For the past year,
the media has been clamoring about iPod killers
on the horizon--new MP3 players with more features, longer battery life, and designs nearly as svelte as the iPod's. However, this oversimplifies the situation; in truth, while the iPod rocks, it's not now, nor has it ever been, perfect for everyone.
We too have run our fair share of iPod-centric headlines--for a good reason. With about 1.5 million units sold, the iPod is the most popular MP3 player in the world, and it still makes other players look and feel inelegant in comparison. Don't get me wrong; it's still our favorite overall MP3 player
. Although everyone can think of reasons why they want an iPod, I've decided to use this column to list a few reasons why not
to buy one.
Before you send me rants
for putting down the iPod, please read the list, realize that we still love the iPod, and take a deep breath. If you still don't think there could be reasons to go with something else, feel free to e-mail me
1. Six-plus hours of battery life is not always enough.
If you regularly take long airplane flights, you'll find that the iPod's battery craps out before you reach your destination, leaving you to rely on the low-grade tunes pumped to the arm of your seat. If you need a long battery life from your MP3 player, go with the Dell Digital Jukebox DJ (15GB), which lasted almost 20 hours in our battery test--and it's less expensive than the iPod.
2. Jogging with a hard drive-based player is not cool.
The iPod and other high-capacity MP3 players use hard drives to store music. In order to extend battery life and avoid skipping, the hard drives turn on only every once in a while to fill up a flash-memory buffer, which itself has no potentially skipping, moving parts. The flash buffer, in turn, plays the music. If something jars a hard drive-based player at the precise moment when the hard drive is spinning to load the flash buffer, the player could skip. Some experts say that it's impossible to damage the drive in this way, but I'm not buying that--hard drives spin thousands of times per minute, and they have tiny, fragile parts. Instead, use a small flash player, such as something from the iRiver iFP-3xx
line. They won't skip, the batteries last longer, and they're much lighter than the iPod.
3. The iPod is expensive.
As much as we love the iPod, it sure is expensive--especially when you consider that the nonreplacable battery will lose its resiliency in a few years. Although not nearly as glamorous as the iPod, MP3 CD players offer much more megabytes per dollar and can approximate the experience of using a hard drive-based player. Since each MP3 CD holds about 10 hours of music, you could carry 20 CD-Rs in a CD wallet and have about the same amount of music that fits on the 15GB iPod
. Best of all, you can pick up a decent one (the iRiver ChromeX) for less than $60.
4. You want to make high-quality digital recordings.
Apple recently announced the availability of a voice-recorder accessory
for the iPod, but there's still no way to use the device to record high-quality audio. DJs who want to record their sets, people who want to encode their vinyl or cassette collections to MP3, or musicians who are looking for a replacement for their DAT recorder need this feature. Luckily for them, two new iPod competitors offer this option; compare them below.
5. You want a choice in online music stores.
Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the Apple iTunes Music Store
; its AAC-encoded files sound great, the selection is decent, and it's easy to use. But I don't like feeling hemmed in. Some other MP3 players let you choose between BuyMusic
, and Napster
, all of which use Microsoft's secure WMA files. Those files are supported by a wide range of MP3 players but not the iPod. If you want a greater degree of choice in music services, go with an MP3 player from one of the following companies.
Of course, if you don't care about low battery life, aren't fond of jogging, have ample disposable income, don't need to record/encode music portably, and want to purchase music downloads only from the iTunes Music Store, then the iPod
is the best the way to go. While not ideal for some niche activities, it's still hands down the best-designed MP3 player in the world.