MMW-77 -- Sony's New 'Music Phone'

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on Japan's music technology news

Issue No. 77
Thursday, May 12, 2005


++ FEATURE: Sony's New 'Music Phone'

** Excite Starts New Mobile Music Service
** Logitech Announces Bluetooth Transmitter for Mobile Audio
** Elecom Releases New Portable Speakers
** Columbia Music Releases Chaku-uta of University Songs
** MIB Releases New iPod Earphones
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++ FEATURE: Sony's New 'Music Phone'

Sony Ericsson's highly anticipated W31S mobile phone for
KDDI's au service was released a few weeks ago to a great
deal of fanfare from the Japanese press. Dubbed the 'Music
Phone', the W31S is the first model in Japan to combine a
digital music player, FM radio, and a full-song mobile download
service (chaku-uta full). The W31S also comes with software
(Sony's SonicStage) for ripping CDs, managing your library
and transferring digital music files from the PC to the phone.

As the various flavors of Apple's iPod continue to sell strongly
here, comparisons with the Sony Ericsson phone are inevitable.
The W31S represents the current state-of-the-art for downloadable
mobile music in Japan, and people are naturally prone to wonder
what the iPod has that this phone doesn't. We've culled some
of the recent 'iPod vs. W31S' articles to present this basic

1. Storage
iPod: Up to 40GB hard drive (roughly 10,000 songs in MP3 format)
W31S: 128MB memory stick (roughly 80 songs in AAC format)

2. Supported File Formats
iPod: MP3, AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless, WAV

3. Direct Downloads to Device
iPod: None
W31S: Chaku-uta Full (about JPY315 (US$3.00 per song)

4. Transfer songs from PC to device
iPod: Yes
W31S: Yes (ATRAC-3 files only)

There are, of course, other issues relating to user interface
issues, playlist functionality, etc., but these are the four key
points of difference and the biggest by far is still the issue
of storage space.

In general, Japanese music enthusiasts who want most or
all of their music collection with them wherever they go are
likely to opt for an iPod or other digital music player. The
iPod is also attracting those who have discovered and actively
use online music download services (legal or otherwise).

Those who just want a few of the latest hit songs without the
hassle of PC downloads or ripping their CDs, however, are
going to be more inclined to buy the W31S and use it as their
music player. So far, a surprisingly high number of Japanese
consumers have shown they are willing to pay $3.00 for the
convenience of a single song downloaded straight to the phone.

Interestingly, the biggest gap between the phone and the iPod
(storage space) will probably also be the quickest to narrow as
phones equipped with hard drives start to appear on the market.
Now that the W31S has made it possible to transfer other music
from your PC to the phone (provided you are willing to convert
everything to ATRAC-3 first), the biggest drawback to using the
phone as a music player is the limited storage capacity.

Once it becomes possible to store thousands of songs on your
phone, the issue will be one of pricing: How much extra are
customers willing to pay for songs downloaded directly to the
device, as opposed to songs that must first be downloaded to a
PC and then transferred to the device?

See also:
iPod vs W31S feature comparison article from IT Media (in
Japanese, with photos):

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** Excite Starts New Mobile Music Service
In brief: Excite Japan started a new site for chaku-uta and
chaku-motion called 'Excite Music' this month on DoCoMo's
i-mode menu portal. The new service features songs and
video clips from major J-Pop artists as well as music
news and interviews.

** Logitech Announces Bluetooth Transmitter for Mobile Audio
In brief: Logitech announced this week that it would
release a Bluetooth transmitter that allows music from mobile
phones and portable music players to be transmitted wirelessly
and played over a home audio system. The unit will go on sale
in Japan in mid-May.

** Elecom Releases New Portable Speakers
In brief: Osaka-based Elecom Corp. announced that in mid-May
it would begin selling a new series of portable speakers. The
PSP-CS500 series of speakers fold up into a ball small enough
to be carried around in a pocket. The Elecom speakers are being
marketed for use with mobile phones and other portable music
players. The list price is JPY 2,520 (US$24.00).

** Columbia Music Releases Chaku-uta of University Songs
In brief: Capitalizing on the "school pride" for which students
and graduates of Japan's elite universities are famous,
Columbia Music this week released chaku-uta versions of fight
songs from some of Japan's most famous schools, including
Tokyo University and Keio University. The songs are featured
on Columbia's site 'Mobile Columbia' on all three Japanese carriers.

** MIB Releases New iPod Earphones
In brief: MIB corporation recently began selling iPod earphone
units in Japan with extendable "wind-up" cables. The earphones
come with an adapter that allow two people to listen at the same time.
Subscribers: 3,965 as of May 12, 2005

Written by: Steve Myers (
Steve Myers is president and chief enthusiast of Theta
Music Technologies, which specializes in the development
of music-related software applications.

Edited by J@pan Inc editor: (


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