Motorola 'to debut' iTunes phone at UK's V Festival

Moto + Apple + iPod + Virgin = killer branding?

Motorola will launch its iTunes mobile phone in the UK next month, a UK press report has claimed.

According to yesterday's Sunday Telegraph, Motorola will unveil the handset at the V Festival, a music event which takes place on 20-21 August at Hylands Park, Chelmsford and Weston Park, Staffs.

The festival is sponsored by Virgin Mobile, so the carrier may be the first to agree to offer the product in the UK. As the smaller of the five biggest UK carriers, Virgin is probably less troubled by the iTunes phone's lack of support for over-the-air music downloads than the other networks are said to be. While some carriers have been said to be unwilling to back a handset that doesn't force users to pay for expensive GPRS downloads, Virgin is likely to prefer the brand awareness that will come with the iPod-like handset.

Interestingly, there has been much speculation of late that Apple will become a virtual mobile operator, buying block airtime from an existing carrier and selling it on under its own brand. In the UK, this is already how Virgin Mobile operates, piggybacking on T-Mobile's infrastructure.

Separately, UK music industry trade body, the BPI, today said more than 10m songs had been downloaded in the UK so far this year - almost double the total for 2004 as a whole. Downloads accounted for the sale of just over half of chart-tracked singles in the first half of 2005, the BPI added, compared to just 9.1 per cent the year before.

The gain came in part at the expense of CD-single sales, which declined year on year, but downloads contributed far more sales than those they cannibalised from other media. Shipments of vinyl and other single formats were all up, the BPI said. ®

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