How Napster Mobile Works



Napster Mobile lets users browse and download songs that can be played on compatible cell phones.

© Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

Forget CDs — mobile music is where consumers are expected to spend their money in the coming years. Online music providers like Napster are poised to take advantage of the opportunity with offerings such as Napster Mobile that allow consumers to browse, buy and download artist images, ringtones and full-length songs from and for our cell phones.

Why the high level of interest? Garter Inc., an information technology research firm, chalks it up to personalization and entertainment. Buying ringtones and ringbacktones lets us personalize our cell phones, and if we can play music on a phone, we don’t need to also carry around an iPod or MP3 player. We’re a lot more likely to take our phone anyway: A survey by telecommunications supplier Ericsson found that 72 percent of 47,000 users always take their mobile phones when they leave home, while only 16 percent always take their music players.

Mobile phone users are expected to spend $32.2 billion downloading music to their cell phones by 2010, up from $13.7 billion in 2007, according to Gartner forecasts. The researchers define mobile music as everything from ringtones, realtones and ringbacktones to full-track downloads and music streaming.

The industry started in 1998 when cell-phone providers began selling ringtones to their users. Downloading songs has become the second most popular mobile phone service, topped only by text messaging. The history of Napster on cell phones started in 2006 when Napster and Ericsson introduced Napster Mobile.

What does Napster Mobile offer? How does Napster Work, and how do you use it? Let’s start by learning more about what Napster Mobile does.

Mobile Music Lingo

Digital rights management (DRM) — Systems used to protect copyrighted digital music and prevent paid content from being distributed illegally over the Internet. Each provider, like iTunes, has its own DRM technology.

Ringtone — Sound made by a mobile phone to indicate an incoming call. Originally just sounds or tunes without lyrics.

Realtone — Compressed snippet of actual recorded song that’s used as a ringtone. Also called a truetone or mastertone.

Ringbacktone — Song that replaces the ringing noise that a caller hears when he calls a ringback user’s phone.

Music streaming — Compressed music files sent in a continuous stream and heard by the listener as they arrive, rather than after a complete download.

[sources: Billboard, SearchUnifiedCommunications and SearchCEO]