Development of Non-karaoke Mobile Music Is Slow but Under Way

Back to Contents of Issue: April 2003

We all know that karaoke applications are big in Japan, but what about non-karaoke mobile music software?

by Steve Myers

The first thing we noticed about non-karaoke music software for the 504i handsets is that there is relatively little of it. While many different kinds of musical games, jukebox players and educational software appeared for the 503i phones over the last two years, only a small fraction of these have been adapted for the 504i models. Furthermore, the applications that have been adapted do not seem to be much different from the 503i versions, despite the fact that the 504i phones are capable of so much more.

This came as a bit of a surprise at first, especially after seeing the cutting-edge features employed on the 504i versions. After talking to some of the developers and others responsible for these applications, however, it began to make a little more sense. It seems that most of the ringtone providers offering i-appli software have had their hands full -- first with trying to support all of the different models, then with re-writing from scratch (due to differences in the Java API) versions of their programs for J-Sky and ezplus.

So what can you find in the way of music software for the 504i phones? In addition to the karaoke programs, trial-listening applis for ringtones (shichou appli) are quite common and can be found on just about all of the major ringtone sites. Yamaha has also released an expanded 504i version of the "Mobile Jakajan" appli for teaching the guitar parts to popular songs. The expanded versions contain a search feature as well as a guitar tuner. Finally, XING has come out with a jazzed-up version of its "Be Mani" (short for Beat Mania) application, a highly addictive and popular game in which players must tap out distinctive rhythm hooks in time with their favorite songs.

Most of the other major ringtone providers, however, seem content with simply making their karaoke and trial-listening programs work on the 504i phones. Granted, this is no small task, but it is nonetheless disappointing that the advanced capabilities of the recent models have not been more fully utilized by these companies. One provider assured us, however, that more exciting applications are currently in the works for not only the 504i models, but also the 505i handsets, which are due to start appearing in May. DoCoMo has begun sending out Java API and handset spec information for the 505i to the larger providers, and it appears the brainstorming sessions for new applications are well under way.

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