The prolific Tomi Ahonen has a couple of viciously-detailed posts about the iPod's fall from prominence in comparison with music-capable mobile phones. It's pretty difficult to argue with the main thrust of his argument.
My one over-riding question though.... exactly where ARE these 400m active musicphone users, outside of Japan or Korea?
I'm struggling to think of a country I've visited in the last 12 months (out of I guess 20 or so) where "identifiable" MP3 listeners in cafes/public transport were predominantly phone-based. Forget the surveys for a moment, and think about what you actually see in real life. I don't mean white earbuds, lots of non-Apple devices have them, but actually people you can see selecting tracks, changing the volume and so on. Sure, there's a fair few SonyEricssons being used, and a susprising number of standalone non-Apple players, but I honestly don't see that many RAZRs, Chocolates or Nokias being used with headphones.
I know the UK is an Apple stronghold, so I realise that real-world empirical observations of music listeners on London's Tube (I'd guess 4:1 in iPod's favour) aren't globally representative. so I'd be interested if any of other readers around the world could do a "straw poll" of MP3 listeners they see on their daily commute or around college.
I also disagree with Tomi's stance on using the mobile as the centre of your "music life" rather than a PC. Apart from the easier user interface, faster/cheaper broadband and greater storage, I have to believe that most active music-lovers will treat unfettered access to iTunes, Amazon, bands on Myspace and assorted streaming services as much more usable on a PC, irrespective of their preference for iPod or musicphone.
One other thing.... what happens when today's downloaded music purchasers switch operators or upgrade handsets & lose some of their content because it's DRM-locked to that phone? Will we see a sudden clamour for "Content Portability" laws to go along with number portability?
OK, I don't want to start a statistical flame war, but I see that Tomi has updated his blog to give some ests of geographic split of where the supposed 400m musicphone users are. Now, I actually think his underlying message that the iPod's domination is over is sort-of right, especially in countries which Apple's pricing or language limitations put it out of contention. But I do reckon he's still exaggerating the importance of musicphones quite substantially.
Now I delve into it, I think this 400m number is way out. Its based on an assumption that 15% of worldwide handset users listen to MP3s. But the Continental Research report he cites is UK-only, not worldwide, based on around 2400 responses. Further, based on the write-up in this article only 15% of these 2400 people had listened to an MP3 file on their phone in the last 12 months, of whom only 70% used it at least weekly (ie 10% overall), but only 13% on a daily basis.
Let's go with the weekly figure as a reasonable indicator of "active usage", and assume that Continental's sampling methodology is rigorously representative of the market as a whole, despite the rather cheap price of its report. That gives 10% of UK mobile users listening to music on phones regularly - ie about 5m people (or 1m using them daily using the other figure). Personally, I still don't think this reconciles well with my own empirical observations of peoples' behaviour in the UK, where I reckon I see around 4x iPod users vs. musicphone+other MP3 users - and no way are there 20m iPod users in the UK!
I don't have enough knowledge about the Chinese market to say whether 90m is reasonable, but I'd guess that the German & especially Spanish figures (14m out of 40m total population) look a too high as well (I have an "on the ground" anecdotal comment on my own blog from Madrid saying that musicphone usage is pretty rare, so I can't believe that 1 in 3 people of all ages is a regular user).
If I had to make a punt, and given that the UK (outside of Korea & Japan) is probably comparatively high-usage than most places, I'd estimate that a more realistic worldwide number is 4-6% of mobile users are regular musicphone listeners, ie around 130m, rather than 400m, with probably only 3-4% for non-Korea/Japan markets. Observationally, I'd say this seems to feel "about right" as well.
Still a good number cf. iPods but certainly it's not as clear-cut a ratio as he suggest.s