Does Comes With Music Make Good Financial Sense?

Does Comes With Music Make Good Financial Sense?

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” is undoubtedly the most useful money management principle you can learn. So when faced with something like Comes With Music, Nokia’s all-you-can-eat music subscription service, the question immediately becomes: what’s the catch?

As promised earlier in the year, Nokia has now rolled out Comes With Music into Australia. As of March 20, you’ll be able to acquire the 5800 XpressMusic phone along with 12 months access to the Comes With Music library of 4 million tracks for $979. Fancy 18 months? That’ll be $1109.

There are several obvious catches. The first, as Nick over at Gizmodo points out, is that you only have the choice of a single mid-range phone model. Nokia is promising more phone options later this year, but if you don’t fancy the 5800 (I wouldn’t as it’s touch-screen-only), Comes With Music currently doesn’t come at all.

Secondly, you’ll need to cough up for a separate plan so your phone actually works, and hence the total cost is higher than the pricing might suggest. It wouldn’t be hard to get a music-capable phone on contract for less than the buy-in price for Comes With Music.

Thirdly, munching up all that music without using all your bandwidth will require some careful planning. You wouldn’t want to chew through your miserly phone data allowance, so downloading to PC makes sense. But with 8GB on the phone, you could potentially still waste a lot of time shuffling tracks on and off.

That problem probably shouldn’t be overstated. Nokia estimates the phone can handle 6000 tracks, which equates to 5 tracks or so a day over 12 months. A trickier issue for casual music listeners is how much you’ll have to pay for further Comes With Music subscriptions if you don’t fancy ditching the phone (no word yet from Nokia on that).

The biggest issue, as always, is DRM (digital rights management, aka stopping you giving the music file to anyone else). Comes With Music uses the WMA format. While the tracks don’t expire (unlike other WMA options like Sanity’s much-deried LoadIt), there are restrictions: you can only play the songs on the specified phone and one nominated Windows PC. As is ever the case with WMA, Linux and Mac users are left out in the cold.

The single PC scenario is particularly annoying. If your computer blows its stack, the best-case scenario is that you’ll waste hours getting reauthorisation to work with your backup copies. The worst-case scenario is that reauthorisation won’t work at all, leaving you with a dud pile of useless files.

There’s also the question of whether your musical tastes will be accurately reflected by Comes With Music. 4 million is a lot of tracks, but that doesn’t mean much if you’re indifferent to most of them.

So is it a good deal? It’s not a terrible option if you’re a Windows user and you like the phone on offer. But with DRM now all but gone from Australia’s two biggest online music stores, it’s hard not to conclude that you might be better off spending your money elsewhere.

Lifehacker’s weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.

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