updated 07:25 am EDT, Tue April 22, 2008
Sony Joins CWM + 2 Nokia
Sony BMG today said it would join Nokia's Comes With Music unlimited music service, adding support beyond the initial Universal Music Group catalog. The announcement confirms recent rumors of talks and will let anyone purchasing a Comes With Music-based phone download unlimited music over the course of a year-long subscription. At the end of the term, phone owners can keep any downloaded tracks and either pay for a Nokia Music Store subscription or buy music a la carte.
Nokia plans to launch Comes With Music in the second half of 2008 and has generated controversy through its strategy, which will boost the practical cost of phones in exchange for temporarily unlimited music access. Critics have pointed to the plan as subsidizing major label music rather than rewarding specific artists or supporting independent labels unlikely to register with the service.
Timed to match the announcement, Nokia has also announced a pair of mid-range music phones. The 5320 XpressMusic bar phone adds a unique voice command feature that lets users play tracks by speaking an artist or song title instead of navigating the menu. It also adds a dedicated audio chipset for better sound processing and is one of the few XpressMusic phones to offer 3G Internet access over HSDPA on supporting networks. A native 3.5mm headphone jack, dedicated music keys, and microSDHC support up to 8GB also stress the music emphasis on the 5320, which will launch in the summer with a 2-megapixel camera for 220 Euros ($350) before carrier discounts; the phone supports calling and EDGE (2G) data in the US but lacks full 3G support for the area.
A simpler phone, the 5220 XpressMusic, is limited to EDGE for data but keeps the camera, headphone jack, and dedicated music controls in an unusually asymmetric bar design. It also ships in the summer but will be available for a lower 160 Euros ($255) in versions that support either American or European phone service.
A set of travel speakers, the MD-8, join the announcement and put out stereo sound on battery power for up to 40 hours along with the option of FM radio when not connected to a music phone or another portable media device. The audio system hasn't been priced but ships in the spring.
5320 XpressMusic (left), 5220 XpressMusic (right)