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MP3 Music Cell Phone Comparisons

Michael Kwan
Holding a music smartphone

As convergence devices, mobile phones have taken over the functionality of many other portable electronics like digital cameras and GPS navigation units, and this is also true when it comes to portable MP3 players. However, not all music phones are made alike so it pays to compare the major advantages and disadvantages of competing devices before you settle on a particular model.

Apple iPhone 5S

As of the writing of this article in November 2013, the Apple iPhone 5S is the newest and most powerful addition to the Apple iPhone family of smartphones. It improves upon its predecessors in nearly every way, while still retaining the core iPhone appeal. As a music phone, one of its most powerful traits is its inherent integration with iTunes, which continues to be one of the most popular sources of digital music downloads. Users coming from an iPod experience will be familiar with how to sync an iPhone to the iTunes library.

The iPhone 5S starts from about $200 on contract or around $650 contract free.

Major Features and Benefits

  • Solid iTunes integration for easy access to existing music library
  • Beautiful and familiar iPod/Music app
  • Access to the massive iPhone App Store
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • 4.0-inch 640 x 1136 pixel Retina display

Areas of Concern

  • No expandable memory card slot
  • Smaller screen size compared to other flagship smartphones

Samsung Galaxy S4

In discussions about companies that make the best smartphones, Samsung has quickly risen to the top in terms of user experience and market share. While its Galaxy Note 3 is more powerful, it can also be too large and unwieldy for some users. As such, the Galaxy S4 may be a more appropriate choice, being bolstered by a number of fantastic software enhancements and other features. The microSD slot has plenty of storage for music files, and the pre-loaded music app offers a lot of options and customization, including voice control. The AdaptSound feature is an added bonus and sets the sound profile to best suit your hearing range.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 starts around $100.00 on contract.

Major Features and Benefits

  • Very powerful smartphone with all-day battery life
  • Up to 64GB of internal storage, plus a microSD expansion slot for up to 64GB more
  • Music player app supports voice commands
  • 5.0-inch 1080p Super AMOLED touchscreen
  • S Voice digital assistant

Areas of Concern

  • Cheaper-feeling plastic body
  • TouchWiz user interface may not appeal to everyone

Sony Xperia Z1

Sony comes with a strong tradition from a number of areas within the consumer electronics industry, so it is able to leverage its existing product and technology knowledge in its smartphones. The long-standing Walkman brand can be found within its flagship Xperia smartphones, like the Xperia Z1. This ties into Sony's existing portals for buying songs and accessing paid streaming music portals via Music Unlimited. The home screen widget makes quick access and controls a breeze.

The Sony Xperia Z1 is available for about $650.00 unlocked and contract free.

Major Features and Benefits

  • Walkman app for a great music player experience
  • IP58 dust-proof and water-resistant certification
  • 5.0-inch 1080p Triluminos display
  • Memory card expansion slot for up to 64GB of additional storage
  • 20.7MP auto focus camera

Areas of Concern

  • Physically larger phone can be more difficult to hold
  • Display is not as bright and vibrant as some competitors


Of the Android smartphones on the market today, the HTC One is perhaps the one best designed for the music lover. HTC partnered with Beats Audio to improve the overall music experience. This includes the front-facing stereo speakers that are best experienced with the phone in landscape mode. The metal construction also means that the phone is well built and looks great.

The HTC One sells for about $200.00 on a two-year contract.

Major Features and Benefits

  • Dual front-facing speakers for great music sharing
  • Beats Audio sound enhancement
  • Built-in stereo FM radio with RDS
  • 4.7-inch 1080p Super LCD3 display
  • Up to 64GB of internal memory

Areas of Concern

  • Only a four-megapixel camera
  • No memory card expansion slot


Available exclusively through Verizon Wireless, the Motorola DROID MAXX follows in the tradition of other DROID smartphones and may not appear to be purpose-driven toward music at first. However, it has one of the largest batteries in a modern smartphone at 3500mAh. The music player can be a major power draw on a smartphone, and having a larger battery means that users can listen to tunes longer without worrying about running out of power. The Droid Music app is more robust than what is found with stock Android software, and it ties into a Verizon Wireless Music Store, as well as Internet radio and podcasts. It supports a broad range of audio formats, including MP3, AAC, WMA v10, AMR NB and much more.

The Motorola DROID MAXX is listed around $200.00 on contract or about $500.00 month-to-month.

Major Features and Benefits

  • 3500mAh battery for extra long battery life
  • 5.0-inch 720p Super AMOLED touchscreen
  • 32GB of internal memory
  • 4G LTE support
  • 10-megapixel auto focus camera with LED flash

Areas of Concern

  • Only available for Verizon
  • No microSD expansion slot for added storage

Going Beyond the Spec Sheet

When choosing a smartphone, it is important to have a look at the spec sheet. You want to know the size of the screen, the amount of internal storage, and whether or not there is a memory card expansion slot. However, software is an equally important consideration, especially when it comes to the pre-installed music player. This is largely a matter of personal preference, so while one person may like one music app, another person may prefer a different one entirely. The good news is that both the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store are populated with such a wide selection of music apps, there's bound to be at least a few that you'll enjoy as long as you start with the right music phone.

MP3 Music Cell Phone Comparisons