Siemens has developed a pocket-size digital music player that can download songs from online music services when hooked up to a mobile phone.

The player is due to be launched by mobile operator O2 before the end of the year. The company will offer a companion download service that will make songs available up to two weeks before their official release date. The manufacturer said trials are ongoing in Europe with several operators and talks about supplying the device are also taking place with carriers in the US, South America and Europe.

O2 confirmed its launch schedule. "We aim to have a commercial product on the market before Christmas," said Kate Mant, a spokeswoman for the carrier.

The player is roughly the same size and weight as a current candybar-type mobile phone handset, measuring 52x98x21mm and weighing 80g. A small monochrome LCD (liquid crystal display) takes up part of the front panel and a navigation button and two additional smaller buttons complete the features on the front of the player.

Users can connect the player to a GPRS (general packet radio service) compatible mobile phone that supports either a cable or infrared link. Once on the network, the player connects to a music server and displays details of the songs available and gives the choice of either listening to a sample of the song or downloading it to the player.

Music is encoded in the Mpeg-4 aacPlus format and an average song on the system will have a file size of around 1MB. That works out to a download time of approximately between three and nine minutes depending on the connection speed.

Songs are stored on Secure Digital memory card that can be removed from the player and inserted into a personal computer to allow users to listen to songs on their PC. The digital rights management software prevents songs being copied to additional computers or shared online, according to the statement.

In addition, the player also supports the popular MP3 file format and songs can be quickly transferred to the device by using a PC's USB (universal serial bus) interface.

Siemens has formed a consortium with digital rights management software developer SDC and media company Yodoba/234 AG to offer an end-to-end solution for carriers that wish to deploy such services.

The 'Music Over The Air Consortium' will select music, compress audio, host files and handle the rights management aspects of the service for carriers, said the statement. The consortium has already negotiated agreements with music companies that carriers can tailor to their needs.