Sony Ericsson phones reading ID3 tags

16th February 2008 (16 years ago)

I've been having trouble transferring/playing music on the SE W610i and K800i phones. Copying the MP3 files to the phone is easy--when you plug it in with the USB cable you can select 'File Transfer' on the phone and it will reboot as a mass storage device so Linux can mount it. However, after transferring albums and safely unmounting the disks, they appeared to have strange names in the music player. When viewing by artist, album and track in the Walkman and standard music player sometimes the ends of names would be cut off even if they weren't particularly long. For example, after transferring Mark Ronson's album 'Version' and viewing by artist, the album would be split apparently between three artists:

Mark Ro
Mark Ron
Mark Ronso

Initially I assumed the files were becoming corrupt somehow, even though I made sure I was unmounting properly from Ubuntu and even tried the same files from a Windows machine. After a bit of searching I found a forum thread about the same problem. The problem is due to ID3 tags--specifically version 2.4. The way that Sony Ericssons (at least these phones) display artist and track names has nothing to do with directories or file names but ID3 tag embedded in your MP3 files. Many of my albums had information stored in v2.4 of ID3 (Amarok uses 2.4 by default), but the phones can't handle this properly and much prefer the 2.3 version. Problem identified! Now for a solution.

Warning: There is a possibility you will loose some ID3 data when converting from v2.4 back to v2.3, However the stuff that does get removed can't be that great as I haven't noticed anything missing. V2.4 is supposedly a bit controversial anyway, so v2.3 should make your files more widely supported.

There are two open source tools I can see as being helpful--[id3v2]( (command line) and Kid3 (graphical GUI KDE application). id3v2 has the argument -c (--convert) which is supposed to convert from id3v1 to id3v2. This will allow you to convert all MP3s in a directory with one command as follows:

id3v2 -C Music/MarkRonson/*

Kid3 has a reasonable user interface and may in fact do a better job at conversion as it has a specific v2.4 to v2.3 conversion tool. You select the files you wish to convert by opening them, Ctrl-A then from the main menu select 'Tools' -> 'Convert ID3v2.4 to ID3v2.3'.

Hope this has helped someone out. This fix works but hopefully a more elegant solution will come at a later date (e.g. ID3 tags get converted automatically when being copied or SE release a firmware update to support v2.4)