Brittany Moseley

Some MP3 players don’t fall far from Apple’s tree

When most people hear “MP3 player,” they automatically think of the iPod. However, one look around the local Best Buy, and it’s clear that it’s no longer just about the iPod.

“Best Buy offers seven brand alternatives to Apple, including Creative Labs, Napster, Samsung, iRiver, SanDisk and Sony,” said James Donovan, a sales associate at the Best Buy at Tuttle Crossing in Dublin.

With 40 million adults owning an MP3 player, according to Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, other companies have had to step up their game and add new features to compete with Apple.

In April, Sony introduced its first MP3 player with color display, the CE-P series. For those who can’t decide what MP3 player they want, Sony lets you compare all its MP3 players online, and customers can narrow their choices by capabilities, price and features.

Freshman computer science major Brad Borgione said he thinks people buy iPods because they recognize the name, and it is more mainstream than other MP3 players. He chose to buy an iPod because he liked the idea of having all his music in one place on iTunes.

Other students, such as freshman pre-med major Liz Micholas and freshman nursing major Erika Weeks, said they were given iPods as gifts before having the chance to shop for an MP3 player on their own.

Donovan believes iPods have been “more popular due to more advertising and trendiness,” but said other brands have also been popular.

“Among college kids running a close second [to the iPod] would have to be Creative Labs and their Zen Vision,” Donovan said. “It’s almost identical to the video iPod, and it’s cheaper.”

Another company that may offer Apple some competition is Meizu. The company recently released the Mini Player, which is similar to the iPod. In his article for dailytech.com, Tuan Nguyen said the Mini Player is a video player that’s similar to the iPod in size but also offers video file playback, an FM tuner and voice recording capabilities.

Although Meizu’s Mini Player can’t be found at Best Buy, the store does sell MP3 players with the same features as the iPod and

sometimes more.

“Some features that other brands have are built-in FM tuner and easily replaceable batteries,” Donovan said.

Best Buy sells both flash-based and hard drive-based MP3 players. Donovan said flash-based players are usually cheaper because they don’t cost as much to make, but the memory capacity is smaller. They range from $50 to $250.

“Hard drive-based players can be more expensive, but they are much larger in capacity,” Donovan said. “Prices range from $199 to $299.”

With Pew Internet and American Life Project predicting that MP3 player sales will reach 67 million by 2009, and rumors of Microsoft releasing an “iPod killer,” Apple may finally have some competition in the world of digital music players.

Contact features correspondent Brittany Moseley at [email protected].