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Last Updated: Friday, 25 February, 2005, 17:38 GMT
Mobiles aim for music downloads
Richard Taylor
By Richard Taylor
Editor, BBC Click Online

Advances in mobile hardware technology are useful, but their potential can only fully be unleashed when there are compelling services to support them. Richard Taylor looks at some of the new ideas on offer.

Updating a photo on a contact's mobile phone
If you change your picture, for example, a few seconds later it will automatically be updated on your contacts' mobiles

We have come to expect so much from our mobiles.

These days simply talking to someone is passť, and expectations for new offerings are very high.

David Peterschmidt from Openwave says: "I think 2005 is going to be one of the more exciting years for the consumer and for the user of the phone."

Some of the new services this year are extensions of existing ones, like "push" email, which means we are automatically notified when a new message arrives in our mobile's inbox.

And, in another parallel of the way our phone is apeing the evolution of the PC, instant messaging is also in for a makeover.

With features called "presence", you can see which of your contacts are online and who is unavailable.

Another nice feature means you can update your own information.

So if you change your picture, for example, a few seconds later it will automatically be updated on your contacts' mobiles.

Mobile GPS

A mobile phone with built in GPS
GPS systems are being integrated into mobile phones
Satellite navigation has been with us for some time, but now finding your way around planet Earth has become even easier.

Many phones are now sophisticated enough to house GPS software, which you simply connect to the receiver using a wireless Bluetooth connection.

In a taste of things to come, there are even one or two with built-in receivers. It is not hard to see the advantages.

Dan Popkins from ALK Co-Pilot says: "Because mobile data is so ingrained into the mobile phone technology, we take advantage of that through the navigation systems to deliver value-added services on top of navigation.

"Real time traffic, for example vehicle tracking, the ability to send dynamic, intelligent messages to someone while they're driving, for example sending new destinations which, if accepted, will route the vehicle accordingly."

Getting behind the wheel means something different for the younger generation, but mobile gaming is also gearing up for another exciting year.

With the kind of hardware BBC Click Online reporter Dan Simmons has been seeing, it is no surprise that games are going from strength to strength.

Greg Ballard, from Sorrent Games, says: "The games that work best on a mobile right now are simple games, easy to pick up, easy to get into, easy to understand how to play. I think it will be that way for sometime.

"But as the users get more sophisticated I think you'll start seeing more and more complicated games that will do better and better."

Mobile music

The world of 3G opens up the possibility of video and even live TV.

There are also some innovative ways of using the capabilities of video, like video voicemail, which mean you can either have a cute avatar greeting callers or leave your own personalised video message.

iPod Minis
The debate over mobile music versus MP3 players is far from over
So some better games, more productive communications tools and generally a bit more fun are coming our way over the course of the coming year.

But there is a whole new category of services which is getting the execs really excited: music.

Downloading music onto your mobile is, they say, set to be the killer application.

New phones sport music players, ready to take advantage of the new content offerings.

There are some progressive ideas too, to fully utilise the mobile experience.

One service, for example, rewards you with free downloads if you send previews of your downloaded music to friends. The guys behind the new genre reckon we will not be able to resist.

Duncan Ledwith from Melodio says: "When you leave your house in the morning, there are three things you're going to take with you - phone, car keys, wallet. Also, there are far more mobile phones in the world than PCs right now, and that number is expanding.

"What that means is that making music downloadable to your phone makes it more available to more people, it expands the market. We can all argue about the kind of music we love but you probably wouldn't disagree that everyone loves music."

Thing is, there is already competition in the form of the hottest gadget in town, the standalone personal MP3 player.

So some pundits are already pouring cold water on the idea of mobile music, for several reasons.

Thomas Husson from Jupiter Research says: "The first one is the battery life, which is roughly three hours on a mobile phone versus six to twenty hours on an MP3 player.

"The second reason is the sound quality, which is lower on a mobile phone than on an MP3 player.

"The third reason is storage capacity, which is currently 32 to 128 MB versus roughly 20GB on an MP3 player."

It will be interesting to see which of the new services succeed, and which fail to live up to their promise.

There is one service I know will go down a treat: reliable voice calls.

It is a wonderful irony that we are at the biggest mobile phone get-together on earth, there is lots of talk about the new services, and yet many people here are struggling to get a signal.

Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0730 . Also BBC World.

Mobile handsets get power of a PC
25 Feb 05 |  Click Online


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