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iTunes for Phones and Pocket Behavior

Now that 3GSM is finally over, it appears that the noise level regarding music players in mobile phones appears to be subsiding. While I am a believer that mobile music players will have an impact on the market for digital music, I am not a bleiever that these devices will replace the iPod and similar devices anytime soon, if ever.

Based on most of the things I have been able to glean from the web, the argument for why mobile phones will displace iPods and other similar devices goes something like the following:

1. People like to carry their phones with them all of the time.
2. People like to listen to digital music and are consuming it at an increasing rate.
3. Therefore, the marriage of mobile phone and digital music player is an obvious blockbuster.

Embedded in this argument are allusions to the popularity of cameraphones and mobile gaming, two applications that have really taken off on phones. However, I think that digital music is different for a couple of reasons, none of the least of which is what I call “pocket behavior” for lack of a better word.

“Pocket Behavior” refers to the frequency with which an individual has a given device in his/her pocket. For example, most digital cameras exhibit poor “pocket behavior” — unless you have a relatively small digital camera, chances are that you don’t carry it around with you all of the time. Adding a camera to a device that you do carry with you at almost all times, namely the mobile phone, for a media type (photo) that is inherently social, makes a lot of sense. Cameraphones are certainly a no-brainer in this regard.

Let’s look at the Gameboy. Unless you are a young male, chances are that you don’t carry your game player with you all of the time. Nonetheless, the ability to play games on one’s mobile phone is attractive.

So what about music? Music is different, in my opinion. Increasingly, digital music is beginning to demonstrate the pocket behavior associated with mobile phones. Increasingly, at least based on the prevalence of white earphones that I see, people are taking their iPods with them wherever they go. Especially as devices such as the Shuffle begin to proliferate, people will already have music in their pockets. If this trend continues, digital music on mobile phones will at best be a complement to existing digital music players.

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