Nokia music phone set to challenge iTunes

Apple's iTunes music download store will have a new rival in October - in the shape of a new Nokia music phone.

Owners of the Comes with Music 5310 mobile will be able to download individual tracks and albums from the Nokia Music Store, free of charge for a year.

They can transfer these tracks to their PC and keep them even when the year expires but will have to buy a new Comes with Music phone to continue downloading.

Music mobile lovers will have 2.1 million tracks to choose from whereas Apple's iTunes store has over eight million, but industry experts believe the Nokia device could still put a big dent in the iPhone's Christmas sales figures.

For once the UK will be able to get its hands on the phone before other world markets. No price has yet been attached to the handset but it is expected to cost between £100 to £300.

"This is a unique proposition. Nobody has launched an unlimited music service that allows you to keep your music with no catches," said Simon Ainslie, Nokia's UK managing director.

All five mobile phone UK networks have had talks with Nokia about the new device, but none has yet to sign up to the service.

Instead, operators' own services have been significantly ramped up in the last few months, presumably in readiness for Nokia's new product. Vodafone has relaunched its music store and the ink has only just dried on deals between O2, record label BMG and digital music store Napster.

However, none of the operators have gone down the Nokia route of offering free music. Vodafone's MusicStation gives customers unlimited access to a catalogue of 1.2 million songs but costs £1.99 per week.

Over the channel, Orange France has recently launched a service free of anti-piracy controls which makes available 500 tracks per month for 12 euros.

Free downloads could mean less acts of music 'piracy' being committed by mobile owners.

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