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Another Shot at a Music Phone

About a year ago, news outlets were reporting that cell phones would kill the iPod. That doesn't seem to be true yet. To date, most people I talk to say music on the phone gets second billing to their MP3 players. Several phones, such as the ROKR, tried to approximate the iPod but haven't received great reviews. I have an LG phone that has Verizon Wireless's VCast on it, but it's still not on equal footing with my iPod or iPod Shuffle.

We'll see if this changes things: Cingular Wireless last week announced it is offering an XM Satellite subscription on some of its newest phones, which stream music (over the air, over the Internet--not actually over a satellite) for $8.99 a month.

There will be five phone models with the service, all of which should be out by the end of the year. For the monthly fee, you get access to 25 channels of music in categories like "80s music" and Jazz/Blues, and Hip Hop. (There is no combo deal; even if you already subscribe to XM, you have to pay the full $8.99 for the cellular service.)

If you don't subscribe to the service, the phones come with a memory card slot so it works as an MP3 player, and it also allows users to transfer music files from Yahoo, Napster and eMusic, so you can carry around your playlists. (The phones do not, however, work with iTunes.) Battery life, I'm told, will take you through at least 5 or 6 hours of continuous music play. The sound quality is also decent, and unlike the portable satellite music players, you don't have to have a line of sight to the satellite for it to work.

By Yuki Noguchi  |  November 7, 2006; 3:13 PM ET  | Category:  Yuki Noguchi
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So, $8.99 for a service that plays what I can already hear on my XM radio or computer? And that does so at the expense of my phone's ability to receive calls (if I'm on the internet getting XM, I can't receive calls, right?)

Nope. Sorry. Going to hold out for a well-designed iTunes-compatible phone. And even then, it will also have to do everything my Treo 650 did (and that my 700w might do if my IT department can get its act together). The truth is that I don't mind carrying multiple devices if they all work well, especially if the combos won't do what I need. When will the manufacturers figure this out???

Posted by: PJ Geraghty | November 8, 2006 12:26 AM

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