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Japanese mobile phones as iPod replacements?

Recently, a lot of Japanese mobile phones are sold as if they are iPod substitutes—that’s only true to a certain extent. It is indeed correct that you can use them for full song playback and, in case you’re an AU subscriber, also download songs via their Chaku Uta Full service. When we look at the audio formats supported however, the situation is less iPod like.

As I explained in a related entry of two weeks ago, Chaku Uta Full for instance, come in the MPEG-4 aacPlus format and, unlike iTunes downloads, they can’t really be moved around between devices, let alone you can burn them to CD. The mobile phones that support Chaku Uta Full also have no MP3 support. If you want to play your own songs on your mobile phone, you have no choice but to convert your them first to MPEG-4 aacPlus. According to this 2ch.net thread, the NeroWaveEditor payware can help with the job. Note: as Chaku Uta Full providers won’t like this very much, I can imagine future phones preventing you from uploading your own MPEG-4 aacPlus files.

The recently announced W31SA series then comes with SD-Audio support (not with MP3 support, as Gizmodo incorrectly writes). In case you want to put your own music on your mobile phone, you have to purchase the SD-Jukebox third-party software that wraps the songs in DRM, preventing you from transferring them to another computer than the one they came from.

A look at DoCoMo’s Music Porter reveals a similar setup. Format there is ATRAC3 and special software is needed for ripping CDs and transferring tracks—I don’t know about DRM here, though. OpenMG maybe?

These examples show that the current generation of Japanese mobile phones is still far from being an iPod replacement—instead, they let customers taste from the portable audio hype, while restricting the experience by means of DRM and non-standard audio formats. Curious how long it will last.

Comments on “Japanese mobile phones as iPod replacements?” (feed)

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  1. You forgot to mention Fujitsu’s F901iC. It offers compatibility with iTunes itself and, as a result, is the most open of the lot (somewhat ironically)! The compatibility with iTunes means you can use your music on other devices (PC, iPod) and the transfer process to the phone is a simple drag-and-drop to the SD memory card. The phone even connects to the PC using a standard USB cable (instead of one of those over-priced FOMA cables)! While it would be better if there were no DRM at all, implimentations such as this that offer a good user experience make the pill a bit easier to swallow.

    F901iC product page

    » Scott on February 24th, 2005 at 18:36

  2. Very interesting. Thanks, Scott!

    » Andreas on February 24th, 2005 at 19:42

  3. Another addition: the recently announced W31S seems like a crossover of Chaku Uta Full phones and DoCoMo’s Music Porter (as far as music playback/DRM goes).

    » Andreas on March 15th, 2005 at 17:48