Within five years more than half of all mobile phones sold will be able to play digital music, an analyst firm maintains.

In view of the popularity of MP3 players such as the iPod and the success of the iTunes Music Store the mobile-phone industry is keen to add mobile jukebox functionality to phones – enabling them to store hundreds or thousands of songs on a handset.

Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston told Time: "I wouldn't quite say music on mobile phones is shaping up to be a killer application, but I would say it's a manslaughter app."


Network operators are already joining the music download revolution, launching their own download services. Japan's KDDI plans to offer 10,000 wirelessly downloadable tunes for about $3 a track.

Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein analyst Kirk Boodry said: "This really is a step forward because you get CD-quality files for the first time via a cellular network. The potential for this service seems very strong."

His prediction is based on the already large market for mobile phone ringtones. According to Strategy Analytics, sales of ring tones reached $4.1 billion worldwide last year, perhaps proof that consumers are predisposed to wireless downloading, "even if the product is little more than synthetic song snippets", notes Time.

Mobile Entertainment Forum chairman Ralph Simon said: "This is the prelude to people effectively using their phone as an iPod device. All of the smart money is aware this is the way this whole thing is going."

And as technical barriers disappear, such as slow data-transfer rates, and limited capacity, the dream is becoming a reality. This month Samsung Electronics plans to launch the first phone with a miniature hard drive that can store 300 songs, and Nokia has announced that it will use hard disks in new handsets from 2005 to boost memory for songs and pictures.

Motorola has already announced that it will include Apple's iTunes software on its next series of phones.