Music on your phone

M:Metrics has just made a new press release with some juicy data about mobile phones and the use of these devices as music players: MOBILE MUSIC USAGE IS CLIMBING, BUT NOT ALL MUSICPHONES ARE CREATED EQUAL.

I’m particularly happy about this press release because while I’m not an expert analyst, I was actually involved in the creation of this press release. My contribution was needed because of the issue of identifying the devices that should actually be part of this analysis. We hear every day about music phones, feature phones, smart phones, etc, but what are they? Which are the detailed features or characteristics that make up a music phone?

Internally we discussed a lot about this and everyone provided his own view. The devices taken into account in this analysis are the result of our internal discussion.

Sometimes it is really hard to build a list of devices defining a set of rules. When you first define these rules you will end up including some device that you did not want or miss one that you wanted to be part of the list. An example is the Motorola V3, it can play MP3’s, it can be connected to the PC and you can sideload songs from your computer and you have a tiny music player, but does this make it a music phone? In my opinion it does not. The music player is slow and ugly. You can’t build playlists, you can move to the next or previous song, but you have to go back to the main list. It has a lot of memory, but doesn’t really compare to the 2-4GB of an iPod Nano, it’s nearer to the first versions of the iPod shuffle.
Compared to the Sony Ericsson W810i, the V3 is nothing when you compare music-features.

So what is the difference? When does a mobile phone (that was born as an apparatus to make and receive calls while on the move) turn into a device to also play music? Is it the little walkman button that make it an iPod competitor?
Should we talk about Music-optimized? Music-optimized it means that it had all those features that you would expect from an MP3 player, the appropriate keys to start and stop music, to skip to the next song and then all the interface and features to build a playlist, to see the available songs in an easy and quick manner.

It is all very interesting, because of course the fragmentation that exists in the mobile space makes it really hard to define a single rule that will match all these requirements. Is the iPhone part of this family? It doesn’t really have a key that you can press to start music. Is a blackberry a music-optimized device simply because I could use the rocker to move to the next songs with an appropriate software installed?

Very interesting discussion and collecting very different points of you. If you have your own opinion of what a music-phone and a music-optimized phone is, please let me know.

Flash Lite as a theme on the phone

It all started from a Google Alerts, I found a post about a small DB like WURFL, but specific for Flash Lite, the author called it “Flash Lite UAProfile“. From there I got on a blog that linked to a video on YouTube, of course, that shows how you can use Flash Lite to personalize your mobile phone. Flash Lite is used to make the animations and I have to say that while I generally stick to the default themes on the phone, these are really interesting. Simple animations that can make your phone a little bit more “alive”.

NOTICE: While the database has ‘UAProfile’ in the name it’s not a UAProf; while the author names WURFL, it’s not compatible with WURFL.

If you are a content provider you should start considering a bit more the Themes topic. Themes have been available on mobile phones for a long time, but not many content providers sell them. It’s because all the phones user their own standard, all the phones have a different screen size and probably don’t seem so attractive as ringtones.
I can understand that today, with the integrated cameras, most users prefer to take a picture and use it as a wallpaper, but they can’t make animations and of course can’t make a theme out of an image. This is a good example of something else that can be done to make a mobile phone unique.

OTA Firmware upgrade

I have always loved to have the most recent software version of everything.
I always check for updates and install the very latest betas. Sometimes is good, sometimes is not, if they are Beta there must be a reason!

I have to say that as a mobile phone fan I have always been a bit upset about the inability to update my phone or actually change the firmware version. For testing it is sometimes useful to be able to jump to a different firmware version.

I remember when Siemens first provided firmware upgrade softwares from their sites. It was the series 45 and a number of sites appeared with hacked upload softwares that let you change the firmware version and sometimes enable some debug features. It was a great time! I remember testing different versions, browsing sites to know the changelog and so on.

Siemens has been the only one to offer that service for quite some time and they actually removed it in subsequent families of devices.
Siemens was probably the only one that let you upgrade your firmware without wiping all your software. Nokia is famous for deleting all your contacts and calendars and settings when upgrading the firmware. Once it was not possible or very hard to keep the contacts syncronized with your computer and losing all of them would mean wasting a few hours to copy on paper and then insert in the new software version (not to mention possible mistakes!).

A few days ago I was browsing the Benq-Siemens site and discovered that they are supporting what they call S.O.A., an acronym for Software Over the Air.
On their website there’s a flash, you pick your phone and then you can download the software on your PC or directly on your phone, depends on the model.
This is GREAT! I WANT one.

Special thanks to Erik for a nice gift he sent me these days. In fact I just received a shiny new SE W810i!
To my surprise I discovered, while playing with it, that SonyEricsson offers the firmware upgrade too. You need to specify a connection profile, of course, it checks the central server and notifies you that a new firmware version is available. You are then allowed to download and install or postpone. In my case it was 1.4MB!
I decided to do with a USB cable actually, because I wanted to force the update for Italy instead of Norway. I still need to work on it, but I’m going to make it work. 😀

I wonder when will Nokia make it.