Music phone buying guide for dummies

Music phone buying guide for dummies
This guide is meant to provide you with information about what features a music phone should and must have and it will make choosing your future music companion easier.


In the past few years mobile phones have become more and more versatile. Today’s music phones have evolved to the level of being a good alternative to standalone music players. This is one of the reasons many people prefer to buy a handset that can play music instead of carrying two devices. Back in 2005, Sony Ericsson revived the Walkman brand as special series, delivering quality playback. It included a nice music player with equalizer presets and the most loved feature, the “mega bass”, which does exactly what its name implies. It was the first line of phones that was heavily advertised for its music capabilities. However, it led to the birth of another music dedicated brand but this time from Nokia. The 5200, 5300 and 3250 all carried the name XpressMusic. Their music player interface was pretty close to the one seen in Sony Ericsson’s phones, not including the “mega bass”. Nowadays, the competition in this market is fierce, with offerings from most manufacturers.

There are a lot of features that a music phone should have. We are providing you with a list of the most important ones, including a short description, to help you choose your future music companion.

Music Phone Features:

1. Music Player Interface and Options – Now this is the thing you would see and use the most in your new phone, so it should be intuitive and easy to operate. The player must support a wide variety of formats and not only MP3, which is the most common one. It should be able to organize your tunes by album, artist and genre and allow you to create custom playlists. You would hardly see a player that doesn’t display track information, but still not all support ID3 tags which contain the album art, track name and number, artist, author and genre. The presence of an equalizer for additional adjustments to fit your music preferences is a must.

2. Output – As you may already know, most headphones use a 3.5mm jack. It is a good idea to choose a music phone that has this type of connector, so you can plug your favorite pair in. Some devices may come with a smaller 2.5mm one or proprietary connector, but most manufacturers include an adapter to the standard 3.5mm. You should also check what comes bundled with the phone and look for any additional accessories that can be purchased.

3. Stereo Bluetooth – It consists of two Bluetooth profiles, A2DP and AVRCP. The former stands for Advanced Audio Distribution Protocol and it allows you to connect Bluetooth wireless stereo headphones or speakers and listen without being tangled in a web of cables. The second one is not always present with A2DP, but when it is, you can control your mobile phone's music player directly from the Bluetooth stereo accessory of your choice. Wireless audio is a convenient feature to have, but it’s only important if you are planning to use it.

4. Storage – What good is a media device that can store only a handful of songs? A memory expansion slot is a must unless the phone comes with large internal capacity. Currently, the most widely spread types are the microSD(HC) and Sony-Ericsson’s M2 (Memory Stick Micro). The former are cheaper and currently top out at 8 GB, but a 16 and 32 GB are in the making. To use a card that is 4GB and above, the phone should be microSDHC compatible. Generally, the M2 standard is used in Sony products with maximum capacity of 8 GB. There are also handsets that lack an expansion slot, but have a lot of internal storage like the iPhone (8 GB or 16 GB), Nokia N81 (8GB), Sony Ericsson W960 (8 GB).

5. Battery – This is the thing that dictates how long you will be able to enjoy your tunes before the need of recharge. Even the best music device can be rendered useless if it isn’t able to provide you with at least twelve hours of continuous music. Dedicated music players like the iPod, iRiver and Zune are able to play for as long as twenty four hours on average. Nevertheless, there are some cell phones capable of delivering up to twenty-four hours of continuous playback and these figures are improving with every new device that hits the market.

6. USB 2.0 – While most phones out there support it, there are still some that don’t. The ones that do, have the advantage of significantly higher transfer speeds rates, thus allowing you to start listening sooner.

7. FM Radio – It is a good feature to have for the times when you just don’t want to listen to your tunes.

8. Dedicated Controls – They may not appear important, but will surely make your life easier. Their purpose is to allow you to play/pause, skip and rewind without having to enter the media player interface.

9. Sound Quality – Next is the sound quality. Pretty much everyone has a different understanding of high quality, so it’s best to check it personally in the store before you purchase a specific phone.

10. Speakers – If you want to share your music with others, it is important that the handset is able to provide decent sound quality. While most devices on the market come with only one speaker (mono), there are some that have two in stereo. Their sound quality may vary in a wide range, so it is a good idea to hear it before buying.

These are the basic features that define a music phone. Every device has its strong and weak points and unique features, only available from a single manufacturer. Such examples are the dedicated audio chip present in the latest Nokia XpressMusic phones, Samsung’s handsets with Bang&Olufsen amplifier and others. We didn’t cover features like the FM transmitter (present on SE W980, Nokia N78, and others) as there are only a handful of devices on the market that have it and it definitely can’t be considered a must.

We hope this article has helped you choose the best music phone, to suit your lifestyle and enjoy your favorite tunes.



1. unregistered

i hate how impossible it is to pick out a phone nowadays, especially a phone you know you will like for 20 months, its ridiculous, whatever phone you go with, there is a similar model out 2 months later with better features, a buying guide is cool i guess, but no matter what phone you EVER decide to go with, it almost always ends up being a mistake.

4. unregistered

I know, seriously it gets really annoying

6. unregistered

not to mention even if you find a phone you're stoked on and know you'll love....if you're anything like me you get tired of it after 2-3 months tops.

10. unregistered

same, that does seem to happen. So i at least I want to make sure I get a phone than can get firmware updates

20. me unregistered

It's just technology. The same thing happens when you buy a tv, an mp3 player, a blueray player....everything is always going to be replaced by the next latest and greatest and that's what makes the technology industry so exciting...even if you cant have it all as soon as it comes out because there is always going to be something better.

28. vzwguru unregistered

same exact thing happens to me and i go dumb if i cant get a newer phone

2. Anomalies

Posts: 61; Member since: Jun 08, 2008

I don't trust anything that uses Depeche mode in a screen shot!

3. boyhukas unregistered

that's one helluva hang-up man.

5. Anomalies

Posts: 61; Member since: Jun 08, 2008

Sarcasm: Main Entry: sar·casm Pronunciation: \sär-ka-zəm\ Function: noun Etymology: French or Late Latin; French sarcasme, from Late Latin sarcasmos, from Greek sarkasmos, from sarkazein to tear flesh, bite the lips in rage, sneer, from sark-, sarx flesh; probably akin to Avestan thwarəs- to cut Date: 1550 1: a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain 2 a: a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual b: the use or language of sarcasm. Synonyms: see "wit" Unless you knew I was joking, then touche I say!

12. Simdes unregistered

I don't like Depeche Mode. I prefer KMFDM!!!!! Which stands for Kill The Muther Futher Depeche Mode.

7. unregistered

The best phone for music in my opinion is the new Lg Chocolate 3 or the Dare....I like the multi tasking feature the DARE offers so I can cruise the net on the HTML browser and listen to my jams as well....I like the album art transfer process, especially when it is done automatically, and on the chocolate I really like the FM Transmitter so I can tune in the music into my car radio. I think LG has the best music support, the bluetooth headset support is second to none. Never drops or breaks up on me like my motorola did, and it always seem to go further than just 30 feet, which is great when I am mowing the lawn . I would have selected the I Phone for best music support , but the battery is a JOKE and the fact it still doesnt support wireless headsets is hilarious. Nice looking screen, but the DARE uses the same set up.

23. unregistered

Have you never heard of Nokia? I have a nokia 6682 from atleast 3 years ago and have been able to multi task with the music in the backround and listen on my bt headset. not to mention support for fm radio as well as internet radio.

8. vzw "fanboy" unregistered

howcome at&t doesnt like LG, they only have the VU right? or how come sony doesnt like verizon? lg phones are definitly the best for playing music because of their high quality speakers

17. hottieboy unregistered

Verizon uses CDMA technology while AT&T uses GSM technology. Sony only makes GSM phones. Thus the reason why you see it work with AT&T and not Verizon. LG makes both GSM and CDMA phones so most wireless phone companies have LG phones.

9. don1925 unregistered

i've had my Nokia5700 for a year now and so far, i still like it. for me, a phone that has a decent cam (at least 2MP), music player, Bluetooth, usb connections, 3g capable is tops already. i know my phone doesn't have wifi capabilities but hopefully Nokia will come up with an xpressmusic with wifi soon.

11. unregistered

Am I the only one who thinks Verizon VCast is absolute trash? Maybe it's just an outdated version on my VX8300, but some stuff just doesn't work. Besides not being able to have Album Art without buying $2 songs on VCast, the Genres show up like (9) or (57) even though all the song info is correctly filled out. Plus it'll say that a song is 50 minutes long even thouigh it really isn't.

13. unregistered

regardless to your issue, hang on to your phone, one of the best phones ever released from LG or Verizon. the upgraded version is worse than hot garbage compared to the 8300.

15. Anomalies

Posts: 61; Member since: Jun 08, 2008

Personally the VCast with Rhapsody is one of the best services I've seen, unlimited downloads for $14.99 a month? Sure you only get to keep it for 30 days, but you can always redownlaod the song again. Plus you get the option to buy the song if you want to keep it forever. Get a newer vcast phone and you'll love it.

14. unregistered

I never had any of the issues that #13 is descirbing, you sound like your in desperate need of a update on your phone. I had the 8300 and used it all day for music, I loved importing my album art into the phone with my music off the comp. I made a HUGE mistake and got an iphone. Dumbest thing I ever did. Yeah the UI is cool and the music looks neat on it, but it is USELESS for an 8 hour shift and the phone sucked monkey nads for phone call reception and quality. I paid my termination cost to leave crappy ATT and come back to Verizon, the guy who got me back on Verizon got me a sweet deal on the DARE. And my wife got the new Chocolate. We both love ours for music and V Cast is awesome as well.

16. iphoneisLAME unregistered

I agree. The i phone is a terrible media player, it is a battery life of like 3 hours. All my LG phones last so much longer and I multi-task off them. Sad the I phone is a big peice of crap, glass front is a hilarious concept for a cell phone.

18. unregistered

try sony ericsson phones... most of the walkmans play music last 30 hrs max continuosly... nice interface as well...

19. NightBlade unregistered

Agreed. Best interface there is.

21. unregistered

Would be nice for PhoneArena to give us their top ten picks for this type of device? I know which my personal options are. In my opinion my top 3 would be MOTO Q 9M, HTC Touch, and LG chocolate. Whats yours?

22. unregistered

My BB Curve is the best most user friendly portable music/media player I have ever used. - Dedicated keys on the device for play/pause, volume, ff/rev so I can change those things with the phone in my pocket. - Simple user interface where i just type what im looking for to narrow my search for music. - O and a normal 3.5mm headphone jack?! This after having used a Moto Q, HTC Apache (6700). When plugged in with a Mini USB cable it doubles as an external storage device as well, drag and drop songs from itunes into the folder and Im ready to go. With a 4gb micro sdhc memory card it beats my ipod by miles and works seamlessly with little sacrifice of battery (with constant data on).

24. martin unregistered

You guys might want to add a part about not going with verizon if your planning on using your phone for music, unless you want to rebuy all your music since verizon only allows you to play their music files on most of their music phones! (a mistake I made when I tried to switch to verizon almost 2 years ago based on everyone saying how great they were).

25. martin unregistered

#13 and #16, that is because the 8300 was fine for awhile intil verizon decided to cripple the hell out of it. It used to play mp3s but then switched over to only verizon music. I tried the demo in the store and it worked great and played your own mp3 files, but the one they sent me home with was locked up tighter then fort knox and even breaking into the phone didn't help because they took the features out.

26. unregistered

Wow... Verizon must truly suck to the very last nerve of their decaying and mangled body drowning in blood and urine!

27. martin unregistered

No Verizon doesn't suck if you want reliable phone service and decent customer service. They just suck if you are looking for more than a phone. This article happens to be about music phones, so if that is what you are looking for (or any multimedia or like I said (more than a phone phone)) then you really shouldn't go with Verizon. (though if your looking for just a phone and you know your service area is good, tmobile might be a better choice. If you travel alot though, and looking for just a phone no bells and whistles (though they do have some little things on them done much better by other carriers like vcast) then verizon might be right for you.

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