January 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Bump App Shows Smartphone’s Potential for Legal P2P Music

The iPhone version of Bump (Android too, at some point), allows users to select songs to share with friends near and far.

Apple iTunes has officially broken the 10-billion-songs-downloaded mark, bringing to mind another milestone: the billionth app to be downloaded from iTunes, Bump.

The Bump app for iPhone and Android, which attracted $16.5 million in new funding this week, allows people to zap contact and other information from one phone to another using a nifty little trick.

By recording the exact moment in time when the two phones’ accelerometers register the bump and the location of those users, Bump knows which two people — out of its entire 25-million-user network — are trying to exchange information.

The iPhone version of the app now includes a music feature that hints at the smartphone’s potential as a legal P2P music-sharing tool, and it’s coming to the Android version too, Bump spokeswoman Sadie Bascom told Evolver.fm. Along with select contact information, photos, social networking identities, and calendar items, users can select any of the songs in their phones’ iPod apps and tag them for transfer to any bumpee.

In order to listen to a song that someone sends you, you'll need to tap the song within a YouTube video to hear it within that app.

This is already pretty neat for music fans, because it lets us pick a few songs that define us (as much as songs can) so we can share them with other Bump users we meet, along with other personally-identifying information.

To be clear, the recipient doesn’t actually download the song; instead, like Discovr and other apps without expressly-licensed music, the Bump app embeds the songs from YouTube. Unlike Discovr, Bump forces the user to load songs within the iPhone’s YouTube app, rather than playing them itself, an issue that could be fixed in future versions.

Regardless, we’re intrigued that P2P music sharing has found its way into an app originally designed to help people exchange phone numbers and email addresses. Although cellphone data plans, carrier restrictions and gatekeepers such as Apple have ensured that smartphones will not be a viable P2P music sharing platform in the foreseeable future, Bump’s music-sharing feature shows that such a thing is already possible, without even coming close to breaking the law.

Bump started as an app for “meatspace” (a term sometimes used by cyber-people to refer to the offline world), but now, you can also use Bump to share songs and other data with friends even without standing close enough to bump your phones together, making this a global music-sharing network. We expect to see more apps (and features within apps) along the same lines.

For instance, it would be possible, today, for an enterprising app developer to create a legal, smartphone version of the original Napster file sharing service that scanned the music stored on people’s smartphones (or allowed them to set what they want to share) and presented those songs to friends and searchers via YouTube — or, even better, as far as the music industry is concerned, through subscription applications such as MOG, Rhapsody, Spotify, and so on. There’s even a perfect name for this: Appster.

Music is part of who we are, as Bump has recognized. Thanks to this promising combination of music apps and YouTube, it’s also legal to share.