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Alternatives to the iPod

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Kleenex means tissue, Google means Internet search, and iPod means MP3 player or digital music player, right? Not so fast. In fact, there are hundreds of devices to choose from. Matthew David details alternatives to the iPod, which range from intelligent, computer-like pocket devices, to wafer-thin disposable players, to MP3 players that double as cell phones.
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Kleenex means tissue, Google means Internet search, and iPod means MP3 player or digital music player, right? Not so fast. The Apple iPod is not the only choice you have when it comes to digital music players.

Beyond the Hype

The first favor you can do for yourself is to put aside the iPod hype that Apple has created. Believe it or not, the iPod is not the best MP3 player on the market; it was just the first player to get the interface and needs of the customer right.

Over the last six years, there have been many MP3 player products to hit the market. The first came from Rio in 1999 as flash memory and bulky hard drive solutions. The flash memory players were small (they carried enough memory for only about 20 minutes of music), and the hard drive players allowed you to store 20GB of music (about 5,000 songs), but you needed a backpack to carry it around.

Apple introduced a small, simple-to-use product. Apple's "Keep It Simple, Stupid" approach worked. Today, 70 percent of the digital music player market share is owned by Apple. Apple also introduced portable music to us: Take your complete music collection on the go. The idea is proving very popular.

The sales during the first three months of 2005 (after the Christmas rush and including any returns that customers might have made for the previous months) exceeded 7.4 million. That is a staggering 548 percent growth over the previous year for the same time period. Although the iPod dominates this market, other products that are just as good are also available. The MP3 player market consists of three main segments:

  • Hard drive players
  • Micro drive players
  • Flash memory players

The hard drive players can store up 100GB of data, or 25,000+ songs. The micro drive players are much smaller than their hard drive cousins, but can still store a meaty 4GB–6GB of music (a respectable 1,750 songs). Flash memory players are the smallest of the bunch with the smallest storage, but they do have a few additional features that make them worth looking into.

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