Facing the Music in Italy

Display of Nokia phones in Italian shop

Last week I spent a few days in Italy catching up with friends and visiting relatives. As you’d expect, I ate and drank well. When I wasn’t at the dinner table, I walked into a few high-street retailers and checked out the mobile phone section.

I noticed that the Nokia 5800 is available in Italy with Comes With Music for €469. The phone is also on sale as part of the Comes With Music service in Singapore, Australia, and Sweden.

But not in the UK. Here, Nokia launched Comes With Music with the 5310 XpressMusic before broadening the offer to the N95 8GB. It strikes me as quite odd that the 5800 is not yet available in the UK as part of the Comes With Music service. The phone is Nokia’s flagship mobile music device, so I’m sure we’ll see a Comes With Music version soon.

I think Nokia will struggle to get Comes With Music off the ground in Italy. Talking to some of my friends and relatives, it was clear that everyone wants an iPhone. Apple’s object of desire gets plenty of publicity in Italy, partly because it’s been advertised by the two leading operators, TIM and Vodafone. Italy is one of the few countries where the iPhone competes directly with the Nokia 5800 Comes With Music package. It’ll be interesting to discover whether Nokia’s lure of free access to music tracks for a year will hook enough people or whether they’ll prefer an iPhone and get their music from another source.

The 5800’s price of €469 seems quite high, even in the unsubsidised Italian market. Buyers will have to part with a large sum of money to get the 5800 and Comes With Music. A 5800 without the service costs €340. Nokia is gambling that Italians will spend €129 more to access an unlimited number of music tracks.

Italy has a lower rate of fixed broadband penetration than many other European countries. Given that Comes With Music is tied quite heavily to a PC this may prove to be a problem in Italy until more people get connected. At least the 5800 supports over-the-air downloads — an important feature given that, in my experience, many Italians download music to their phones.

Nokia is slowly bringing Comes With Music to more and more countries. It will probably adopt the same approach as before, offering one “hero” mobile phone or a limited number of Comes With Music phones. I’m not sure how much longer this cautious approach will last. There’s no doubt Italians love opera; whether they’ll love Comes With Music isn’t as certain.