Free tunes with your phone!? Has Nokia revolutionised mobile music?


Buy a phone and get unlimited music downloads as part of the price? Count me in! Hang on though, are there strings attached? Oh.

Nokia’s Comes With Music initiative is a big deal for the company and its record label partners, but it’s only with the release of the 5310 XpressMusic handset that us punters get to decide if it’s a big deal for us too.

The promise is as simple as the opening sentence of this post implies. Pay £149.95 for a CWM 5310 at Carphone Warehouse, download the Nokia Music app for your PC, and unlimited music is yours for the downloading (and synching to the phone).

Good things; the simplicity and ease of use of the service. Nokia Music presents you with an iTunes-like storefront of music, with not a price in sight. You can play 30-second samples with one click and download with another. Setting up playlists is a cinch, the audio quality is good, and getting tracks onto the phone is an idiot-proof drag’n’drop process. Lovely.

Not-so-good stuff. It’s all DRM’d up to the hilt, so you can’t burn tracks to CD or put them on another device. When your 12-month contract runs out, you get to keep everything, but can only play it on your PC or a CWM phone – switch to Sony Ericsson, say, and you start from scratch.

There are some big holes in the store at the time of writing too, with no Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand or Oasis albums to be found. Nokia says it’s working on it, but if your tastes are more indiefied, caution is advised for now. Meanwhile, the 5310 itself is a basic Nokia candybar phone that won’t appeal to gadgety types.

None of these take away from the significance of what Nokia is doing with Comes With Music. This time next year, there’ll be more handsets to choose from, the holes in its catalogue will hopefully have been filled, and we’ll know more about what happens at the end of your CWM contract.

Of course, there’ll also be more alternatives. Sony Ericsson’s own PlayNow Plus service will have launched offering a similar phone+music idea. Vodafone already has an unlimited music service here in the UK – MusicStation – that you pay for with a weekly subscription.

This unlimited music thing is going to be big. But Comes With Music as it stands is just a step in that direction – it’s not the full picture.


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