Mobile phone music players review

Some of the latest music phones deliver music player features and functionality that would rival a dedicated MP3 player.
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01 .Introduction

CHOICE reviews music player mobile phones

Most of the latest mobile phones can take photos and capture video, but CHOICE has found they rarely perform as well as a dedicated camera or camcorder when carrying out these tasks.

Most new phones can also play a music file, but this in itself doesn’t make it a music phone. Features such as one-button access to the music playing mode, easy navigation to your music collection, and online functions such as downloading album art and track names are considered standard on most popular music players, and should be incorporated into your mobile if you are using it to replace your music player.

The phenomenal success of the Apple iPhone, regarded as one of the best music playing mobiles available, shows you don’t have to make compromises when using your phone as a music player – and other phone companies have taken note. When shopping around for your next phone, decide on the features you want, then ask yourself: “Would I use this as a music player even if it couldn’t be used to make phone calls?” If the answer is yes, you’ve found your ideal music phone.

CHOICE reviews 16 mobiles to find the best music playing phone. 

Brands and models tested

  • Google Nexus One
  • HTC HD2 T8585
  • HTC Legend
  • HTC Tattoo
  • LG BL40 New Chocolate
  • LG GW620
  • Motorola Milestone
  • Nokia 5230
  • Nokia 6700 classic
  • Nokia X3
  • Nokia X6 16GB
  • Samsung GT-C3510 Genoa
  • Samsung GT-i5700 Galaxy
  • Sony Ericsson Aino
  • Sony Ericsson U1i Satio
  • Sony Ericsson U5i Vivaz

Why isn't the iPhone 3GS in this test?

Although the Apple iPhone 3GS would have earned the top score it was not included in this test, as the fourth-generation version was announced as we were finishing our test. CHOICE will cover the latest model in our next Smartphone roundup later in 2010.


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81% LG BL40 New Chocolate

672-LG40Price: $999

The slim handset has an excellent quality display with a good menu system that is very easy to navigate. A status bar at the top of the screen provides access to the phone’s controls and music player; simply tap the song title to play the selection and listen through the built-in stereo speakers or headphones. The battery life is not as impressive as with the other recommended models; however, you can charge the phone directly from your PC using a USB connection.

81% Nokia X6 16 GB

720-NokiaX6dPrice: $639

This phone shows a strong music focus, with excellent battery performance giving 26 hours of life using standard headphones and more than 12 hours using Bluetooth headphones. While it’s the only model on test without removable memory, the 16GB internal drive should satisfy most users’ music storage requirements holding up to 4000 songs. The capacitive touchscreen is responsive and accurate, making it excellent for SMS as well as providing very good access to playlists and individual songs.



79% Nokia 5230

722-Nokia_5230cPrice: $359

This is one of the cheapest music-playing mobile phones on test and compares well with phones at double the price. It’s also the only recommended model with Next G support. Music transfer through a USB connection is quick and effective; however, no Wi-Fi means you can’t use your wireless home network to listen to internet radio or music stored on your computer. Once into the music playing mode, you can easily select albums, artists and song lists using the large touchscreen.


Comparison table list

  • By default ALL tested products are listed. You can select up to five items to view in a side by side comparison.
  • Additional columns can be viewed by using the Next/Previous buttons.

Using the filters

  • Use the filters to show only products that meet your specific requirements or which have the specific features you're interested in. Selecting filters automatically updates the Comparison table list.
  • The number shown in brackets represents the number of products displayed if you select that filter.
  • You can view additional filters by selecting the Show more filters button.  

Compare products

Table Allowing the user to select a number of products dependant on their filter options.
Items to compare

Select up to 5 items below.
Then click the compare button

Overall scorePrice ($)Ease of use for music score (%)Volume setting score (%)Playlists score (%)Navigation score (%)Music transfer score (%)Sound quality score (%)Ergonomics score (%)Display score (%)SMS score (%)Sensitivity score (%)Durability score (%)Calling time (hours)Standby time (days)Charging time (minutes)USB connection typeCharging via USBNext G supportWi-FiAssisted GPS built inFM radioMemory card slot (Micro-SD)Standard headphones (3#5mm)Direct access key music playerAAC plus supportWMA supportTouchscreen displayCamera resolution (Megapixel)SAR rating (W/kg)Operating systemScreen display (mm, W x H )Dimensions (mm, W x H x D)Weight (g)ContactBrand
BL40 New Chocolate8199968687898787680LG
X6 16GB8163975889888677177Nokia
U1i Satio7799960686898987463Sony Ericsson
HD2 T85857782980687898787266HTC
Aino7665978987888787263Sony Ericsson
U5i Vivaz7479953687388786677Sony Ericsson
Nexus One7384975686898586966Google
6700 classic7243938688888786671Nokia
GT-I5700 Galaxy Spica7248955686898786965Samsung
GT-C3510 Genoa6112945683828587076Samsung

How we test

Testers rate the following aspects of each phone:
Ease of use as a music player A user panel determines how easy it is to access the phone as a music player.
Our testers assess the Volume settings, whether the controls are easy to use, as well as access to the song playlists and general navigation controls when working in music mode.
Music transfer is assessed for file transfer performance when moving music from a PC to the phone.
Sound quality Our testers carry out a number of acoustic measurements, such as frequency response. In addition, a user panel subjectively rates the sound quality of calls.
Ergonomics Our testers assess the keypad as well as general handling and menu controls when using the phone.
Display score Our testers look at the size of the display as well as quality of the image with regard to sharpness and colour clarity.
SMS use is examined by writing and receiving an SMS and checking the suitability of the display for texting.
Sensitivity Our testers measure the phones’ receiving sensitivity and sending power (particularly important in areas with poor network coverage) in both the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands.
Durability They simulate falls from a table or out of a shirt pocket up to 25 times, as well as storing the phones in hot, damp conditions and carrying out a rain test. 

Using the table

Scores The overall score is made up of: Ease of use for music: 10%; Volume settings: 10%; Playlists: 10%; Navigation: 10%; Music transfer: 10%; Sound quality: 10%; Ergonomics: 8%; Display: 8%; SMS: 8%; Sensitivity: 8%; Durability: 8%.
Features and system
Price Recommended retail, as of June 2010. 
* Rounded to the nearest half-day.

All phones on test:

  • Support 3G, except the Nokia X3 and Samsung GT-C3510 Genoa.
  • HTML browser
  • Support flight mode, vibration-only mode and hands-free (speakerphone)
  • Can record video
  • Have a built-in GPS receiver (except the Nokia X3 and Samsung GT-C3510 Genoa)
  • Include a USB cable and stereo headphone
  • Support Bluetooth Stereo (AD2P)
  • Include quad band GSM support, which provides the widest network support when using your phone overseas.

music-phone-what-to-look-forUSB connection of any type lets you transfer files to your computer. Most models on this test use a standard mini or micro USB connection and can have the phone appear on the PC as a removable drive. Some models use a proprietary connection, which can be a hassle if you need to purchase a replacement cable.

Charging via USB is a handy feature when you can’t get to a mains power adapter, allowing you to use your laptop PC to charge your phone.

Wi-Fi capability allows you to browse the internet using your existing Wi-Fi wireless connection at home or at a Wi-Fi hotspot when you’re out and about. You can also listen to your music collection stored on your PC connected to a home network (802.11g delivers a faster connection than 802.11b).

Memory card
allows you to store photos, music and video and transfer them to a PC. Check to see the exact type of memory you’ll need, as the cards are all tiny and are not interchangeable; although they look very similar. Most phones use MicroSD cards, while some Sony Ericsson phones use Memory Stick (MS) Micro.

Headphone connection type A phone with a 2.5mm or 3.5mm jack allows you to use a standard set of headphones to listen to music, while a proprietary connection forces you to use special headphones.

Stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) allows you to listen to your music without cables via a pair of Bluetooth stereo headphones. All the phones tested have this feature.

Audio format support is important if you purchase music online. All the models tested support the common MP3 file format and all except the LG BL40 support Advanced Audio Coding (AAC). A more advanced version called AAC+ offers support for digital radio streaming. The Windows Media Video (WMV) format was introduced by Microsoft and is designed for streaming audio and video.

The specific absorption rate (SAR) of the phone indicates the amount of energy per kilogram of body weight absorbed when using the phone as claimed by the manufacturer. Although evidence relating to exposure to electromagnetic fields remains inconclusive, you may want to choose a model with a lower SAR value if this is a concern to you.

Operating system (OS) delivers the framework for mobiles to perform tasks beyond simply making a call, allowing the phone to run productivity and media playing applications.
  • The Symbian OS is the oldest and most widely used and can be found in Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones.
  • Windows Mobile 6.5, used on the HTC HD2 in this test, has a familiar Microsoft Windows look and feel.
  • Google’s Android OS is an open source OS, allowing developers to add functionality to phones without having to pay for a licence. There have already been several major revisions, with the latest 2.1 version in the HTC Legend and Google’s Nexus phone.
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