This February, I bought my first mp3 player, a SanDisk Sansa e260, a direct competitor to the iPod nano. When I first started looking for an mp3 player, I thought that a nano was what I was looking for. I just needed a player that would hold a few gigabytes of music that I could use for running and the like.
Because the nano was the most popular flash player around, I assumed that it was the highest quality player. As I found through a bit of research, this sentiment was quite incorrect. SanDisk was one of a few DAP makers that produced a more fully featured player for a lower price than the iPod nano.
The nano had a smaller screen with lower resolution than the SanDisk player; it lacked the video, radio, and recording abilities of the SanDisk player, and to top it off, the e260 was $20 cheaper than the nano at the Grinnell Wal-Mart where I got it. It seemed almost paradoxical that I could get such a better player for less money than the market leader.
So, as the new line of iPods were unveiled with new prices, I was intrigued. It seemed that Apple was at least doing some catch-up with its less well-known competitors. They enlarged the screen of the nano to be larger with a higher resolution than that of the e200 series MP3 players and added the ability to play video. Beyond that, it changed the interface to show more images in order to break some of the monotony.
Of course, these are nice steps forward. Obviously there still is not a built-in radio receiver or a voice recorder, but certainly it made some improvements that make it competitive with the e200 series as well as dropping the price by $50, which still leaves it more expensive than the e200 (SanDisk has also dropped prices since I bought my player), but the reduced price is nice.
However, SanDisk has not been twiddling their thumbs. They also released a new mp3 player called the Sansa View, which takes its name from another proposed SanDisk product that was withdrawn. The View is the heir to the e200 line and still bears great resemblance to that line. However, it has made some improvements of its own.
The screen is the same resolution as the new nano with a slightly bigger area. The player now supports 3 video formats to the nano’s 1. It still has the radio and recording capacities. It adds Audible audiobook support, touts a significantly longer battery life (35 hours to the nano’s 24), and now supports microSDHC.
But the real kicker is the price. The 16GB version shares the $200 pricetag with the 8GB nano while the 8GB version is priced at the 4GB nano’s $150 price point. Not only do you get more features for the same price, you get twice as much space!
This is not to say that I don’t think Apple has made any unmatched improvements in it’s players. There doesn’t seem to be an equivalent player to the iPod Touch offered by a competitor, but with the price and the touchscreen interface (something I believe is highly overrated), the player doesn’t interest me.
Apple’s iPod classic also maintains an edge with its new 160GB available size, putting it ahead of everyone else. But again, this doesn’t interest me as I prefer flash players for portable listening and because the use I would have for such space could just as easily be provided by a bigger, cheaper external hard drive.
Of course, Apple has not improved its abysmal iPod shuffle offering, which stays at the far over-priced $80, which is bested by both Creative’s Zen Stone Plus and SanDisk’s Sansa Clip.
I hope that Americans will realize that more functional players best Apple’s players in many categories and that people will buy more functional players over more stylish or well-marketed players. Obviously, one cannot hold one’s breath for a hope like that but it certainly would be nice if Apple would feel the burn of competition.
That said, it should be interesting to see what Microsoft puts out in their second generation line of Zune players…