Cingular Cripples iPod Phone

September 8, 2005

A while back I ranted about wireless carriers and their deliberate crippling of technologies in order to protect their current business model. Specifically, they were hassling the appearance of an iPod phone – one on which you could use high quality 99-cent Apple-bought music as your ringtones instead of those $2 monstrosities you get from the wireless carrier that sound more like the beeps and boops once emitted by my Mattel handheld football game back in the late 70s than your favorite song.

Well, the iPod Phone has finally appeared. Sort of. First the good news. It appears to be a pretty capable phone and a decent music player. The bad news: Cingular has killed one of the main things you want such a device for: the use of iTunes music as ringtones. Here’s a bit from David Pogue of the New York Times:

No, you can’t use songs as ring tones, at least not the songs you’ve bought from Apple’s music store. (You can use ordinary MP3 files as ring tones, but loading them onto the phone isn’t trivial.) This, too, is almost certainly a limitation driven by corporate interests. Cellphone carriers charge $1.50 to $3 apiece for ring tones; Cingular certainly wouldn’t want to hand that lucrative business over to Apple’s music store.
David Pogue, New York Times

So was I right or was I right? Wake up Cingular! If you let people do what they want to do with the phone people will want it more and you’ll do more business! Let go, already!

On a positive note, there is one nice bit of convergence between the phone part of the unit and the music player part – one that is highlighted well by the forthcoming TV commercials for the device. A young hipster is walking along a city street listening to her favorite music via the iPod Phone’s earphones. The phone rings and the music stops automatically. She has a brief conversation using the earphone headset she was using to listen to the music. When the call is over, the music resumes where it left off. Nice. Obvious, but nice.

Anyway, I won’t be getting an iPod phone. Not because it’s crippled as far as ringtones (though it is irritating), but because it’s $250 plus a 2-year Cingular contract. I’m a cheap bastard and I won’t pay that for a phone, no matter how cool.


No comments yet

  1. Eh, wait two weeks. You will be able to buy one get one on the share talk plan with roll over minutes and an obscene phone bill instead.

  2. Next you’ll be pointing out that for the two years prior to shutting down napster and going after song downloaders, the RIAA components had their most profitable, highest grossing years ever!

    You’re just anti-business 😉

    (that last one was a joke!)

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