While portable music players evolved at a frightening rate, that was nothing compared to how the mobile phone spread through the population like a virus. It seems with each generation of mobile phone the level of functionality just increases exponentially, so it came as no surprise when phone manufacturers added music playback to their feature lists.
A few years back Sony Ericsson started releasing Walkman branded mobile phones with a strong emphasis on music playback. These phones generally sported more memory than standard models, often shipping with large memory cards in the box allowing for a decent amount of songs to be loaded. Sony Ericsson also made the smart decision to ship its Walkman phones with 3.5mm headphone adapters, allowing users to plug high-quality headphones into the devices, while still making use of the handsfree kit. Nokia was also quick to jump on the multimedia phone bandwagon, and its N series phones have seen a lot of success among gadget junky consumers.
Creating mobile phones that doubled up as music players also gave network operators the opportunity to make extra revenue from music download services. Vodafone for instance has made quite a song and dance about its MusicStation service, which offers you unlimited music downloads for a cost of £1.99 per week - I'll be thoroughly testing MusicStation soon to determine whether it's worth paying a rolling fee to have full access to an online library from anywhere, so watch this space for a full report.
Seeing mobile phone manufacturers trying to get in on the portable music player market clearly had an effect on Apple, with the company pushing back the other way last year and launching the iPhone. While Nokia and Sony Ericsson were trying to create phones that could do what an iPod does, Apple created an iPod that could do what a phone does, and the result was something very special.
It's very easy to dismiss the iPhone as a fashion accessory, but in reality it's a very advanced mobile device. OK, so it's not as feature rich as many other smartphones out there, but what it does do, it does incredibly well. The Mobile Safari web browser is reason enough to own an iPhone in itself, while the integration of Google Maps is equally compelling. But it's the beauty of having a fully featured iPod built into your phone that really works, allowing you to use iTunes to manage your library - it also means you'll never miss another call because you're plugged into your iPod.
Of course Apple never misses a trick when it comes revenue opportunities, so anyone who buys an iPhone will find a button for the iTunes Wi-Fi store. This allows users to buy tracks directly from their iPhone whenever they have a Wi-Fi connection. It's probably a safe bet that when a 3G iPhone arrives you'll be able to download music from iTunes even when you're not near a Wi-Fi hotspot too.
So there you have it, a brief run through the history of mobile music and how we came to be using the feature rich, high quality devices that we all take for granted today. The great news for consumers is that there doesn't seem to be any slowdown in the development of personal music players, so your music on the move is only going to get better.