Entertainment

Should You Still Buy an MP3 Player?

James Hirtz Updated 25-11-2019

Does anyone buy MP3 players anymore? At one time, everyone owned an MP3 player. However, now, everyone just listens to music using their smartphone.

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The thing is, MP3 players are still a thing, and still serve their original function of playing music. So, is it still worth buying an MP3 player?

In this article, we examine the pros and cons of using MP3 players and help you decide whether it’s worth buying an MP3 player.

A Brief History of MP3 Players

Before discussing the pros and cons of using an MP3 player in detail, it helps to understand the history of these humble devices. The story of MP3 players—both the rise and fall—focuses on making music accessible.

While there were MP3 players before Apple showed their hand, the launch of the iPod in 2001 saw the format take off in a big way.

During the heyday in the early 21st century, the portability and ability to hold an extensive number of songs changed the way people listened to music. People no longer had to haul a piece of hardware along with their music collection spread across multiple CDs (or cassette tapes or vinyl records).

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A woman listening to an iPod
Image Credit: Tim Reckmann/Flickr

As with most technology, MP3 players reigned only for a short time. Their appeal diminished with the increased affordability and accessibility of smartphones. Suddenly, there were devices capable of playing your music and doing so much more besides. Rendering MP3 players pretty much obsolete.

However, you can still buy MP3 players today. The only question is, should you?

The Benefits of MP3 Players

Despite their inability to complete directly in all features with smartphones, MP3 players still boast some benefits. MP3 players focus solely on playing music, which may be beneficial to some people. Owning a dedicated MP3 player can also free your smartphone up for other tasks.

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The Simpler Technology Means More Portability

When you think of a smartphone and what you need it for, the list can get big fast. Due to the variety of everyone’s needs, certain design features cannot change drastically on smartphones. Designers of smartphones have to anticipate a very broad use case for the everyday users of the device.

For example, you need a certain screen size on your phones to take advantage of video or mobile gaming. Conscious design decisions make sure they’re able to support a certain size-ratio for software. If you’ve ever gamed on a non-standard size TV, you’ll have experienced clipping issues where things meant to be on-screen aren’t there.

Because of situations like these, the need for comparable features across smartphones can limit a company from taking any risky ventures. On the opposite end, MP3 players have become more of a specialized device. Due to their ability to diversify more, MP3 players can come in a variety of sizes.

A size comparison between an MP3 player and a coin
Image Credit: Mark Longair/Flickr

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A great example of this comes in the form of wearable MP3 players. As a fusion between earbuds and MP3 players, the devices fulfill their niche well while also not taking on excess space. While you have more limited space for songs due to their size, it takes away common travel complaints.

The design isn’t bulky, and it takes up as much space as any standard earbud would, which makes it a great choice for working out. If you’ve ever jogged with a smartphone in your coat or pants pocket, you can feel the weight of a bigger device. If you need to look at some other design options for comparison, look at some of the best standalone MP3 players The Best Standalone MP3 Player for All Budgets A dedicated MP3 player has many advantages over listening to music on your phone. Which is the best MP3 player for you? Read More .

MP3 Players Boast Great Battery Life

Besides more fluid design options, MP3 players have the benefit of their own battery life. For those with smartphones, you most likely have dealt with portable batteries, charge stations, or car charger concerns just to keep up with your busy life. If you feel the need to reduce the time your smartphone is plugged into the mains, you could benefit from removing at least one task from your smartphone.

A family listening to MP3s
Image Credit: Moodboard/Flickr

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You Have an FM Tuner On-Demand

For any fan of listening to radio, it helps to have more devices that support additional access points. While you can always access online radio on your smartphone or tablet, owning an MP3 player with an FM player included allows you to listen to radio without data or Wi-Fi.

The Downsides of MP3 Players

When it comes to the downsides of owning an MP3 player, there are various reasons to not own one. However, they mostly boil down to two simple reasons.

You Have to Own Yet Another Device

Compared to the technology of the past, the trend of all-in-one alleviates a lot of needs. Smartphones put most of what you need in your pocket. They let you call and message friends, listen to music, watch movies, and even work.

If you aren’t actively avoiding a smartphone’s other features, it’s hard to justify buying an MP3 player.

Streaming Services Are Better

As nice as it is to watch local content, streaming services have a lot to offer. If you subscribe to a streaming service such as Spotify or Pandora you can easily find any music you want to listen to.

Anyone who tried to maintain a music library will know that you always had to update your devices with new song releases. There was also manual transfers, song syncing, device updates, and other nuances to contend with. Whereas streaming services have fixed all of these issues.

The Final Verdict on MP3 Players

So, should you still buy an MP3 player? In a word, no. Unless you have a specific need for a standalone device to play your local music. Or, for whatever reason, you don’t own a smartphone.

However, for the majority of people, smartphones are the best option. And you can then spend the money you’ve saved not purchasing an MP3 player in one of the best gaming smartphones The 9 Best Gaming Smartphones in 2019 If you're a keen mobile gamer, you'll want an Android phone that can keep up. Here are the best gaming smartphones. Read More .

Explore more about: Buying Tips, iPod, iPod Touch, MP3, MP3 Player.

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  1. Mp3Lover
    February 25, 2020 at 12:27 am

    Streaming services suck. Let me say that again: Streaming services suck.
    1. You have to have internet connection.
    2. You get to listen to Advertisements.
    3. They play songs you hate.

    Long live MP3!

  2. E.C.
    February 7, 2020 at 7:19 pm

    I miss the 160GB ipod. The interface and storage capacity (even though I couldn't fit all of my music on it) made it a winner. Perfect for cross country drives and nearly whatever song from whatever genre from the past 30+ years I felt like hearing, I could cue it up quickly. Spotify and comparable streaming services do little or nothing for me since a lot my music (which includes rips of underground/independent/local and stuff I've had since the late 80s) isn't available on those services and I don't always like having to depend on an internet connection (which can be not-so-dependable in some areas). I don't like using my phone (storage capacity is lacking and the interface for selecting & cueing up tracks to create playlists is a pain). Nowadays, I use a Fiio, but I'm in the process of getting a XDUOO X3II which will give me more storage capacity, bluetooth support and other features.

  3. Rickards
    January 7, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    MP3's were always poor quality and streaming services aren't much better (unless having a multitude of popular music streamed to you is a priority over audio quality).

    Anything less than cd quality audio is garbage to me and always has been. It takes very little time and money to obtain cd audio. Ripping good quality cd's into wav (or FLAC) and using my phone as the digital media player combined with a lower grade consumer headphone such as the AudioTechnica M40x ("Beats" headphones are bottom of the barrel) does the job.

  4. JR Thomas
    November 29, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    I would love to find a simple MP3 for my brother, who is blind. All the thousands of them out there require you to look at the screen while adjusting volume etc. Not suitable. Even a simple wheel-type volume control would make a big difference, and push buttons for track selection.
    Every one I find is the same as all the rest.
    Surely there's enough demand out there for such a device as to make it worthwhile to manufacture one.

  5. suzybel
    November 28, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    I recently bought an MP3 player. I walk every day for about an hour and have my tunes going. My phone is too big and heavy and the battery just would not last. I've got well over 1,000 songs on the main drive and a 64GB mini SD card with a bunch of albums on this tiny player. I can pick up where I left off the next day and the battery lasts about a week. I also have two older ones for backup but they are not as nice.

  6. Bob
    November 10, 2017 at 11:57 am

    I still have my mp3 from purchase of about 4 years ago because they hold a lot of music and don't run of battery as quickly.

  7. sharpstuff
    October 24, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    I have no idea what 'smartphones', ipads/pods are.

    I do not, or ever want a mobile telephone of any sort.

    All I would like is an an MP3 player that plays MP3 files.

    It must be a large size, not these stupid postage-stamp sizes with buttons you do not know where you are going!

    What has happened to sensible 'technology'?

    I need something I can see and work.

    Apparently this is impossible with the cretinous behaviours of morons who insist on vetting the rest of us with a brain inot their fantasy worlds.

    Please direct me to somewhere I| can buy something that is simple enough to operate without all the tripe.

    • Tannie
      May 2, 2018 at 1:10 am

      Oh my gosh!! You are speaking my language!! Couldn't agree more with you! I have a smart phone but I use it as a phone. Want my music totally separate without feeling that I have to hold hands with Apple and drink their kool aid!

  8. Azad
    March 10, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    I have iPhone but I prefer my cheap Fiio M3+Sennheiser MX475. It has clear and warm sound and normal bass. You cand easily change Sd card and enjoy Flac quality.

  9. Heron
    January 23, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    I have Samsung S7 edge smartphone but, yesterday I had to go around and find an MP3, b/se I am fade up of internet data consumption and I really wanted to listen fm radios when I go out for a walk. Finally I found and bought Zen M300 :) for about 25 USD.

  10. Patrick
    September 8, 2016 at 12:33 am

    I have a iPhone and I just purchased a iPod touch 6th gen. I find both are useful devices. I drive my personal car about a hundred miles everyday and really enjoy having my music library on my iPod. Yes I could place the library on my iPhone but it really annoys the hell out of me when a favorite song is interrupted by a text message or a Facebook post of a cat licking itself. Now with both devices my music doesn't get interrupted and I still get important text from supervisors. Also I'm going on vacation next week and I can take my iPod and leave my phone. Still have access to all my apps without interruptions from the office while I'm in vacation mode. Boots and pants, boots and pants, boots and pants. Lol

  11. darren spohn
    September 2, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    I just finished ordering a new bluetooth mp3 player from amazon. Why ? Even though I have a "smart" phone, it won't play mp3 files. Why ? Because it keeps saying "sd card unexpectedly removed. It won't play with the stock music player, it won't play with the google player, and it won't play with any players i pick up at the play store. And the phone itself is only 2gb.

  12. Jeffrey Baker
    August 25, 2016 at 12:56 am

    I am a data entry operator and we're not allowed to have phones in the workplace...nothing with a camera or recording device.....so I HAVE to have an MP3 player...either that or a CD player.....I'm addicted to listening to podcasts at work so an MP3 player is VITAL for me. Looks like I may need to stock up on some back-ups.

  13. Tac
    June 10, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    I have an old sony -436 4gb for work that I exclusively use and cowon d2 that I still rock (nostalgia)

    although my phone has spotify and other things, the battery sucks and its nice to use the back up mp3s for things like work

  14. CDS
    February 18, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks for info, been trying to decide whether to buy mp3 player or use my smartphone for travelling. Since I listen to a lot of music and don't really want to be handling my phone all the time (BB Passport) for fear of damage, loss, etc., think will go with mp3 player.

  15. Maurice Schrödinger
    January 8, 2016 at 3:24 am

    People using their smartphones or iPhone as music player are just wrong, the battery just drains to death real quick when playing music, so I own a Sony Walkman E464 16GB which I bought in January 6, 2011 so it's 5 years old now and it survived being accidentally washed within my pants in a hot water laundry cycle when was just a few months old, it originally claimed 50 hours in a single charge (49 to 51 hours as I tested, depending on the volume level) which was awesome in 2011, obviously battery capacity has decreased to about 30 hours in a single charge now which is still a lot and the physical buttons are way better than touchscreen when you just want to skip a track.
    Definitely an mp3 player and Sony has better sound quality than iPods and iPhones, but sadly discontinued.

  16. nithispidey
    December 20, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Welll, if u really listen to music while working out etc. An mp3 player is the best option. Frankly i get better music quality+ longer battery life from my mp3 player that cost me almost 90% the price of my smartphone

  17. Anonymous
    August 23, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    This is a great article. I've been using Rhapsody with an MP3 player for many years and I've always been occasionally frustrated by the complicated Licensing/Synch process. It's gotten worse over the years as services have started catering more and more to mobile streaming devices. So lately I find myself spending more time updating WMP and my Sansa player than I do actually listening to music. So MP3 Players are not necessarily more simple. I tried the Rhapsody app on my smartphone and it works well including offline listening. But I despise using my phone as my MP3 player for all the reasons mentioned in the article. So the plan I've been testing is to use a cheap Android phone as an MP3 player that I can just leave in my car or take with me when I exercise. You can buy a good "unlocked" Android phone for under $75 so I'm not sure MP3 players are cheaper either. I think I paid $80-$90 for my Sansa Clip 8GB. I WILL miss the external buttons of my Sansa player and the small size. For me, those are the only remaining compelling features to buy an MP3 player. But I'm looking forward to having an MP3 device that can connect to it's music service directly without having to re-synch thru a PC or Mac.

  18. Anonymous
    June 29, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    I'm sorry, but I think it's a terrible idea to try to play music on your smartphone while working out. It's just asking for an accident. I have had MP3 players thrown across the room, stepped on, dropped underneath a weight, pinned to a punching bag, sloshed by an open water bottle, and many more mishaps. Whenever I've tried working out with my phone, I've always slipped into lower intensity because I'm afraid that going all out creates too much of a chance of damaging that phone. Just not a good idea at all. That having been said, I think that there need to be more options for people who want to play streaming music on a cheaper MP3 player, because that would solve a lot of problems.

  19. lordmogul
    April 20, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    I own a Sansa ClipZip 8 GB and it is not often in use.
    My smartphone is enough for the very day usage, like the 30 minutes to work or when I go shopping.

    But ever so often I use it when a long train ride awaits me, or I just feel the need of good audio quality when I'm on the way.
    And I'll heavily suggest improving it even more with RockBox!

  20. R Mary Tallos
    April 19, 2015 at 8:20 am

    I use my 4 MP3 players all the time. (for a cell phone I still use a flip-phone and still have and use my collection of vinyl.)
    The reason for this is, that I am constantly listening to music, and do so via Bluetooth because I hate getting cords tangled and caught on things.
    My BT MP3 players are getting old and I have been looking for a decent replacement. Unfortunately they are difficult to find with the exception of Ipods which are out of my price rang

  21. Rich
    March 16, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Buy a no-contract smartphone and don't activate it and have all the capabilities of a smartphone without the monthly bill. Low end, but perfectly capable smartphones are $50 and less.

    • Brian
      November 28, 2016 at 9:07 pm

      I am researching this - how do you know what phones will work if you never activate them? For example, I believe some will still require some SIM card.

  22. Ben G
    March 15, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    I use my old Samsung Galaxy Epic strictly as an mp3 player. People, i also have a SanDisk Clip +. For me there no comparing the 2. My phone plays much louder and clearer. My SanDisk sounded like crap with some Beats headphones. I will shocked how good my Epic sounded. With the phone's EQ, you can make it sound like a high end mp3 for NOTHING! Carry 2 batteries, and you're in business. I won't ever need to buy a high end mp3 player. Good luck.

  23. Lucy J
    February 10, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    So much excellent info here. thanks to all who have shared.

    Janine, I think I'm in your boat. I just want something for music and podcast downloading, maybe streaming, and listening to while out, mostly in the car, or maybe plugged into speakers at home. Don't want a smart phone because I don't need it and don't want to commit to a contract anyway.

    The basic mp3 device is an ipod. A few steps up (I think, from spending too long today in the innards of audiofile comments on the internet) are SanDisk Sansa Fuze ($70); Zune (80$); cowon z9 mp3 fm player ($190); and iBassoDX50 ($230).

  24. Janine Johnson
    February 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    I am technologically inept to say the least. All I want to do is put my favorite songs from my CD collection onto one device and hook it to the sound system in my van. I have no one to advise me if an MP3 would be sufficient or if I should just rip the songs onto one CD and play it in the van or what. My computer is not a mac so I don't think an IPod would be right either. I'm so confused at this point that I'm about to give up. Can anyone give me some good advice so I don't end up buying the wrong things or ruining my computer? Thank you very much.

    • Lucy J
      February 10, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Hey Janine, forgot to hit reply that I put in the general comments section. I'm like you and shared what I learned there.

  25. Donna
    January 26, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    What are you using to back up your mp3 player music? My Samsung mp3 player broke about a year ago, had it for years, it can not be repaired....lost 24 hours of music......lots of time and money gone.....don't have a lot of money to go thur this again and I love my music....it doesn't take a lot to keep me happy, just my music......what's an easy way not to let this happen again?.....I thought about buying 2 mp3 players (because they are inexpensive) and using one as the back up.......will that work? ...will it let me buy the song once and download to 2 different devices? when the mp3 player breaks again....can i transfer the music from the backup mp3 player to a new back up one that i purchase? Thanks for any insight...

  26. Stephen
    January 11, 2014 at 12:20 am

    'Less Devices' really?

    Use correct grammar!

  27. Anonymous
    December 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    I still use an mp3. Reason is because it is so much more practical. I workout a lot. Can't carry on me a gigantic piece of device to listen to music!! My phone is a samsung galaxy s2 which I keep on charge all night. Even then by 5pm battery is just dead that is without talking hours

  28. PaPrup5u
    October 24, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    I still use MP3 player. You ask why? I have Samsung Galaxy S3 which can also play MP3 music format; however, the quality of music that I get from my Philips GoGear is far better compared to my smartphone. Plus, I don't have to worry about losing it as it does not hold sensitive information.

  29. Kit Kennard
    August 26, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Chris - you forgot an imporant feature differnce - FLAC SUPPORT !!!!!

  30. Arron L
    August 23, 2013 at 7:40 am

    Dedicated DAP's (cos mp3 player is a bit of a misnomer) are bound to outperform smartphones in terms of audio quality. When heard through a pair of decent IEM's or headphones, you can really tell the difference.

    • Drive-In-Freak
      September 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      BINGO!
      I am starting to think that people no longer know what decent sound quality is. It seems to be unimportant to a lot of people in this day and age.
      A simple, cheap Sanasa Clip runs circles around any phone (or iWatever for that matter) when it comes to sound quality.

  31. likefunbutnot
    August 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I carried a Clip+ in my pocket for about four years. I appreciated the expansion option and fact that it had native support for .FLAC files.

    The thing that got me away from my Clip was Podcasts. I typically listen to a couple hours worth of them a day while I'm working out, and once I caught up with with the massive backlog of them that I wanted to listen to, having to plug it in to add more became a hassle.

    I do think there's a point to dedicated MP3 players, but it does depend a bit on one's expectations and application.

  32. Scott
    August 22, 2013 at 1:34 am

    I use an iPhone 4 16GB, my rommate uses a LG Optimus G with 32-64GB depending on which Micro SDXC card is inserted. I have iTunes Match, so I can get to all of my music anywhere on my unlimited data plan. However we still keep a 120GB iPod Classic around because it's portable and it's great when you want to plug it into speakers somewhere or a car.. and listen to your own music. Plus it's big enough for podcasts, movies, tv shows, etc. It has an awesome screen. And.. they still sell them (the 160GB model) The battery life is phenomenal, we get about 4 days out of it per charge because we do other things than listen to music. It is also very nice for recording voice memos and being able to have some distraction when you use mass transit or when if you happen to be someone who exercises they still make arm bands and other cases for them, just get them online or at a discount store. Nothing quite like a classic.

  33. Hugo
    August 21, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    I have the two devices, but i also have two pairs of headphones. I will explain myself.
    I have an iPhone 4s with a Fiio Amplifier that is also a hands free set, the sound is quite average. But when i really want great sound i have a Sansa Clip Zip Rockboxed when i have some selected music in flac format.
    In the headphones side, i have the famous monoprice 8323 when i'm in home and in the bus and the subway i have the soundmagic PL11. Great headphones on the cheap.

  34. Terry Murray
    August 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Re one of your bullet points above: Should be "fewer devices," not "less devices." The text that follows ("That’s one less device to purchase and carry around.") is correct.

  35. Bill Henderson
    August 21, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    I'm getting ready to buy a new iPod Classic. The one I have still works great, but I want to have one in reserve in case Apple discontinues it. It's 160gb drive is absolutely important to me. Plus the click wheel is very intuitive while driving. I don't have to take my eyes off the road to skip a song or pause.

    • Kcwebbah
      August 22, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      Ditto! I love my 160gb iPod classic. It holds all my music and even some videos. I use it at home and in the car on road trips. I will always keep an MP3 player for this very reason. My smartphone can't hold very much of my music library so I only use it for streaming pandora at work. I hope apple doesn't discontinue the iPod classic because it seems to be one of the last large capacity MP3 players out there.

    • Warren G
      August 23, 2013 at 2:30 am

      Scrolled through the comments straight away. Knew someone would have made the point about the Classic. I wish my iphone was 160gb but for now having the classic will do - and the battery lasts about a week at a time for me.

  36. Mary
    August 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I use my MP3 all night every night. I've found that listening to the drone of audio books helps blank out my tinnitus. For sleeping, I only "listen" to books I've actually read in hard form because I sleep through most of the stories.

    I don't have a smart phone nor do I subscribe to a smart phone carrier (I use Tracfone) so it's a no-brainer. I've worn out two iAudio 9 16GB players. I'm about to buy a 32 GB model. I don't like or want i-Tunes or any software controlling my items and Cowon seems to be the best at allowing me to just load my items onto the device. (The original Phillips models did that but they don't anymore as best I can tell). Hopefully this Cowon will last a bit longer than my previous ones.

    • Ann Baker
      December 10, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      Nice, very nice!!!!!

  37. Monty
    August 21, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I use my iPod nano(6th generation) as a watch and it's great for using when I walk my dog.It also sports a pedometer so I always have it on my wrist and listen to my music, the FM radio stations or pod casts on a wide variety of subjects daily.

    I also have a smartphone but there is very little music on it. I find it quite cumbersome by comparison.

  38. lisaquing
    August 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Here's another option that 3 of my kids use - buy a cheap older model Android "smartphone" and use it as an MP3 player as well as whatever else they want to do on it - texting, apps, facebook, etc... We don't hook it up to any phone service, so it's basically an Android "ipod".

    • Tug R
      August 22, 2013 at 10:13 am

      That's exactly why I kept my old phone when I upgraded. It's perfectly capable of being a media device and I don't feel as nervous to drop it as I would my new phone.

  39. Stuart C
    August 21, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I use my mp3 player in the car, when working out, and when we have guests over as background noise it's 50% mp3 player and 50% Pandora.

  40. Pepe J
    August 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    I bought the Clip+ with quite a few Gb of space and like it very much though I haven't yet accustomed to using it whenever I feel like hopping from song to song, for example. I intend to load it again with my preferred music --pop and classical-- and use this small, light thing which charges in no time and cost me less than a tenth of a smartphone.

  41. Christopher H
    August 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I have a 32gb Zune HD and that thing not only has great battery, but is hardy as hell! I've been using it for years now and it still is in great condition! I will probably be one of those people who ALWAYS have an mp3 player, but that's also because I have a big music library.

    • Sylana
      August 21, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      I have one of those too! I love it- i listen to music and podcasts all day at work, and it doesnt kill my phone battery :)

  42. Arctic Llama
    August 21, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Whenever I see these articles, I think these people must not run or anything. My phone keeps getting bigger. I want smaller for a run, hike, bike, rock climb, etc.

  43. Eric S
    August 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I use an mp3 player in my car instead of the radio. If I leave it in there and something happens to it, its better than losing a smartphone. I don't alot of money to throw around but 30 bucks is better than 300 bucks!!