Music downloads via cell phones outpaced those to digital music players by a wide margin in Japan during the first six months of 2005, according to data released last week.

Apple launched its iTunes Music Store in Japan at the beginnning of August.

Cell phone downloads including complete songs and ring tone melodies totaled 108.9 million songs during the first half of the year and were worth ¥13.6 billion ($123 million as of June 30, the last day of the period), according to figures from the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ).

In contrast, legal music downloads from the Internet to devices like portable music players totaled 2.2 million songs and were worth ¥538.8 million during the same period, the RIAJ said.

Those figures mean cell phone downloads accounted for 98 percent of the market by song and 96 per cent by value during the first half.

The recent launch of Apple's iTunes Music Store in Japan is likely to mean the Internet portion of the download market gets a boost in the second half of the year. The service was launched on August 4 and song sales hit 1 million tracks after four days of operation.

Usage is also growing at Mora, a download service operated by Sony Communication Network and many local record companies. After breaking the 100,000 song download per month barrier last year, the service saw around 450,000 downloads per month during the April to June period, SCN recently announced.