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RealTime IT News

Is Music the Killer Wireless App?

Wireless phone makers and wireless carriers are still groping for the killer app that will make the market snap up Web-enabled phones. At least two phone makers are predicting that versatility and music apps are the levers they need.

In the U.S. market, the first mover is Samsung Telecommunications America (STA), which together with Sprint PCS Wednesday launched the Samsung Uproar, a wireless digital phone with built-in MP3 player. Uproar also packs in a Web browser and e-mail capability (using Phone.com's UP Browser 3.1), Short Message Service, voice-activated dialing, bilingual capabilities, and PDA-like features including a built-in organizer.

"Consumers with hectic work schedules and busy social lives want a single electronic device that serves multiple purposes," said Peter Skarzynski, senior vice president of sales and marketing for wireless terminals, STA. "With its downloadable music capabilities built directly into the handset, the Uproar fuses the industry's most advanced technology to create the ultimate wireless accessory."

The phone's MP3 player downloads files from a user's computer, and can store about 64 megabytes of data, which Samsung said translates into about 20 songs. The phone, with a price of $399, comes with a headset remote and will be available nationwide at local Sprint stores and other retailers in the Sprint PCS nationwide wireless network.

For Sprint the phone -- which does not have the ability to stream or directly download MP3's from the Internet -- may be more of a stake in the emerging market than a real push. But Sprint's deal with private-labeled digital music network provider HitHive Inc., also announced Wednesday, is an indication that Sprint has further plans for wireless MP3 as bandwidth barriers fall. Sprint and HitHive agreed to a long-term partnership which will provide the wireless carrier with a digital music service called Sprint PCS My Music. The service will give Sprint customers the ability to create, store, organize and manage their digital music collections online in an online "storage locker," similar to those created by Musicbank and MP3.com.

Sprint's strategy is to drive users to its music service by requiring those who want to download music to their phones to use its custom software or its storage locker.

Across the pond, Ericsson is also forecasting a future for music and wireless phones. On Tuesday the company simultaneously launched its GMS-based T20 phone in London, Stockholm, Helsinki, Athens and Moscow. The phone, targeted at younger consumers, does not have a built-in MP3 player. Instead the company is banking on versatility by allowing users to attach either the Ericsson FM radio or the Ericsson MP3-player. The T20 also comes with a WAP 1.1 browser, WAP Mobile chat and Mobile e-card applications from Mgage Systems, as well as SMS functionality.

As a further play towards the young, trend setting crowd, the T20 features Swatch Internet time, which divides days into 1,000 beats which remain the same globally, irrespective of time zones. It also comes in a range of colors.

"The T20 is the result of Ericsson listening to young consumers," said Jan Ahrenbring, vice president, Marketing and Communications, Ericsson. "Communication, personal expression, music, the Internet and fashion are all important aspects of their lives and all that is represented in the charming T20, which serves as a promise that Ericsson will deliver the most innovative products for young consumers."