.5 billion users of mobile phones, this development has been music to the ears of the top music industry executives as was evident at the MIDEM music trade fair which opened on Sunday and was held at the Riviera resort.

The music industry has high hopes from the ever growing digital music market, especially with mobile phones, and expects it to help them come out of the red caused in part by the huge physical and online music piracy that is still widespread worldwide.

Speaking on the occasion Ralph Simon, Head of Americas branch of the Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF), said, “It’s a new world that could transform the music industry in the coming years.”

According to him mobile phones are the world’s single biggest electronic consumer item, and accounted for 40% of the $1.1 billion in revenue made from digital music last year. A study by IFPI has shown that now, one in five of all mobile phone users listen to music on their phones.

Very soon users of mobile phones will be confused as to which phone to pick. Sony Ericsson was the first to race ahead of the pack last year by launching its Walkman series of music phones. Other manufacturers haven’t been behind in this race though, and many multimedia-camera mobiles with added music features are hitting the market including some from Motorola.

But the ones to watch out for are the new N series of multimedia phones recently launched by Nokia. The top model in this series, the N91, can hold up to 3,000 songs, enough to cover an avid music fan’s favorite collection when it hits the market in the next few months.

According to industry experts, radio will become a common feature on mobile phones, although not all mobile phone operators are favoring the all-in-one device.

Patricia Legrand, senior executive of France Telecom says her group doesn’t believe in forcing consumers to do everything on one device.

One of the few features left to be featured in cell phones has already appeared in the Japanese market, the wallet phone.

Takeshi Natsuno of Japan’s NTT DoCoMo told MIDEM participants that some 10 million Japanese are already using mobiles that include an in-built credit card feature that allows the phone to become a wallet that can be used for online purchases.


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