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RAIN 11/4: Cheap smartphones, data plans could expose Net radio to former "dumbphone" users

Posted on: 11/04/2010

T-MOBILE LEADS WAY WITH $10 ANDROID SMARTPHONE

A new generation of cheap smartphones and affordable data plans could introduce apps (including Internet radio) to former dumbphone or feature phone users.

But first, a definition: “dumbphone” — (noun) a mobile device residing in the netherworld between a simple flip- or candybar phone (good for calls, texts and that’s it) and smartphones. Usually includes an “advanced” phone feature, such as a touch-screen, but does not run on a major operating system (Android, iOS, BlackBerry, webOS, etc.). Synonym: feature phone. Here’s an example.

These dumbphones are usually cheaper than their smartphone counterparts and, while they may include data features like email, do not necessarily require data plans. Thus they’ve been popular among young folks looking for more features, but not ready to pay for the data plans attached to smartphones.

But now, devices like the Comet on T-Mobile come at dumbphone-like prices ($10 for the Comet, pictured above) but run on app-friendly operating systems. In the Comet’s case, that’s Android (more on the Comet here). Add to that the fact that T-Mobile’s data plans now start at $10/month, and suddenly it’s very affordable to get a robust mobile OS with data — and Internet radio apps in tow.

Contract-free providers like Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile and Cricket also offer Android and BlackBerry devices with relatively inexpensive data plans ($25/month with Virgin).

These cheap smartphones bring with them their massive app stores, complete with Internet radio offerings. They’re exposing yet more people to mobile streaming radio for around the same price customers were paying for just voice and texting a few years back. — MS

LAST.FM JUMPS ON THE XBOX KINECT BAND WAGON, OFFERS GESTURE AND VOICE CONTROL

Last.fm’s Xbox app is now compatible with the new gesture- and voice-controlled system Kinect. Users will be able to control music playback without a remote through hand gestures or voice commands (“Xbox, play”). Mashable asks (here), “How might Last.fm with Kinect be put to use in crowded rooms or at parties? …it could entirely reinvent the ‘random play’ function.”

Last.fm also announced that, since launching on Xbox last year (RAIN coverage here) it has signed up 2.5 million new users through the gaming platform “with users streaming in excess of 70 minutes of music per session.” The service attracted 1 million new users in its first week on Xbox.

SLACKER’S CELLULAR PROVIDER DEALS SEEM TO BENEFIT SUBSCRIPTION CONVERSIONS

It seems Slacker’s deals with cellular providers to (a) ship smartphones with Slacker apps pre-installed and (b) bundle Slacker’s subscription fee into customers’ monthly cellular bills both help convert free listeners into subscribers.

Slacker’s Jonathan Sasse told Digital Music News that 60-70% of subscribers found Slacker through a pre-installed app on their mobile device. Plus, more than 90% of those subscribers’ Slacker fees ($4-5 a month) are bundled in their monthly cellular bills. Slacker was fuzzy on just how many users are paying (Digital Music News reports here that it’s below 500,000 and closer to 250,000), while free listeners top 20 million.

SOUNDEXCHANGE AND RIGHTSFLOW TO DISTRIBUTE $1m IN ROYALTIES

SoundExchange and royalty service provider RightsFlow have partnered to try to deliver over $1 million of unclaimed royalties. RightsFlow has identified 1,675 artists and 63 labels with unclaimed SoundExchange royalties and has begun reaching out to them. SoundExchange says it has paid out $412 million in digital royalties since 2001. Find SoundExchange’s press release here.



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