updated 09:15 am EDT, Wed September 24, 2008
Sony Ericsson PlayNow plus
Sony Ericsson this morning launched into more aggressive competition in mobile music with the advent of PlayNow plus. The feature is one of the few carrier-independent unlimited music services that works entirely from the device itself but is also tailored to overcome resistance to subscription services: in an improvement on Nokia's Comes With Music service, Sony Ericsson says it will not only let users keep their most frequently-played music at the end of their subscriptions but that permanent copies will come in MP3 format; listeners can offload the music to another phone, a PC, or a dedicated media player without copy restrictions.
The handset creator also bundles some community features absent from the Nokia offering, such as recommendation sharing between fellow PlayNow members and a tie-in with Sony Ericsson's TrackID radio identification feature that shows the most frequently tagged songs.
Also like Nokia, Sony Ericsson is initially tying the service to a particular phone and is releasing a special PlayNow plus version of the W902 Walkman phone with both a bundled subscription and 1,000 preloaded songs on its 8GB memory card. The phone appears in the fall on Sweden's Telenor and will be joined by more phones and more countries next year.
The new launch represents an increasing turn by cellphone designers towards launching their own music stores as alternatives to typically less successful carrier-run stores, with Apple and Nokia both having established their own services. Music labels themselves, particularly Universal, are also known to have pressed for alternatives music service models in an attempt to encourage regular, legal music use with cellphone owners.