Apple’s iPod brand has enjoyed a majority share of the digital audio player (DAP) market for the past few years, and the term “iPod” has become synonymous with DAP in popular culture. My opinions on this are stated in an earlier post, but basically, I see it a stifling to worthy competition and ultimately bad for customers that this is the case.
The iPod shuffle is the most basic DAP that Apple puts out. The current model has 1GB of memory in which it stores a playlist of songs with the ability to play them in order or to shuffle them. It’s simple to use because it has very few controls: a play/pause button flanked horizontally by forward and backward buttons and vertically by volume controls, with a shuffle switch, and a hold switch.
Perhaps its biggest merits are its small size and the clip that is built into it, but it also has a tremendous downside in that it lacks a screen, which makes it difficult to find the song you want without memorizing the playlist. This alone removes it as a consideration for me. But some people are willing to fork over $79 dollars for a screenless DAP. There were no less than 3 iPod Shuffle owners of the 9 residents of Chinese House, which is where I live on campus.
Now, the shuffle isn’t the only screenless DAP on the market. Creative decided to copy the shuffle with a similarly sized Zen Stone, which for the same feature set without a clip $40. Creative also released a Zen Stone Plus, which at $70 dollars gives you 2GB of space instead of 1 and also gives you a small screen, which gives you a great deal more control that you have over the shuffle, for $9 less. Of course, it still lacks the clip.
This is where the Sansa Clip comes in. SanDisk has announced that it will soon be releasing this DAP in September with a 1GB version for $40 and a 2GB version for $60. Both versions have a four-line, two-color screen, a radio tuner, and a voice recorder, and, as the name suggests, a removable clip so that you can attach it to your clothing. While it is not as small as the shuffle, it is still a rather small player as this press photo from SanDisk shows:
Perhaps it is not entirely fair to compare this new crop from SanDisk to the iPod shuffle, which has been out for almost a year, but it is noteworthy that Apple has not lowered the price of its DAP despite the appearance of cheaper, better players on the market.
And of course, they haven’t needed to do so. Because the iPod line is so popular, it is likely that iPod shuffles will outsell Zen Stones and Sansa Clips combined. In order for Apple to start offering their players with better features and prices, the public is going to have to become aware that there are other players on the market that do have better features and prices. Only then will Apple feel the pressure of real competition and give consumers a good deal.