Leap Wireless International Inc. (Nasdaq: LEAP)'s consumer arm, Cricket Communications Inc. , has introduced a new unlimited wireless plan with the added bonus of including unlimited music -- full-track downloads from the major record labels, ringtones, and ringback tones for $55 per month, available first on the Samsung Corp. Suede feature phone. (See Cricket Intros Unlimited Mobile Music .)
Cricket says Muve Music is the first service of its kind in the US, and it's built from scratch for mobile. In addition to unlimited talk, text, and Web, the plan comes with unlimited downloads from Universal Music Group , Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and EMI Music.
SanDisk Corp. (Nasdaq: SNDK) is providing a 4GB flash memory card to store the music, downloaded without digital rights management (DRM) protection. The company says the card has built-in hardware-based security to automatically encrypt the music, resulting in an improved user experience, better handset performance, and longer battery life without actually needing DRM. The songs can't be copied to the PC and are only available provided the user pays his bills.
The Samsung Suede, a $199 touchscreen feature phone that will make its debut next month at the Consumer Electronics Show, will have a dedicated music button for access to the service on its home screen. Cricket says the goal is to eventually have Muve integrated throughout its handset lineup.
Why this matters
Cricket is the first wireless operator to make the move into unlimited music, built from the ground up for mobile, but it's not the first company to attempt to make it in the mobile music biz. If it does well, however, the small carrier may be the first to succeed. (See Leap Wireless Looks Ahead .)
Muve is reminiscent of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s Comes With Music service that apparently took off overseas, but failed to win favor in the US. Operators were afraid of the unlimited data tsunamis that would result, and the music labels were reluctant to give up rights to their tunes. That Cricket has the four major studios on board for its DRM-free service is an important first step.
And, of course, services like Rhapsody Networks and Napster have offered unlimited music as well, but the response has been lackluster. Cricket may have more luck with its young user base that's already accustomed to paying for monthly unlimited service and perhaps skilled in illegal music downloading sites. Muve will only set them back $10 more on average, and it'll be more attractive as Cricket rolls out new handsets, including some smartphones, for the service.
For more on music's attempts to go mobile, check out the following stories:
- Livewire Acquires FoneStarz
- MTV Makes a Sprint ID
- Amazon, RIM Launch Music App
- TDC Celebrates Music Downloads
- Carphone Warehouse Takes Music Anywhere
- App Focus: Premium Shazam Comes to Android
- Google Plans Music Service
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile