iPod Alternatives? Who is Switching and Why?

Walt Mossberg of WSJ fame (subscription required) often answers popular tech questions coming from readers. One noticeable question answered this week, which coincidentally comes right on the heels of Microsoft announcing that it expects to sell 1 million Zunes by June:

We have not had good luck with iPods, and I’m ready to try an alternative. Which ones should I consider? Is there a way to transfer the music we purchased from iTunes to another player?

Before I give you the answer, let me just tell you: it’s not pretty. It’s exactly what you probably already knew. Though the iPod & iTunes combination is extremely popular, good luck converting (literally, that is, converting music) to a new setup. Next question I want answered: Who are these consumers dissatisfied with the iPod? And what happened?

Answer:

“It depends. If you need a relatively low-capacity player that stores music in flash memory, like the iPod Nano and Shuffle, you might look at SanDisk’s Sansa line, or at the iRiver players. If you want a high-capacity player like the full-sized iPod, which stores music on a hard disk, you could consider the new Microsoft Zune, or the hard-disk players from Creative. But all of these players offer a less satisfactory experience than the iPod does with buying and/or synchronizing music.

Also, only iPods can directly play the songs you have purchased from iTunes. So, even if you can get these purchased song files onto your new player, they won’t work. To overcome this obstacle, you will have to go through a tedious process. You must first burn, or record, each purchased iTunes song to a CD. Then you’ll have to re-import, or “rip” the songs from the CD back to your hard disk, as MP3 files. Finally, you will have to manually re-enter all the information — song title, artist name, album, and so forth — for every song.”

I’m not sure what I find more interesting: the fact that Walt refers to “all of these players” as “less satisfactory” than the iPod (not the best of news for the audience he’s addressing) or the fact that there were enough readers writing in with this question to merit a response.

For those of you (if you’re out there reading this) who have used iPods but are looking to switch (or already have), what did it for you?

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  • Logan

    Yeah, well, I have a feeling they don’t choose which letters to respond to based on how many people have the same question. I’d guess columnist interest in the question has more to do with it.

    Maybe he even made the question up himself to set up his own straw man who doesn’t like an iPod (seriously, who doesn’t love their iPod?!–there can’t be that many people) just to throw in that “less satisfactory” remark . . . .

  • Bob Caswell

    That would be pretty funny if he made the whole thing up just to shoot down the idea of alternatives. But I’m guessing that when a lot of letters come in with the same question, it *does* get special attention, though admittedly that’s one in however many other factors (like what he had for lunch) that determines what makes the Q&A. Whatever the reasoning in this case, you’re probably right that number of people may not have been it…