Vodafone has announced a few days ago that it will convert all its downloadable music tracks to MP3 format, essentially abandoning digital rights management; is it already too little too late though?
Unlike say, Nokia Comes With Music, Vodafone outsources its music service to a third party, RealNetworks, which means that it is dependent on Realnetworks' Rhapsody online music service.
This adds yet another unnecessary layer as Vodafone online music revenues go to Realnetworks and to the music labels. It is not therefore surprising that at 99p, Vodafone music tracks cost more than iTunes (79p), 7digital (79p) or Play.com (65p).
Oddly enough, you cannot purchase tracks from the Rhapsody MP3 store if you are outside the United States, which means that Real networks has adopted a "wholesale" strategy when it comes to Non US Markets.
Sure, Vodafone allows you to buy 15 tracks for £7.50 per month but then, it would probably make better sense to grab Vodafone's own Musicstation which allows you to download unlimited music tracks (from 2.2 million tracks) onto your mobile from £1.95 per week.
At £101.40, it is 12 percent more expensive than having to buy 180 tracks over a year (at £90) and doesn't allow you to transfer the downloaded songs to other mobiles and you will lose the ability to listen to your artists, albums and tracks forever. Musicstation is still DRM protected.
We can't discount the fact that Vodafone is cheaper than music service offered by the other mobile network operators: O2 has partnered with Napster to offer tracks for 99p, the same price songs are sold at Orange. T-Mobile offers songs for £1 and Three has them for £1.49.
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But other mobile network companies are not Vodafone's true competitors when it come to mobile music services. Nokia Xpressmusic Series which offers the innovative Comes with Music service which allows you to download and keep thousands of songs for around £80 per annum and HTC's G1 Android which integrates Amazon's MP3 download store are two examples of mobile phone manufacturers taking the onus of rolling out competitive iTunes beating services.
Ironically, Vodafone has stripped the Nokia 5800 of its Xpressmusic status, canning what is essentially one of its most compelling features, in theory because Xpressmusic would have outshone its own online music service.