Real Phones Don't Play Music


Or do they? Can Apple deliver a combo iPod and cell phone that works well as both a phone and a music player? The first ever iTunes phone, the Motorola ROKR, disappointed with its limited music storage and weak performance as a phone. Analysts predict that Apple will take a 37Signals “less is better” approach, eschewing broad smart phone capabilities and making the iPhone Nano-like with a simple but powerful set of phone and music features.

What if you want a music phone with smart phone brains? The Sony Ericsson W950i Walkman phone looks pretty nice, and it ought to be at the price–around $700 in the U.S. It runs Symbian, the mobile-only operating system found on many smart phones, and it includes 4GB of flash memory, enough to store almost anyone’s music library enough to store some people’s entire music libraries.

Since we’re about to be treated to a series on smart phones, it’s an ideal time to be thinking about what you might want out of a new phone, if you happen to be in the market for one.

What are you looking for in a mobile phone? Do you want it to play music? Are you waiting for the iPhone?



A while back I tore into my nokia 6682 smartphone.

The best convergent device is still a Nano + a digital camera + a phone and a big piece of duct-tape to tie them all together.

My model is over a year old now, but I don’t know what’s so smart about a Symbian OS that causes UI slowdowns to the point where you lose 1-2 seconds waiting for screen refreshes.

Looking forward to your guide. :)


My spin on the “less is more” philosophy reflects Paul’s comment wrt having easy modes to engage and access. My professional experience with GUIs for pilots slammed that home, whereby pilots recurringly get “lost in the machine” and ponder “what is it doing now ?”. A simple minimalist GUI mode has now become a near requirement in that application.

Closer to the computer/comm device arena is how I really only use 3 services on my blackberry (cell, email, internet) and toward keeping the critical email service bulletproof, I strip it down as much as possible. But I’ll take the option to occasionally play the token blackberry BrickBreaker game or tempt fate with fashionable blackberry email server options.


I currently have the SE W810. And I find that i use the music player less than I expected, but use the FM radio much more. So, Yes, I do like music in my phone.
I also use it to check internet stuff (the new Gmail applet is great, as is Opera mini), and it does take decent pictures. And it isn’t even considered a ‘smart’phone!
For my next phone I would like to have WiFi, and a SIP client, but those currently seem to be limited to bulky windows mobile things.

BJ Clark

Anne: It didn’t rub me the wrong way, it’s just a silly comment. Don’t you think that the original iMac could fall under a “Less is better” category? And that came out in what, like 1997? Like, waaaay before the blogosphere ever had crushes on 37signals? In fact, couldn’t you say that 37Signals applied Apple’s “Less is better” mentality to software?


Less is better. When someone tries to do more .. they have generally produced crap …

As far as smartphones go .. the palm os needs to move to linux like yesterday … Symbian smartphone os’s arent exactly glitch free and windows mobile .. Now u need to be masochistic to use it.

The only good smalrtphone out there are RIM’s products and guess what, they were meant for one purpose only: email.

I think the music only iphone makes sense. A great proportion of people who just want to listen to music and would not want to carry both a cellphone and an ipod. Another advantage of an music only phone, You do not need a data plan to enjoy its benefits … That appeals to a far wider market of people.

And I agree with Paul watson.. Just making a java app on top of ur os aint cutting it think rokr. The walkman phone may be great and all, But the elements that apple can bring to this space (think beautiful industrial design, user friendly os, great integration) blows such a device to a new level …

Anne Zelenka

@The Daniel, I took that line out… I must be very frugal when it comes to music! I don’t have anywhere near that much. How much space does your music library take up?

Dale Cruse

There’s a rumor that Apple will combine a phone, an iPod, and a portable XM Satellite Radio receiver into one unit. That might be just a wild guess, but if they did I would buy one in a heartbeat.

the daniel

“and it includes 4GB of flash memory, enough to store almost anyone’s music library.”

Hmm, ‘music library’ implies ‘all the music they own’ – in which case 4GB isn’t enough to store the music library of anyone I know. Definitely enough to store enough music to last a good long while, but most folks I know have libraries much larger than 4GB.

Paul Watson

I want a device that does music and communication but which quickly and easily switches between contexts. I don’t want to dig through menus to pause music or run apps to select and play music. The music features need to be built deep into the phone, not just big storage and a Java app thrown in. If the music features in anyway frustrate or limit the communication features then it is a broken phone.

Joshua Kaufman

Like a lot of people, I want everything. But with the complexity of current devices that seems like a stupid thing to want. What current manufacturers don’t get is that just because I want everything doesn’t mean I want all the features as well. I don’t need 101 calling features, just the essentials: a phone book, recent calls list and shortcuts. The same goes for an MP3 player: something simple will do. A camera is also nice to have as long as it has a resolution of at least 2MP. My current Sony Ericsson k600i does all this fairly well with its decent interface but there’s still a lot of crap in there I can’t imagine ever using.

Anne Zelenka

Sorry if that rubbed you the wrong way, BJ… just trying to link it up to broader blogosphere controversies. Didn’t mean to imply anything about who invented minimalism.

Personally, I favor minimalism only in certain circumstances, and I’m not sure I want a minimalist phone. I’m not waiting around for the iPhone even though I’m a Mac user. I want a smart phone that does email and web browsing reasonably well, but I can leave the music aside, along with my old iPod that sits neglected in a cupboard somewhere.

BJ Clark

“37Signals “less is better” approach ”

What a joke. 37Signals didn’t invent minimalism. Are you name dropping or what?

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