MP3 and MP4 players can store your entire library of music and movies on a device that fits comfortably in your pocket, or clips on to the waistband of your running gear. But the now ubiquitous smartphone has been edging these players out of the market for some time, so do you still need an MP3 or MP4 player as well?

Smartphones killed the iPod star

In your ear, or in your car, MP3 players were once a revolutionary product, but with the rise of smartphones as all-in-one media devices, MP3 and MP4 players have become somewhat redundant for many people.

Today's smartphones offer large amounts of storage for your songs and movies and are often connected to an online store, where you can browse and purchase content and download it directly to your device. Smartphones also compete well on sound quality, flexibility, file transfer speed and other features. So...

Why get an MP3 or MP4 player?

There are still reasons to get a dedicated MP3 or MP4 player. They're lightweight and come in small sizes that can be good for the gym or when you're going for a run. Some of the newer models, like the iPod Touch, use wireless networking (Wi-Fi) and can access apps like a smartphone, which may be good for younger consumers who aren't quite ready for a mobile phone.

Price is also a consideration. For a device that in many cases does only one or two things, you shouldn't expect to pay more than $300 for a decent MP3 player, and much less for a no-frills player. Smartphones will cost a good deal more, but they obviously pack in more features.

What to look for

If you're going to buy an MP3 or MP4 player, there are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Look for models that have basic controls, like fast-forward and rewind, as easy-to-access buttons, rather than buried deep within a touchscreen menu.
  • Most media players have a built-in rechargeable (Li-ion) battery pack that you can recharge from your computer's USB port or via an AC adapter. Batteries generally charge faster from an AC adapter than from a USB port.
  • Media players with inbuilt flash memory can take more of a knock than models using a hard disk drive. However, hard drives are available with up to 160GB capacity, while flash memory tends to be limited to a maximum of 64GB.
  • Some models will allow removable memory cards to store photos and video clips and transfer them to a computer. You can also keep separate music and movie collections on multiple cards
  • A USB connection allows you to transfer files to your computer. Some models use a commonly available mini or micro USB connection.
  • A media player with a 2.5mm or 3.5mm jack will allow you to use a standard set of headphones to listen to music, in case you don't like the set it comes with.
  • Touchscreens make for a sleek design and are generally easy to use. However, they can make fine control difficult in certain circumstances – like when you're running – and some users may find the finger marks irritating.


They range in price from $50 to $400.