U.K. phone network O2 announced today that it has partnered exclusively with online music vendor Napster to provide a la carte, over-the-air music downloads to O2 customers, direct to their mobile phones. Napster's entire 5 million-track catalog will be available for download from this weekend and includes listings from every major record label.
While many O2 customers enjoy free handsets, those who spent the 269-pound premium (about $545) to buy the O2-exclusive iPhone will not be able to use this service, however. U.K. Apple devotees will have to wait for over-the-air music downloads.
Songs will be accessed through O2 Active, the network's mobile portal, which cannot be used on the iPhone because the handset doesn't support WAP. The service will be available to both contract and pay as you go customers, and your songs will still play if you cancel your contract.
Individual tracks will cost 99 pence (about $2.01), with data charges for each song included in the cost of the download. For a limited promotional period of three months, O2 will offer five tracks for 4 pounds ($8.10). A Napster spokesperson would not confirm or deny any plans to offer deals on complete album downloads.
After downloading a song to one of 35 compatible handsets, an identical copy is sent to a user's email account that can be played on a PC or moved to a compatible MP3 player and are identical to files downloaded using Napster's traditional a la carte service. All songs will be protected by Microsoft's Windows Media DRM, PlaysForSure, and are encoded at 128-kbps WMA.
For those of you keeping track of movements in the mobile music downloads space, you'll notice the O2/Napster service is very different to, which is due to launch later this year, offering unlimited access to 1.5 million tracks from all four major labels for a fee built into the cost of the handset. Napster also has to distribute its entire catalogue to subscribers who own .
So will you pay 99 pence a pop for access to Napster's entire catalog? Are you a disgruntled iPhowner? Leave a comment below or visit our MP3 forum over yonder.