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Don't dump that iPod just yet
Surajeet Dasgupta | October 07, 2005
With most mobile phone firms betting heavily on the renewed craze for hearing music while on the move, there's a host of new music phones in the marketplace.
Sony Ericsson was first off the block with its Walkman (W800i) mobile phones, which hit India last month and the Motorola and Apple combine has just introduced the ROKR in the US.
Nokia is all set to hit the market with music phones in the first quarter of 2006, which claim to have amazing music storage capacity. If you aren't in a desperate hurry, it may be a good idea to wait a bit.
The Walkman has no special advantages over others when it comes to the phone functions (indeed, Sony Ericsson's P910i has a much larger screen and PDA functions at around the same price), but the equation changes once you bring the music in.
The music menu is very easy to use and is virtually akin to an Ipod menu, dividing your song list into various files. So you can search for songs according to artists, tracks, playlists and also capture video in the same menu. The phone has a sophisticated equalizer, which offers you an array of choices from bass, treble boost and mega bass.
The head phones with the Walkman give a sound quality that's on a par with what the iPod offers, but the headphones of the P910i offer more clarity than even the Walkman -- pity that despite both coming from the same family, their accessories can't be used interchangeably.
The Walkman's battery is designed to provide you with 30 hours of continuous music. Other pluses of the Walkman are the ease of use, much like the iPod. An all-purpose scroll button (like the scroll wheel of the iPod) can be used for choosing the song, to stop and play a song, or moving from one song to another.
You can transfer songs from the Walkman to other Sony Ericsson phones through the infrared port, but it's painfully slow -- it took me over 45 minutes to transfer a song from the Walkman to my P 910i. A better bet is to download the easy-to-use software that comes along with the phone and use that to transfer music from CDs. I think the speed's faster than that in an iPod.
The comparison, however, stops right here. The Walkman comes with a 0.5 GB disc space, which is enough to store only 125 songs. For music lovers who are used to storing at least 1,000 songs on a mini iPod this is a real negative, especially since the phone costs a lot more at Rs 24,000.
In comparison with the Walkman, the iPod shuffle costs around Rs 7,000 and allows you to save around double the number of songs. Of course you can add in flash memory and buy a 2GB stick, which will provide you with storage space for 500 songs, but you have to pay an extra Rs 15,000 for this.
The company promises to launch a cheaper version of the Walkman phone (W550), which it claims will be priced at a more affordable sub-Rs 20,000. But even this phone's memory is poor -- the 256 MB flash memory is enough only for 80 to 120 songs.
The other minus is that you still cannot buy music from the net directly and download it on the phone. That is because Sony Connect, which has an array of music for sale online is not available in India, just like iPod's online music store, the iTunes, is not available in India.
Indeed, that's a problem with the Motorola ROKR, which is already on the shelves in the US at a special price of $ 250 from mobile company T Mobile. While I haven't used the phone, it too has a limited memory (100 songs), nor can songs be loaded online onto it without the iTunes available here.
It's a good idea to wait for a while. Nokia, for instance, is working on the storage issue and its N 91 and 3250 may just be what you're looking for, though it is must be stated that no one's tried them out commercially as yet.
The company claims the 3250 will provides enough memory for over 750 songs and as much as 10 hours of music play. Nokia says the phone will provide a facility for downloading songs over the air, and it is working with audio manufacturers like Bose and Harmon Kardon so that their headphones can be compatible with the phone.The N91 is supposed to offer space for over 3,000 songs and over 12.5 hours of play capacity. Of course, any final decision will depend upon how Nokia prices its gadgets.