The next iteration of the iPhone, expected to be unveiled next month, may have a whole lot more music if record labels and Apple can learn to play nice.
According to the New York Times, Apple is negotiating with the music industry to expand its catalog of make-your-own-ringtones beyond the 500,000 currently available, as well as to extend the capability to ringback tones as well. And, to no surprise, Apple is interested in offering wireless access to the iTunes music service.
The current version of the iPhone uses an older, slower wireless connection, while the much-rumored new one will feature high-speed “3G” access (think the difference between dialup and cable Internet access).
The existing iPhone can only download iTunes songs via its included WiFi connection, due to the slower wireless network connection. But WiFi is not as prevalent as the more prevalent wireless coverage area, and upgrading to a 3G connection would allow iPhone users to surf the Web and download content from more locations.
However, the Times reports that labels and Apple — again — are at it over pricing. Labels charge more for mobile music downloads than they do downloads via a computer, and apparently there’s still some back and forth over that issue.
Apple has not yet shared any data on how many songs have been purchased on iTunes through the iPhone’s WiFi connection. It’s difficult to say whether adding iTunes access from a broader wireless range will make much difference.
The average iPod owner only buys an average of around 20 tracks from iTunes a year. And less than 5% of mobile phone users with music-capable phones have reported ever buying a song via their devices. (Although iPhone users certainly over-index on mobile content.).