Music-crammed Mobiles

Miniaturization technology continues to make MP3 players smaller. Advances in cell phone technology are developing at high speeds. Why carry around both a cell phone and a portable digital music player when you can get it all in one simple device? Imagine walking down the street listening to music, answering a call in the middle of a song and resuming the music right where you left off when the call is over. Well, you won’t have to dream for much longer.

MP3 Playing Phones

A new trend in cell phone technology combines the abilities of different media technologies into one all encompassing device. The newly released Motorola ROKR and the upcoming Nokia N91 double as digital music players and cellular phones, but that may just be the beginning.

Nokia media relations manager Camilla Gragg said the development of the integrated media device depends largely on the consumer.

“It’s a matter of providing that choice for the customer,” she said. “If you want the two integrated, you can have them but it’s not up to us to say what should happen. It’s up to the customer to tell us what they want.”

According to a Wired article, many people criticized the new Motorola ROKR. The phone only holds a maximum of 100 songs from iTunes, no matter how much memory remains on the phone.

Motorola spokeswoman Monica Rohleder defended the ROKR, saying setting a song limit would emphasize the focus of the device.

“The ROKR is a phone first,” she said. “It’s not meant to replace the iPod. Setting a limit of 100 songs seemed like a good number to facilitate the function of the device. Research shows that most people put between 60 and 100 songs on their iPods anyway.”

The Motorola ROKR, which was released in early September, is the first mobile phone that uses the iTunes application. An extended family of ROKR phones in different shapes and sizes are also currently in development, Rohleder said.

The Next Nokia

The Nokia N91, which is expected to be released during the first quarter next year, will hold more than 3,000 songs using 4 gigabytes of hard drive memory, Camilla said. The device can also store videos and images and has a built-in 2 mega pixel camera.

Boston University School of Management junior Mark Kessler questioned the clarity of the audio in a cell phone with digital music capabilities.

“The quality of sound is very important to me,” he said. “If I’m going to listen to my music, it should sound just like it would from my iPod. A player is useless that plays fuzzy music.”

Gragg said the N91 is a legitimate competitor to current MP3 players and had very clear audio quality.

“You can compare a N91 to the capabilities of a standard MP3 player,” she said. “You can store about the same number of songs and create a music playlist on the cell phone, among other things.”

Integration technology allows companies to access broader markets and leads to more technological development and new ideas, Gragg said.

“If we can work to integrate what is important about the mobile phone and portable music players, we can tap into bigger markets,” Gragg said. “You won’t need a camera, an MP3 player and a cell phone. With email capabilities, new phones could eventually replace laptops too.”

There’s a lot driving digital convergence,” she continued. “Products work together to create an awareness among people that this is a viable technology. We’re using both sides of the coin instead of two separate coins.”

Gragg said, “feedback [about the N91] that we are getting back from the industry has been very positive.”

In today’s wired world, people need to keep in touch. Cell phones are a vital accessory to keeping people connected so forgetting your phone can be costly, Gragg suggested.

“If you left your house in the morning and you left your MP3 player on the counter, would you go back and get it?” Gragg asked. “If you left your cell phone on the counter that is a different story. People will go back and get their mobile devices.”

Kessler said he was concerned about powering a cell phone with a digital music player.

“I use my cell phone to play games and I know that they take up a lot of memory,” he said. “Playing them uses up a lot of battery power too. I’m concerned that the battery life of a cell phone playing digital music won’t be able to keep it powered for very long.”

Take Your Tone

If just listening to music on your cell phone isn’t enough, new media software allows people to create their own ringtones from audio files already stored on a computer.

Richard Miles, vice president of sales and marketing for Xingtone, said the company offers software for both PCs and Macs that enables most cell phones to play personalized ring tones.

“You select a song and it is loaded,” he explained. “You can play it and listen to it and the waveform of the song appears at the bottom. Find a 12 to 15 second selection, cut it out, add effects like fading in and out and then you can send it to your phone.”

Older model cell phones that cannot play voice tones or real tones will not work with the Xingtone Ringtone Maker but Miles said that all new phones do have the necessary technology. He added that the software does not work with Verizon because the closed network limits the size of files that can be sent to a phone.

Adding character to your phone is one of the motivations for creating the software Miles said.

“The bottom line is that it’s fun,” Miles said. “A cell phone is like a wallet, keys or eyeglasses. It goes with you everywhere and ring tones express your personal taste and style.”

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