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New report sheds doubt on Apple-Cingular iPhone rumors

Cingular is expected to begin partnering with some of the biggest online music services, including Napster, Yahoo Music and eMusic, to launch a music service on its cellphone network that would work with cellphones that double as music players, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The move, which could be announced as early as Thursday (subscription required), sheds doubt on published reports that the No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier has agreed to an exclusive deal with Apple Computer to provide service for its upcoming iPhone.

Cingular's new music service will initially support transferring music from personal computers to cellphones using a cable, according to the Journal. But next year, the wireless provider is scheduled to add an over-the-air downloading component that will feature a menu item on compatible phones that will throw users into a virtual store (similar to the ones customers already use to buy ringtones).

The initiative by Cingular "sets the stage for a battle with Apple Computer Inc., whose iPod dominates the digital-music market," said the Journal. "Apple has sold more than 60 million iPods in the past five years and is rumored to be working on a combination music player and cellphone."

According to the publication, users will be able to transfer music acquired from "all you can eat" subscription services like Napster to Go, Yahoo's Y Music Unlimited or eMusic. Users will also be able to transfer songs ripped from CDs or downloaded in the MP3 and Windows Media formats.

"The Cingular service will include a feature called 'Music ID,' which will let a user hold his or her phone up to a speaker playing a song," the Journal said in its report. "It will then match the song against Napster's database and, if the song is available, offer the user the option to buy the song by clicking a link on the phone. The song will then be sent to the user's computer to be loaded on the phone later."