x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Nokia gives region a mobile tune-up

Nokia gives the Middle East's largest online music download system a major upgrade with announcement to include unlimited music downloads with its latest smartphone.

The sucess of Apple's iTunes Music Store has led handset makers to quickly develop their own systems for downloading music.
The sucess of Apple's iTunes Music Store has led handset makers to quickly develop their own systems for downloading music.

The Middle East's largest online music download system was given a major upgrade yesterday, with Nokia announcing it would include unlimited music downloads with its latest smartphone. The service, called Comes With Music, means that for the first year of owning Nokia's newest handset users will be able to download as much as they want at no cost from an online library of more than 4 million songs.

"We're giving people convenient access to, and ownership of, a vast music library and an exciting new touch-screen device to play their music on," said Ayman Chalhoub, the head of retail sales for Nokia's music unit. The first Nokia handset to include the service will be the X6, a music-focused device with a touch screen that will be available early next month. Nokia estimated the device would cost about US$600 (Dh2,203), a similar price to the Apple iPhone or BlackBerry mobile e-mail device.

Bundling media content with devices and services has been a theme in the telecommunications industry in recent years. Mobile network operators, facing increased competition and lower margins, are considering such packages to retain customers and boost prices. The success of Apple's iTunes Music Store, now the world's largest music retailer, has led handset makers to quickly develop their own systems for downloading music, films and applications to their devices. More than 1 million applications and games are now downloaded from Nokia's system, the Ovi Store.

The company's music offering has yet to take off in a way comparable to Apple's, but it is expanding into markets not yet served by the iTunes store. With yesterday's Middle East launch, 11 of the 27 markets offering the Comes With Music package are in the Arab world. The iTunes store is not available in these markets. The Nokia Music Store was one of the first ways to legally buy and download music online when it was launched in the UAE in September 2008.

Another digital download service, Getmo, was launched by the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which publishes The National, in May of the same year. Neither store has become as successful here as similar services have in the US or Europe. Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, the chief executive of Nokia, said sales of its devices that included the music service grew "softly" in an earnings call at the end of last month, but that a focus on emerging markets was paying off.

"Two advantages are beginning to stand out," Mr Kallasvuo said. "We have a superior catalogue of local content and we ramped up more quickly than our competitors in geographies where the digital music market is still in ascent." @Email:tgara@thenational.ae