TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: A Sad Cellular Song

A Sad Cellular Song

Los Angeles Times (
Mon, 23 Jan 2006 11:54:20 -0600,0,6382613.story

From the Los Angeles Times
A sad cellular song

January 14, 2006

LIKE A LOT OF CELLPHONE service providers, Verizon Wireless wants you
to use your cellphone to do more than just make calls. But as its
latest venture illustrates, Verizon could use a new slogan. Instead of
"We never stop working for you," it's more like, "We make your phone
stop working." And therein lies a cautionary tale of new technology --
for consumers and businesses alike.

Last week, Verizon announced a new service, dubbed V Cast Music, that
will let customers buy songs for their phones. (As hard as it may be
to believe, some people are willing to pay a premium for a mobile
phone that can double as an MP3 player.) For $1.99, or twice the price
of a song from a typical online store, users can download a track to
their phone and a second copy to their PC.

Left out of the announcement -- it was later disclosed by a
little-known website called -- was a disturbing fact
about the service: Customers who "update" their music-playing phone to
work with the new service lose the ability to play the MP3s they
already own. That also applies to MP3 files stored on removable memory
cards as well as the phone's internal memory.

The implicit message: Don't use your cell phone to play your music,
use it to play our music -- that is, music you bought from Verizon

The company points out that customers can still transfer the songs
they own from their PC to their phone. (They have to use a Microsoft-
powered PC and convert the songs to Microsoft's Windows Media format,
then transfer them through a $30 cable that Verizon will happily sell
them.) A company spokesman said customers who "update" their phones
will be warned explicitly about the capabilities they'll lose. The
company also says the V Cast software eliminates MP3-playing
capabilities for the sake of simplicity, and customers who do not want
to lose that feature do not have to use the service.

Nevertheless, Verizon Wireless is forcing customers to give up
something to get something else. This is sadly common among avid users
of new technology, who often act as guinea pigs for new features and
services. It is especially common among customers of Verizon, which
already disables several useful features in its high-end phones. Unless
its customers scour the Web for reviews, they don't learn about such
restrictions until after they buy the phone.

This is a strange way of doing business in a competitive market. Maybe
Verizon and other cellphone service providers should try offering new
services that don't take something away from their customers in the
bargain. Or maybe -- it just might work -- they can concentrate on
offering reliable phone service.

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Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

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