MMW-29 -- Latest Ringtone Developments in Asia and the US

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

Issue No. 29
Wednesday, August 7, 2002



++ FEATURE: Latest Ringtone Developments in Asia and the US

- New Panel-Shaped Speakers for Mobile Devices
- TI Announces Audio Power Amp for Phones
- Pressplay Moves to Unlimited Downloads

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++ FEATURE: Latest Ringtone Developments in Asia and the US

Recall from our feature a few weeks ago that many Japanese ringtone
production houses and freelance creators are seeing a sharp rise in
orders for 3- and 4-voice ringtone production, despite the fact that
3- and 4-voice phones are all but obsolete here. As we pointed out,
many of these ringtones are headed for content providers in Spain and
other European countries.

In recent weeks, 4-voice orders are also picking up for ringtone
services in Asia -- Taiwan, Hong Kong and Shanghai in particular.
Despite the fact that single-voice ringtones still make up 85 percent
of all ringtones offered in Asia (the remainder being 10 percent for
4-voice and 5 percent for 16-voice), it appears that 4-voice phones
are quickly gaining ground, and much of the initial 4-voice content
being exported from Japan is, not surprisingly, J-Pop.

This is not exactly welcome news to ringtone creators, however, who
would just as soon have other Asian regions skip the whole 4-voice
"transition phase" and move straight to 16-voice. Despite the smaller
number of parts, it is often a lot more work to create 4-voice
ringtones due to difficulties in arranging as well as instrument and
pitch range restrictions on the phones. In addition, most of the best
freelance ringtone creators here have become quite used to working
with 16 voices and have more of that work than they can handle for the
large Japanese providers.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Kyoto-based Faith has
wasted no time in bringing 16-voice polyphony to American shores.
Shortly after establishing its US subsidiary in May, the company
announced a partnership with Verizon Wireless to offer a 16-voice
ringtone download service for Verizon's Z-800 handset. And while
nothing has been publicly announced yet, at least one other major
Japanese player in ringtone technology is also rumored to be on the
move in the States and could also team with Verizon to offer a
completely separate ringtone service.

As with the Asian market, polyphonic ringtones are still something of
a novelty in the US, though this could change quickly in the coming
months. Yamaha, Rohm, Beatnik and others have been busy peddling their
respective technologies for mobile sound to manufacturers of handsets
for the US market. At this point, it appears likely that the same MFi,
CMX and SMAF formats prevalent in Japan will all be put to use in some
form or another in the US as well.

And of course, Japanese companies will likely provide much of the
hardware used for sound generation on the US phones. If the pattern
presently unfolding in Europe and Asia is any indication, we can
expect to see Yamaha and Rohm battling for the mobile sound chip
market in the US, resulting in a massive shift from single-voice to 4-
and 16-voice ringtones. As we've seen in Japan and elsewhere, often
all it takes is for one phone manufacturer to tout the superior sound
quality of its 16-voice model and the other handset makers will
quickly follow suit.

-- Steve Myers

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** New Panel-Shaped Speakers for Mobile Devices

In brief: Matsushita Electronic Components Co. and Matsushita
Electronic Industrial Co. have announced the development of
panel-shaped speakers for mobile phones and PDAs. The new speakers
will allow makers of mobile devices to integrate the speaker component
with and LCD protection panel, thereby allowing the emission of sound
from the entire screen.


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** TI Announces Audio Power Amp for Phones

In brief: Texas Instruments Inc. is set to begin shipments of a 1.1W mono
filter-free class-D audio power amplifier, called TPA2005D1, for mobile
phones and PDAs. TI said the new mobile amp was developed in response to
demand for power-efficient audio amplifiers that do not drain the batteries
of mobile devices.


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** Pressplay Moves to Unlimited Downloads

In brief: Last week, Pressplay announced that it would begin offering
users flat-rate unlimited access to its song catalog for a fixed
period. The company, a joint effort between Sony and Vivendi
Universal, is the first subscription service backed by major record
labels to offer an unlimited download plan for users. Up until now,
Pressplay has charged $14.95 a month for just 50 downloaded songs and
500 streams, a model which has been heavily criticized by consumers
and analysts.


SUBSCRIBERS: 894 as of August 7, 2002

Written by: Steve Myers (
Steve Myers heads the Theta Group at Layer-8 Technologies,
which specializes in the development of music-related
software applications.

Edited by J@pan Inc editors: (


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