LOS ANGELES -- Mobile phone carrier Cricket is making its unlimited music service, Muve Music, an exclusive feature of its higher-end phones.
The change is a bid to encourage users of lower-end, basic cellphones to trade up to smartphones, which require more expensive plans. The company will stop offering the service on basic phones to new customers.
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Muve Music allows users to download songs from a catalog of millions. The songs cannot be transferred off the phone, and access disappears if a subscriber cancels service. About 600,000 Cricket subscribers now pay an extra $10 a month to get the service.
Starting next month, Muve will be included in all plans for smartphones that use Google's Android operating system. The plans go from $50 a month including 1 gigabyte of data to $70 a month for 5 GB.
Previously, Android phones with unlimited data plans cost $55 a month, or $65 with Muve included. The least expensive non-smartphone plan with Muve cost $55 a month.
As Cricket adds new customers and others leave, the plan could help boost Muve Music's subscriber count.
Cricket, which offers lower-cost, contract-free plans to rival those of the bigger carriers, currently has 5.9 million customers, and 60 percent of them use Android phones.
If those numbers hold steady, subscribers to Muve Music could exceed 3 million in the two years that it generally takes for Cricket's customer base to change over completely. That would make it the largest music subscription plan in the nation.
Both Rhapsody and Spotify, the market leaders in the U.S., currently have about 1 million paying U.S. subscribers each.
The use of Muve does not count against one's data cap. The typical customer downloads about 300 songs and listens to more than 30 hours of music every month, the company said.
Cricket, the brand of Leap Wireless International Inc., saw its subscriber count drop to 5.9 million in the quarter through June, down from 6.2 million in the previous quarter. Leap executives blamed the dip on weak results from national retailers that carry the brand. Leap has its headquarters in San Diego.