Orange takes on the iPod (again)

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So are music downloads via mobile phones taking off in the UK? Well yes and no. While some networks seem to now be only offering a half-baked service, others are going from strength to strength. Orange today has announced a few little tweaks to its music download system Music Player which should help make life a bit easier for its users.

The big news is the Orange Music Converter, a rather nifty bit of software for your PC which enables users to convert tracks they have stored on their PC’s hard disk into the AAC+ format which is compatible with the Orange Music Player. It works with MP3s and WMAs, but obviously not DRM-ed WMA and AAC tracks downloaded from Napster, iTunes et al. The reason you might want to do this is that the AAC+ tracks take up just 700k of space on a storage card as opposed to 3/4MB of a full MP3 track. So your 512MB SD card instantly now holds the same as a two Gig card would if loaded with MP3s. There is obviously a slight trade off in terms of sound quality though not as much as you might think. Probably the best comparison is MP3 at 96kbps.

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Orange’s music phone

From now on users will also be able control the tracks they have downloaded via Orange (they start at £1 a shot) using a web page. The page lists the tracks they currently own and enables the user to take the music to and from their mobile. Even if their handset is stolen they can automatically transfer the tracks they have paid for to their next phone. Orange also let on that it was currently looking at the two hard disk based phones – the Nokia N91 and the Samsung SGH-i300 and that Orange subscribers might be able to take delivery of them in the New Year. The Music Player is currently compatible with eleven phones, though Orange has promised to roll it out to cheaper, more youth-oriented handsets next year.

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