A recent trend that has caught up with today's generation is music. It is nowadays the 'in' thing to have musical inclinations, and such people are frequently the centre of all attraction in peer groups. No surprise then, that we see most people spending a large amount of their time listening to music. With the advent of the MP3 format, the good old casette player is out, and what we have today are smart, sleek MP3 players that are as small as matchboxes, and can store songs equivalent to hundreds of casettes.
Evidently, the mobile industry has noticed this and come up with its riposte to music players - music phones. And I must admit, they have actually done a great job! In fact, today many of us contemplate having a personal music player, and are unable to decide whether to go for a dedicated MP3 player or buy a phone that can play MP3 songs.
So, how does one decide? Let's look a few aspects regarding music players.
1. Sound quality : Till recently, the most important edge that an MP3 player had over a music-enabled phone was the sound quality. The sound quality of an MP3 phone never came even close to a dedicated MP3 player like an iPod. However, today, with the advent of music-branded phones like the Walkman series by Sony Ericsson and XpressMusic by Nokia, this gap is rapidly closing. Most music-enabled phones in the market today can be a decent substitue for a music player, and in some cases like Walkman or MotoRokr, can actually rival an iPod in terms of sound quality. No doubt, most audiophiles would swear by their iPod - undoubtedly the best music player currently available. But that's why they are called audiophiles - they are so obsessed with technical terms like acoustics and sound clarity, that they fail to really appreciate music. They tend to forget that the objective of buying a music player is to listen to music, and not to get tangled in acoustic jargon.
While I certainly do accept that an iPod does give a (slightly) better listening experience than a phone, the sound quality of most phones today is fairly acceptable, and in some cases excellent. Hence, I conclude that this advantage that an MP3 player had over a phone is now nullified.
Score : MP3 Player - 0, Music phone - 0
2. Screen : Many of the MP3 players in the market (Read iPod Shuffle) lack a screen for viewing the song list. The only way is to manually scroll through the songs one by one, till you reach the song of your choice. What is the point if you can store several hundred songs in your player, but can't play one specific song of your choice at any point of time? In comparison, even the cheapest music phone has a screen where one can see a list of all the songs, and select the one that he wants to listen to. MP3 players with screens are available, but most of them are slightly on the expensive side - the iPod Nano costs nearly 7000 bucks.
An additional advantage of a screen is that it enables you to create new playlists, sorting playlists by album/singer/title, changing equalizer setting. Thus the phone wins here as well. Score : MP3 Player - 0, Music phone - 1
3. Charging : This is a point that is frequently missed by most buyers before buying a music player - most music players need to be charged via the PC USB port, so the only way you can charge the player is by connecting it to a PC. A mobile phone can be charged anytime by connecting it to a electric point - and you charge your mobile phone regularly anyway, so charging is not a concern for phones. Score : MP3 Player 0, Music phone - 2.
4. Memory capacity : Okay here's a point where MP3 players win by a huge margin - the 2GB or 4 GB available in music phones is peanuts compared to the 80GB monster called iPod Classic. However, a word of caution here : 80GB is actually overkill. A player with a capacity of 80 GB can actually store 16000 songs at good quality (128Kbps), and I bet you don't have so many songs to fill up the player. A phone with a 2GB card is sufficient for storing around 400 songs - a decent count. 400 songs, assuming each song to be of around 5 minutes, would mean a listening time of around 2000 minutes. That's more than sufficient, unless you have absolutely no work to do from morning till evening. Moreover, technology is fast working on building larger memory cards, and it won't be uncommon to see 8GB memory cards by the end of this year. Anyway, I'll grudgingly give the MP3 players a point here. Score : MP3 Player - 1, Music phone - 2.
5. Convenience of carrying : Ah this is one thing which I have always believed - Why do you want to carry two gadgets in your pocket, when you can do with just one? You carry a cell phone to office/college, so with a music-enabled phone, you will be carrying a music player wherever you go. Score : MP3 Player 1, Music phone - 3.
6. Cost: This is surely an important issue - Will buying a music phone be cheaper than having a phone and a MP3 player? Doubtful. But the difference in price is going to be very less - An entry-level music phone would cost under 5000, and with a 2GB memory card, will end up costing around 5500. An iPod Nano with a video screen costs Rs. 6900. Decide for yourself.
**Final Score : MP3 Player 1, Music phone - 4.**
So what do we see? If you are a person who is particular about avoiding unnecessary expenses, it makes a lot of sense to buy a entry-level music phone like a Sony Ericsson W200i or a Nokia 3110 Classic or even the upcoming MotoYuva W230, rather than a dedicated MP3 player. On the other hand if you are Mr. Moneybags with tons of cash to spend, you may look at mid-range music phones like the SE W810i or Nokia N70 music edition. Either way, the music phones defeat the MP3 players by a HUGE margin.. So