Will Music Phones Replace the MP3 Player?
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Published April 2009. © 2009 Interpret, LLC
Mobile Music: Will Music Phones Replace the MP3 Player?
Music capable phones have grown in sophistication and market penetration, raising the question of
when, if ever, mobile phones will displace dedicated mp3 players.
• How do music phones and mp3 players differ in technology sophistication?
• How do consumers differ in their usage of mp3 players vs. music phones?
• How must vendors evolve dedicated mp3 players to compete with music phones?
While cell phones have become nearly ubiquitous, with 87% of US online consumers owning one (and
most phones today having some music capability), the majority of consumers also own a dedicated mp3
player (56%). For some key demos, the prevalence of this device cross-ownership is even more striking:
teens age 12-17 are almost equally likely to own an mp3 player (72%) as they are a cell phone (80%).
However, they are listening to music on their phone more and more. In order to stay viable, mp3
players need to evolve beyond music playback. We believe that as dedicated mp3 players evolve into
convergent devices, they will continue to co-exist with music-capable mobile phones and not displace
While the iPhone remains the gold standard among music-capable phones, the list of competitors has
grown substantially. Eighty-seven percent (87%) of all consumers own some type of cell phone (roughly
65% of which are music-capable), and the majority of consumers also own an mp3 player. However, as
music-capable cell phones become more advanced and affordable, dedicated mp3 players may be
heading towards obsolescence.
One advantage that mp3 players currently hold over music-capable phones is cost. Many mp3 players
can be purchased for under $100, while music-capable phones are often over $200 when purchased
without a provider plan. For example, Apple’s iPod Shuffle retails for around $50-$80, where their
iPhone is $150-$300. A consumer who already owns a phone that is not music capable or offers a poor
music experience can purchase a brand name, inexpensive mp3 player, and a consumer who already
owns an mp3 player may have no reason to buy a phone for its music capabilities.
Another advantage for mp3 players is storage capacity. While most music-capable cell phones have well
under 500MB of storage capacity as an out-of-the-box experience, it has become progressively more
difficult to find a dedicated mp3 player with less than 1GB of space. As devices converge and portable