There was a time not too long ago when listening to music of your choice, at the time you wanted to hear it, was a rather cumbersome affair. Music aficionados had to carry stacks of cassettes or CDs along with the players. And that wasn’t too light on the back. But the advent of MP3 players changed all that. These were small devices capable of holding large amounts of music and were portable as well.
The real breakthrough for MP3 players came about with the launch of the Apple iPod. Music was portable, the quality was excellent and the ease of use was unparalleled. And, of course, it had the customary Apple ‘cool’ factor about it. But, with more devices coming along with increased capacities and varying features, what are the most used? Today, you can listen to music even on your cellphone. So, why buy a separate music player?
Listening to music at will ranks high on the list of reasons for buying an MP3 player. “I bought it because I can carry all my music with me and listen to it when travelling,” says Aniruddha K., a student. Apart from travelling, though, he also uses it when he is in the gym—it also gets him some second looks. “I have an iPod Shuffle and it is so attractive that whenever I clip it to my lapel, it does turn some heads,” he says.
So, there are two good reasons for owning MP3 player—listening to music and getting some attention! But if listening to music is indeed your primary aim, your phone can fulfil the need just as well. You don’t necessarily need fancy players, and it is two devices in one. With an increasing number of accessories available now for MP3 players and cellphones alike, it’s only logical that one looks to get the most out of one device.
Hema Prasad, a professional, agrees. “I use my Sony Ericsson W810i for listening to music,” she says. “Normally, I tune into some radio station, but occasionally, I also load my own songs. And with an expandable memory slot available, I don’t need MP3 player.” A fair point, really.
When your phone’s memory can expand to about 1GB (good enough to hold about 230-250 songs), why bother investing in MP3 player? Many phones also offer the facility of recording voice and let users employ the phone as a note-taking device.
With increasing phone capabilities, this seems to be the most logical and convenient way of listening to music, especially when on the move. Pratyush Khaitan, a 24-year-old entrepreneur, says: “Earlier, phones were not really good enough for multi-tasking. However, the situation has changed rapidly. So, whenever I have to travel long distances, I would probably use my phone rather than carry another device for music.”
As more and more people head towards the convergence devices, is the market for standalone devices shrinking? There are still some purists who believe that a phone is for talking and music player for music! Gautam Date, a writer, uses the iPod (2GB) mostly when he is travelling. “I used to travel three hours to work and the size of the player was a big factor. I had a Sony Walkman prior to this and that was just too bulky.” Despite travelling so much daily, Date says he never managed to listen to more than 80 or 100 songs from his collection. “One hardly ever uses the full capacity of the player,” he says.
So what good is the capacity? We certainly cannot typecast all users into the same bracket and assume they don’t use up the capacity. With more and more players offering 30GB or even 80GB and 100GB capacities, there are definite uses for it. For instance, a 80GB playstore can be used to store music, photos, videos and even data files. Date, however, disagrees. “Even if you cram it up with images or pictures, where is the time to see it all?” he asks. Perhaps a valid point. Isn’t that exactly what is happening with all our computers? We have tonnes of data but very little that we peruse regularly. “Besides, it’s no fun viewing photos or videos on the small screens,” he adds.
Standalone music players, though, do offer other features that some convergence devices may lack. They can be hooked up to a set of speakers in your home, making them the primary music player. If you have a car, you can also hook them up to your car audio system and carry the same music when driving. A good “car listening” playlist can ensure your favourite drive-time music is available without the hassle of CDs or wading through all the talk and ads on radio.
This ‘hooking up’ business, however, is not restricted to MP3 players. You can also use your phone’s music player or FM receiver for the same purpose. Maybe not yet in a car, but certainly at home! Streaming the music from your portable player (standalone or convergence) offers a great deal of advantages.
There are some, though, who refuse to buy in to the whole argument of portable music. Sonali Aditya, a homemaker and professional, is put off by the geeky sound of “MP3”. She still prefers to listen to music using a cassette player or CD player. “The name MP3 for a music player doesn’t appeal to me. It should be something nicer like Audio Player.” But there is more to her resistance… the whole business of having to move audio files from one device to another and the learning curve that any player necessitates has put her off.
As a result, she has decided not to invest in any portable MP3 player despite a collection of MP3 music on her computer. “Yes, I do have MP3s on my computer, but I can’t bring myself to buy a player. I’ll stick to cassettes and CDs, thank you!” she says.
Whatever side of the fence you may be on, there are many options to suit your needs. Despite any resistance, it is perhaps best to give MP3 player/cellphone player a shot. It sure does make life easier when carting around hundreds of songs. The one-time effort of sorting your music is perhaps the only cumbersome task that it involves.
What is MP3?
MP3 is the most widely used format for compressing and storing music in digital format. Short for MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3, it is a standard that was invented in 1991 and the minimal loss of (apparent) quality in the compression helped make it popular. It’s also an advantage that the file size of most MP3s is fairly small, making them perfect for portable players and even computers
Players to consider
Sony S2 Sports Walkman Player
If you thought MP3 player was only for casual listening, here’s proof that it’s not! Based on Sony’s G-Sensor technology, the ‘Music Pacer’ feature in the S2 integrates music into the workout experience. What that means is that it gauges your workout tempo, automatically switching to the appropriate personalized walking or running playlist. The ‘Shuffle Shake’ feature lets you easily and quickly switch to shuffle mode by shaking the player three times within two seconds. No buttons! The S2 series comes in two capacities: NW-S203F (1GB) for approx. Rs6,000 and NW-S205F (2GB) for approx. Rs7,500.
Sony Ericsson and Nokia have gone head to head in the fight for supremacy in the music phone arena. And they have a third competitor, too: Motorola. If the recent spate of launches is anything to go by, the market will soon be flooded with “music” phones. Sony Ericsson has the Walkman range of phones, Nokia the Music Xpress and Motorola, the iTunes ready ones. Our pick would be Sony Ericsson, but Nokia is cheaper and Motorola boasts of iTunes. Tough call! Worth checking out are the Nokia 5300 (approx. Rs13,000), Sony Ericsson W950i (approx Rs29,000) and the newly-launched Motorola MotoKRZR (approx Rs25,000) or MotoROKR E6 (price not available).
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