Since my last post was about my experience with getting my mp3 player replaced, I figured that I’d post my opinion. I know I’m not the foremost authority on the subject, only having owned one mp3 player for myself, but I think I have enough experience with them to make a few comments.
Apple’s iPod mp3 players dominate the market. In the minds of many people iPods and mp3 players are equivalent sets rather than the former being a subset of the latter, as the actual case is. For instance yesterday, my mother, knowing full well that Apple did not make my mp3 player, asked if my iPod had arrived.
I think it is unfortunate that iPods hold the market share they do, not because I hate Apple or feel that people shouldn’t own them, but because they are not the best devices one could buy for their price. Take the iPod nano. It is a thin flash mp3 player. It does not have video support or an FM radio (you can get a radio add on for $49 from Apple). Furthermore, it has a troublesome file structure, forcing one to edit the songs via iTunes unless they hack the player. The 2GB version costs $149, the 4GB version costs $199 and the 8GB version costs $249 according to Apple.
In contrast, the mp3 players in SanDisk’s Sansa e200 line does play video and has a built in radio. According to SanDisk, the 2GB version costs $120, the 4GB version $150, the 6GB version $170, and the 8GB version $199. Both the 4GB and 8GB versions are $49 cheaper than the corresponding nano. Yet, the majority of buyers who buy flash memory-based mp3 players buy iPod nanos over Sansa e200 series players.
Now, I’m not going to say that SanDisk’s player is better for all people. It’s not. For one thing, it doesn’t support games. I’m not one to play games with handheld devices, so that didn’t matter to me. As well, for some, the touch scroll wheel of the nano is preferable to the mechanical scroll wheel of the e200 series (for me the situation). Others may find that the form factor of a nano is worth plunking down an extra $49 dollars. To me, if it fits in my pocket with room to spare, I’m happy. However, given the features and the prices, I cannot believe that the nano’s market share is due to rational, knowledgeable choices being made by users.
Of course, there are other mp3 players beyond those produced by Apple and SanDisk, which happen to have the first and second place market share respectively, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were comparable players that have better features and/or a better price tag than both. For instance, I have little doubt that there exists a flash player that works with a different format or formats than the space-consuming .mov format that the e200 series uses.
This is one of the irksome things about the e200 series. Video is converted to a 90° rotated scaled down .mov file (one of the formats used by Apple’s Quicktime player). Presumably this is so that the player can directly play it without using many resources, but since it is uncompressed, it can sometimes take up more space on the player than the original file did, even if the original file was of higher resolution.