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November 10, 2005

Review: Sprint Music Store

David Pogue reviews Sprint’s newly announced Music Store in the NY Times and it isn’t pretty:

Don’t look now, but one longstanding member of the Someday Club has just become a reality, more or less: anytime, anywhere wireless downloading of favorite songs for instantaneous listening – no computer necessary.

This remarkable service is brought to you by Sprint. It’s the first cellular carrier to unveil a phone-based online music store; the others have similar plans. Their logic goes like this: “Those crazy kids have bought 30 million iPods and a billion songs from online music stores. They also spend nearly $5 billion a year on downloadable ring tones. What if we could combine those two trends? If teenagers could download full-length songs right onto their cellphones – we’ll be rich, I tell you! Rich!”

Well, maybe. As usual, the devil is in the details.

And at this point things start going downhill.

After buying the expensive phone, the expensive Internet service and the expensive memory card, there’s one more surprise: the expensive songs. You get five freebies for starters. After that, Sprint music store songs cost $2.50 apiece, plus tax.

What are they, nuts?

Unless they’ve just spent four years in a sensory-deprivation tank, surely Sprint’s executives know that the iTunes Music Store and its rivals have solidly established the sweet spot of customer acceptance at $1 a song. What makes Sprint think it can charge two and a half times as much and still make people happy?

“It’s a new market, the first service of its kind, serving a different type of customer,” Jackie Bostick, a Sprint spokeswoman, said. “We are not necessarily going after people who are downloading tons of music online.” (Translation: “Please don’t bring up the iTunes thing.”)

As Michael Gartenberg observes:

Or of course, consumers could just get the free phone from their carrier, buy an iPod nano (or the like) with fifteen hours of battery life and still make phone calls and only pay .99 a song.

Footnote – The real fun will come with the spin when this flops. I wouldn’t try to draw any conclusions from this one about consumers, cell phones and music other than the fact that consumers aren’t stupid.

Edward Baig also has a review with similar complaints.

Posted at 12:45 pm. Filed under Companies, Mobile Phones, Portable Audio, Sprint, Thumbs Down

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