US mobile operator Verizon Wireless announced a digital music player called 'Chocolate' on Monday, using a mobile phone made by LG Electronics to play songs downloaded over Verizon's wireless network.
With its circular scroll pad, the device looks like Apple's iPod, adding another player to an increasingly crowded market.
Verizon's Chocolate uses wireless links both to download and to play music, supporting a Bluetooth-enabled headset. The device also doubles as a phone, with 3G (third-generation) features like games, music videos, television clips, GPS (global positioning system) navigation and a camera.
The device has comparable storage to Apple's 1GB iPod shuffle or 2GB iPod nano designs. With its expandable memory port, the Chocolate could store up to 1,000 songs on a 2GB microSD memory card, such as those made by SanDisk.
"While this may not be the first product of its kind, the idea of blending a phone and a music player makes sense. It looks sort of like a thick iPod with a phone, stores 1,000 songs and has a cool name, Chocolate. This product should be hottest among young adults," said Jeff Kagan, a telecommunications industry analyst.
Consumer electronics makers have been talking about convergence for years, as they launch products that combine the features of PDAs (personal digital assistants), mobile phones, video game players and cameras. Since many users carry several of those devices at once, Verizon's Chocolate could be popular merely by reducing their load.
"We carry too many devices, and if a manufacturer can do a good job of blending multiple devices into one, it should be popular," Kagan said.
LG launched the Chocolate phone in South Korea in May and has since sold one million units worldwide. It has partnered with Verizon to enter the competitive American market.
Although Apple owns 70 per cent of the market for digital audio players with its iPod, customers still have many options, said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst at Creative Strategies.
Instead of trying to convert iPod devotees, Verizon will compete for customers by focusing on people who don't yet have a portable digital music player, said John Harrobin, vice president of digital media for Verizon Wireless.
"Radio is heavily programmed and can be formulaic. But this mobile platform is an excellent device for music discovery," he said. That makes it a good match for Verizon’s V CAST music catalog, where the majority of sales are single songs, not albums, Harrobin said.