The wireless industry has faced a lot of criticism for its approach to selling full-track music that can be downloaded directly to the handset.
Mostly, it has been criticized over pricing -- a single song can cost $1 more than if it were downloaded through iTunes or another service.
For that reason alone, the wireless delivery method has been considered a failure. In fact, Seattle-based Melodeo even decided not to pursue the business anymore, and instead is focusing on free podcasts.
But Bedford-Mass.-based Groove Mobile released figures today that make me wonder if it's all true. The company, which reaches more than 85 million subscribers around the world by serving more than a dozen wireless carriers, said it sold 7.5 million tracks in the final three months of 2006.
"Robust sales of music-enabled handsets are helping to drive increased mobile music downloading," said Groove Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Adam Sexton. "Around the world, consumers are embracing the music phone as their preferred player, and using it to download songs directly."
Let's compare that with online full-track music downloads.
The best figures I could find were from Nielsen SoundScan, which reported a dramatic growth in the sales of digital music downloads for 2006.
This is not for the same reporting period, and there's dramatically more people who have access to the Internet versus phones with full-track music capabilities by Groove, but perhaps it will provide some context.
In the first 49 weeks of 2006 (essentially a year), sales of individually downloaded digital tracks accounted for more than 525 million digital downloads.
This is not scientific, but if you multiply Groove's fourth-quarter performance by four to come up with a year's worth of sales, you get 30 million mobile downloads, representing almost 6 percent of online downloads.
Is that so bad?