Remember how everyone used to have an MP3 player? In the days before the iPhone, MP3 players were a must-have item. Smartphones have eaten into MP3 player sales over the years — why purchase a separate device when you have a smartphone in your pocket with a built-in MP3 player? Well, you might want to buy one for several reasons — MP3 players aren’t obsolete just yet.
An MP3 player might not be right for you, but there are still good reasons for MP3 players to exist. We’ll look at when MP3 players are a good option and when you should just stick with your smartphone.
Why MP3 Players Are Still Useful
The most useful MP3 players are probably the ones that don’t try to be smartphones. If you want to watch videos or use apps, you’re better off with a smartphone. Here’s where MP3 players beat smartphones:
They’re smaller, lighter, and cheaper. Many MP3 players are significantly smaller, lighter, and cheaper than smartphones. This makes them great for situations where you wouldn’t want to carry a smartphone. For example, you can get a decent SanDisk Sansa Clip+ MP3 player with 4 GB of storage for about $30 on Amazon.
Some are rugged and waterproof. Want to run without a heavy device wearing you down, or just exercise without worrying that you’ll drop that expensive smartphone? An MP3 player is a great option, as it won’t break the bank even if it does become damaged. You can also find waterproof MP3 players that you can use while swimming, while even smartphones marketed as “waterproof” require you plug their headphone port before using them underwater. Waterproof MP3 players aren’t expensive either — you can get an MP3 player and headphones you can use while swimming for under $45 on Amazon.
Less smartphone battery drain: Many people find their smartphone batteries are already dead before the end of the day, and that’s without the battery drain of listening to music for hours a day. If you’re struggling with your smartphone’s battery life or you avoid listening to music just so you can keep your phone’s battery from dying, an MP3 player with its own built-in battery can save you stress.
MP3 players have longer battery life. MP3 players just do one thing, so they won’t drain as fast as your smartphone. Some include extremely long battery life. For example, the Cowon X9 MP3 player offers 110 hours of battery life on a single charge. If you want to listen to music on a long trip where you won’t be able to recharge your phone, a device like this one can keep playing long after your smartphone is dead.
MP3 players have physical buttons. MP3 players often come with physical buttons for Play, Pause, Next, and Previous, allowing you to quickly skip through songs without digging your smartphone out of your pocket. You could get headphones with built-in controls for your smartphone, but these can be hard to find if you’re not using an iPhone.
Some MP3 players allow for additional storage via SD cards. Many modern smartphones — the iPhone included — include a fairly small amount of storage and don’t offer SD card support. If you purchase an MP3 player that supports SD cards, you can get all the additional storage you want by purchasing cheap SD cards. You can even juggle several SD cards if your entire music library doesn’t fit on a single one. SD cards are cheaper than internal flash memory because they aren’t as fast, but they’re more than fast enough for listening to music.
MP3 players have FM radio. If you still care about listening to standard radio stations, you’ll find that FM radio tuners are much more common in MP3 players than in smartphones. This allows you to listen to the original “streaming music” without the data bill, as long as you have a good radio station nearby.
Why Smartphones Are Replacing MP3 Players Anyway
For many people, smartphones are replacing MP3 players in spite of all the above advantages. Here’s why:
- Less Devices: You probably already have a smartphone. That’s one less device to purchase and carry around. If you don’t listen to music that often, a smartphone will be more than good enough. A smartphone may not be the best in all situations, but it’ll suffice.
- Music Streaming Services: Smartphones allow you to listen to music from music subscription services like Spotify and Rdio. You can use the service’s app to “pin” this music to your device offline. If you’re willing to use your smartphone’s data plan, you can just stream music from services like Pandora radio. These services save you from the hassle of building your own MP3 library.
People could also use tablets as MP3 players — a mini-tablet like the Nexus 7 could even fit in a pocket — but this is a bit crazy. An MP3 player should offer portability. That’s why MP3 players were a big deal when they launched — we could already play MP3s on our computers.
MP3 Players That Are Almost Smartphones
Some devices are almost smartphones, but are branded and sold as “MP3 players.” Apple’s iPod Touch is the most popular such device. It’s technically part of Apple’s iPod lineup, but it’s really just an iPhone with less powerful hardware and without the phone bits.
In the past, Samsung and Sony have tried to get in on the action with their Galaxy Player and Walkman Z devices running Android, but these devices since been discontinued. If you want Android, you’d likely get it on a smartphone instead of buying an Android media player device.
Apple’s iPod Touch is the last option standing, and it’s more notable for being a device that offers iPhone apps to anyone for $215 without a cell phone contract, even to people with dumbphones and Android phones. It’s not necessarily the ideal portable media player if you just want to listen to MP3s, as you won’t get the benefits of longer battery life, expandable storage, small size, and general ruggedness.
So, Should You Still Buy an MP3 Player?
Well, it depends. If you don’t listen to MP3s all that often, the MP3 player built into your smartphone will serve you well.
If you listen to MP3s constantly and struggle with your smartphone’s battery, want additional storage, or want to use your MP3 player in a situation where you’d be worried about damaging your smartphone — like exercising or swimming — MP3 players can still be useful devices.
Do you still use an MP3 player? Leave a comment and let us know why you’ve stuck with them — or why you’ve already replaced your MP3 player with a smartphone.