updated 08:15 am EDT, Mon June 30, 2008
Verizon VCast MP3
Following on the heels of Real's Rhapsody MP3 store, Verizon today expanded its VCast Music store to include both MP3s and the Rhapsody subscription service. The former lets users of Verizon's PC software as well as any MP3-supporting cellphone on the company's 3G network download unprotected songs that can be used as the customer likes; that includes loading content on to phones that wouldn't otherwise support VCast songs or to outside software and devices, including iPods.
However, Verizon is following traditional carrier policy and insists on elevated prices for its over-the-air downloads. While PC-first downloads will cost the same 99 cents as for most music stores, all over-the-air purchases will cost $1.99; users also get rights to download a "master copy" on the PC in exchange for the extra price, Verizon says.
The price is significantly above that of AT&T's competing eMusic Mobile, which also offers MP3s but does so for the equivalent of $1.49 per song in blocks of five.
Stores such as these, as well as protected purchases from Sprint and other carriers, often charge extra under claims that downloads add to network costs, but are believed to be increasingly suffering as users frequently opt for less expensive downloads from computer-based stores. Apple is believed to consciously restrict its wireless iTunes Store to Wi-Fi for the iPhone to avoid having to increase prices for its own downloads under pressure from carriers.
The Rhapsody service is a direct translation of Real's normal, protected subscription offering and gives supporting phones unlimited access to songs during the lifetime of the $15 monthly subscription on top of the PC-based service. Several phones already support the service immediately, including the LG Dare and Decoy as well as as other designer phones such as the Motorola RAZR2 and the Samsung Glyde, with others to receive a software upgrade later.