Is It Time For a New iPod-like Audio Player?

Yes. Yes, it is. (See, at least I hit the clickbait payoff button quick!)

I know, I know, you will scoff and snort at the idea of a dedicated MP3 player. You will consider me a relic and remind me that the MP3 is officially dead. Even though, you probably didn’t read beyond the headline to find that what actually happened was the MP3 basically entered the public domain because of licensing.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, a division of the state-funded German research institution that bankrolled the MP3’s development in the late ’80s, recently announced that its “licensing program for certain MP3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS has been terminated.”

Hell, you probably thought the iPod died years ago, right? Not so, Apple still sells the iPod touch, right now, today; get yours here: $300 for the 128 GB model. You can choose your color, it even has a camera. A camera? How stupid is that? It also has a browser, messages, FaceTime, all the things you don’t want in your audio player. Did I mention gaming? Yep, that’s why it’s a “touch” and why the screen is colorful and the A8 chip is used. It’s not a damn audio player, it’s a cheap phone for kids without the phone part.

That’s damn near the cost of a cheap smartphone. Nope, that’s stupid and no wonder why they aren’t selling. What I am talking about is a dedicated audio player. Your sweet-ass new iPhone X(whatever) with the killer screen (or iPad) is what you watch real video on.

The world has changed since we started migrating away from the MP3 player. First, most don’t use iTunes in the same way they used to. For many in big cities, WiFi and data is much better. And besides, that sweet Nokia may have been good for a game of Snake, but sucked for storing files or listening to anything, music included.

 

Sweet Old Phone Bro!

I know they tried with Pono, but that doesn’t count. One, the trick was high-res audio, which most people DO NOT CARE ABOUT – sorry, true believers. Number two, it was tethered to one service for audio, that’s why it didn’t work.

Do I have to listen to Neil Young?

 

Let me breakdown for you the solid reasons why the time is right for a dedicated audio player to enter our world again. Aside from the fact that whatever company does it well – Apple has plans and so does Spotify (might be a car play) will have another hardware line to sell, it’s a good idea on many fronts.

Here are the Top 10 reasons why:

1. The prevalence of audio streaming usage is rising, and it’s not just music.  Audiobooks, podcasts, comedy, listening to Netflix, radio, AND music are all driving it.

2. This may not affect you where you live, but let me tell you as someone who travels all over this great country, there are vast areas and pockets where 10s of millions of people have little to no mobile data coverage – and certainly not stable enough for lots of usage beyond texting. The lack of WiFi or data for some in rural/mountain/outlying areas is a real challenge for many.

3. There is a very real problem of work usage. Not wanting to, not being allowed to, or not trusting to use your work’s WiFi  for all-day personal streaming is also a very real challenge.

4. The amount of podcast local storage downloads can really gum up your phone. It’s not just one or two now, it’s multiple seasons of multiple pods on multiple platforms.

5. Audiobooks are still ownership based, meaning locally stored. Both #4 and #5  take up phone memory and fewer people are used to using iTunes as a desktop warehouse storage to offload and still save for later. It’s a big problem that is only getting worse. As the iTunes store is basically the App store how we catalog our audio in a streaming app world is becoming complicated. Add to that, the yearly rumor that iTunes will be shut down. Although, to be fair, Digital Music News gets it wrong constantly in their pursuit of bullshit clickbait. And, the rumor has been knocked down every year too. By the way, a control interface for a personal catalog, whether iTunes or other, will always be needed. If iTunes does close, something will need to take its place, and quickly.

6. As we use more intensive apps, more social, and are constantly “on,” the battery usage conundrum is a problem if not constantly plugged in. Remember how long a battery charge would last on an iPod? It was almost relative that of 4 D batteries in a boombox. Not just all day listening, but damn near all week listening. Well, maybe not that good, but it certainly could be now with the batteries we are using.

7. I know there are settings, but for some reason, listening to audio can still be interrupted from texts, calls, notifications. It still happens and depending on the app or platform, it can’t really be silenced.  It’s just a bad experience.

7a. Conversely being able to text/chat/voice/post easily while listening is important for power users and people who love to multi-task. This can be almost as frustrating, when songs change, or an audiobook goes to the next chapter and you get prompted. The answer is to divorce it from the phone.

8. A growing amount of people trying to lessen the usage of their phone because of social media distraction. It’s good for your health, it’s good for your sanity. But, how can you use entertainment media (audio) and not be tempted to tweet or ‘gram, or at least peek at that closed group on Facebook?

9. Less than 7% of all adults in North America pay for streaming. I know, you live in a streaming world, but the fact is, the majority of adults do not. Who is servicing them? They still listen to and love music. They love podcasts and stories, and audiobooks, and radio. They want access to catalog music too.

10. A big development lately is untethering kids from phone usage but still allowing listening.

Bonus: 11. Ya ever been to a party or hanging with friends and you have to use your phone to control the music? That’s all fine and well, until you want to go in the backyard and don’t want people seeing your notifications, or leave altogether. So, your music playlist gets the party jumping, but guess what? You can’t take pictures or video of the way Crazy Steve is dancing! It’s a thing. You certainly can’t post it.

There are more. But this is food for thought.

One, MP3 players are cheaper and license free.

Two, batteries are far better.

Three, it’s time for a hybrid streaming player (not tethered to one service) and storage solution that can update on WiFi (maybe even data).